It has been a lifelong ambition of mine to go to Japan and watch a race at the Fuji Speedway. Fuji Speedway is a technical yet fast racetrack at the foothills of Mount Fuji, a perfect backdrop from which to watch round 7 of the World Endurance Championship 2017.
I was invited by a good friend of mine who races in the WEC for TDS Racing in the LMP2 category. A perfect opportunity to visit this mythical place, I thought. So, with my new Leica M10 in my hand-luggage I traveled all the way to Tokyo where I was welcomed by a mighty rain storm. It took me three trains, lots of language challenges and a taxi ride before I arrived at my hotel. It was still raining. Time for bed.
When I woke up early the next morning, I shot out of bed and went straight to the window to discover that the rain had not subsided. I met up with the racing drivers and we headed to the track. Conversation in the car was mostly centered around a wet set-up and how to drive the track in these conditions. Nothing in the conversation led me to believe that the weather was going to improve all weekend. There was always hope of course.
Saturday qualifying was a wet affair. The short and intense session did not go so well for car #28 but with a 6 Hour race ahead on Sunday, there was still everything to fight for. The clouds hung low all day and not once was there a hint of Mount Fuji on the horizon. Maybe tomorrow.
On Sunday morning, I was awoken by rain beating on my window. That’s promising. Once we arrived at the circuit it became clear that the rain was dueling with fog and visibility was even worse than the previous day. Where is Mount Fuji?
The race did get underway in these treacherous conditions and amazingly without major incidents which says a lot about the impressive talent of all the drivers out there.
Red Flag. Due to bad visibility, the race was interrupted shortly after it was started and all cars gathered on the main straight where they waited impatiently for conditions to improve. After a while visibility did get better and the race got back underway again. Chasing each other down the straight at 280km/h with no visibility on a slippery and drenched circuit is very impressive but also extremely dangerous. It was therefore no surprise when the second red flag came out and the race was not restarted.
At this point in time TDS Racing #28 was in 4th position in their category and moving up the ranks fast. It was not meant to be that day and they missed the podium by the smallest of margins.
Despite the poor weather conditions and the shortened race, I had a great weekend. It was my first visit to Japan and I fell in love with the place immediately. Tokyo is breathtaking and the Hakone area where I stayed simply beautiful. The Japanese people are very polite, well mannered, and willing to help. They queue in neat lines everywhere and don’t push in, try that in Europe.
I cannot wait to visit again and perhaps next time I can get a glimpse of Mount Fuji. It is supposed to be amazing.