Hi guys! I’m excited to be writing a number of columns exclusively for Crash.net this year as I embark on my maiden Super Formula season. Here’s the first...

I raced an LMP2 prototype sports car in the European Le Mans Series last year and won the 2017-18 Asian Le Mans Series, but having competed in European Formula 3 in 2016 and ’17, and Formula 4 and the MRF Challenge before that, I can’t get the adrenaline rush out of my system that single-seaters uniquely offer.

So I’m racing in Super Formula this year with the B-Max Racing team who are running a two-car, Honda-powered programme with Motopark. Austrian Lucas Auer is my teammate, who comes across from DTM.

I’m also competing in the Japan-based Super Taikyu Championship, driving a Ferrari 488 GT3 in the series’ top ST-X category for B-Max. This will enable me to experience tracks we’ll visit in Super Formula. Each car always has at least two drivers, and my teammates are Nicolas Costa, a past Formula Abarth champion, Tairoku Yamaguchi, plus Super GT300 expert Shinichi Takagi. So all-in-all, a big, big change and one that unsurprisingly means me moving to Tokyo to live.

I’ve got an apartment in Tokyo’s Azabujuban-district. It’s in a nice area with a gym with good restaurants close by. It’s close to two underground stations which is ideal as it’s far easier to get around by train than by car and the added hassle of parking. I’ve also got a number of racing friends based nearby like Nick Cassidy, Sacha Fenestraz, and my teammate Lucas. they are really nice guys who are good to spend time with. I often play tennis against Nick, while my other love is golf, so I hook up with Ryo Hirakawa.

The B-Max Racing team are based near Shōnadai station, about an hour from my apartment, so it is really easy to get to. I go there at least once before every race and invariably go with Tairoku Yamaguchi, the team’s Super Taikyu ‘gentleman’ driver. I’m coaching him, as he’s also doing F3 so can pass on advice in the simulator, which is nice and keeps me more involved.

Our Ferrari ran inside the top-three on my Super Taikyu debut at Suzuka and led, but we were forced to retire when Tairoku unfortunately tripped over a backmarker. After that, my attention turned to my first Super Formula race.

I did a couple of Super Formula tests over the winter at Suzuka and Fuji, and spent a day at the Red Bull Racing sim in Milton Keynes just before moving over to Japan early last month. I made a day of it and had a chat with my dad, and we then had lunch with Christian Horner, which is always good fun.

Testing is pretty limited in Super Formula. I had two half-days at the end of 2018, in the old SF 14 car, and then spent two days at Suzuka and two days at Fuji with the ’19 car. ‘Days’ is an exaggeration, as the way it works is you do just two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, which is very different to Europe where it’s a full morning and full afternoon. So prior to the Suzuka race, I’d not really done many miles.

The weekend was awesome in terms of the atmosphere. The large crowd was mega, the Japanese are massive motorsport fans and go crazy. They are very loyal towards Honda and Toyota, which is interesting to witness, and Lucas and I had to do a lot of press and marketing work for Honda. I’ve attended a number of Formula 1 Grands Prix and Suzuka had the same kind of feel about it, an electric atmosphere – it was really cool.

In the race itself, it was interesting to see the split between the medium and the soft compound of tyre. There was a massive pace difference which allowed a lot of overtaking which made for a fun race. I had expected it to be more processional like an F3 race!

It was all really interesting and a massive learning curve, but the event didn’t go to plan for me. There was a crosswind in Q1, and I lost it on the kerb, half spun and was collected by Kazuki Nakajima. In the race, I made an awesome start from 17th on the grid and was 11th before pitting. I was running net-sixth, as a number of cars ahead were still to pit, pushing hard with good pace. I attempted an overtake on Nakajima, but unfortunately made contact. Looking back, maybe I was a little optimistic. The next race is this weekend at Autopolis, and I can't wait to get back behind the wheel.

Following Suzuka, I was back in Super Taikyu Championship action, but this time at the wheel of a brand-new Nissan GT-R for a three-hour race at Sportsland Sugo. The format of qualifying sees Tairoku and me driving the car in qualy with the times added together to set grid positions. He qualified fifth and I qualified on pole of the pro drivers, which was pleasing.

Tairoku began the race P5, Nicolas [Costa] took over then me with an hour to run. We led the race and were looking really good, but unfortunately a strategy gamble didn’t pay off and we finished fourth.

Speak to you soon!

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