Well, this may be my first journal of 2017, but there has certainly been plenty happening, not least of all moving to yet another new country to achieve my racing goals!
I’ve been settled here in Japan for a few weeks now and, with the help of the team, it's been a very smooth transition. Living in Tokyo feels completely different from being over in America last year, as it’s such a different culture, but I’m definitely making the most of the time I spend here. I’m even planning to do the real-life Mario Karting, where you drive go-karts around the streets of Tokyo dressed up as characters from the game, which I’m sure will be great fun.
Of course, besides the Mario karting, the big reason for being here is my exciting move to race in SuperGT, Japan’s premier racing series. I am super excited as it’s an extremely competitive, professional series that is insanely popular here. I thought I appreciated how big and important it was after attending the final race of last season, but nothing prepared me for actually being part of the show!
I’ve joined my new team, Taisan SARD, for the two official tests, and loved every minute of soaking up this new, fast paced environment. The first was at Okayama, a circuit that is new to me. It was great to get to know my teammate Shinnosuke and all the team members we’ll be working with. After winning the SuperGT-500 last season, these guys are really focused on us clinching the 300-class championship this year. So we all have big, positive goals together, which a great place to be.
I only had a short time in the car at Okayama, but we were quick out of the box and made improvements each lap. During the second test at Fuji, I was able to spend much longer getting to know the car, adapting to the subtle differences from the formula cars I was driving last year. The Audi R8 V10 is definitely the fastest and most powerful GT car I’ve driven so far, but once you look beyond the subtleties it’s just like driving anything else, and I’m really looking forward to working more on building our performance and set up now. There are always areas to work and improve on of course, but the tests went really well and I feel very comfortable and confident with car going forward to our first race.
Coming from Australia, part of living in Japan that is taking some getting used to is the weather. On our second day of testing at Fuji we woke up to a scene from a Christmas card, with everything covered in several feet of snow! Unfortunately, as a result we had to cancel our running, so we all retreated to the warmth to watch the Australian GP instead!
What really amazed me while we were testing were the fans. I mean, this was just a test day, but it felt like one of the biggest events I have been involved in! The Japanese fans are incredibly passionate about SuperGT, and it was an honour to experience being part of that. We had a signing session in the pit lane at Okayama and, being at the end, it started pretty slow, but within minutes I was surrounded by people, signing autographs and posing for photos. Many fans even turned out in the snow at Fuji which is absolutely extraordinary!
I was at the Malaysian GP a few years ago, which was huge, however, we were just a support series then. To realise we are now the main event, attracting such a massive, passionate and knowledgeable following is an inspiring step forward in my motor racing career. I really do appreciate every fan that came out to those official tests, and I hope to see them again at the races to come.
In the build up to our first race of the season next weekend, I also attended the official Audi Sport press conference with team Taisan SARD. It was held in the underground carpark of a baseball stadium here in Tokyo, where they drove the cars around a make-shift track. The sound was just astonishing, bouncing and echoing off the concrete walls! To check out a short video visit my Instagram page in the links below.
So now all the testing is done, and the wait is almost over – it’s time to go racing! I am beyond excited for our first race at Okayama. It is going to be a huge event, but my focus will be fully on the track, making a great start to the season and the next big step in my career.
I hope you’ll all buckle up and join me for the ride!