Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Omori Factory Circuit Lesson

At the end of last month, after a proper oil and brake pads refresh, I finally ventured into the second and final Circuit Lesson event of the year with Omori Factory. Some good, some bad, but all in all a fun day and an opportunity to learn something new.

First things first, a mandatory early rise, which this time clearly wasn’t early enough as I found myself stuck in a packed Aqua-Line on my way to Chiba.

I managed to arrive just in time for preparation, although most people where already there. This time the event was restricted to 10 participants only.

Tyre pressure lowered to 200 kPa, spare wheel and number plate removed, radio and timing device set-up and car number attached (as straight as I could): all check and good to go.

Once again we were very lucky with the weather and really couldn’t have asked for a better day. There is something extremely special about getting around a racetrack on a crisp early morning while sipping on a coffee. 

But with no time to waste, we deep dived into the briefing at 9:30am, courtesy of Super GT driver Tomonobu Fujii and Nismo legends Masami Kageyama and Tetsuya Tanaka.

After practicing a slow-in-fast-out hairpin attack technique (simulated around some cones in the parking area) we moved towards the infield for some laps around turn 5, 6, 7 - a tricky section with 3 apexes - under Fujii-san’s supervision.

This time Omori Factory very own Morita-san (who usually coordinates the event) joined us as a participant in the Z democar. I’d like to say that we were close, but that would be a lie: he simply was infinitely better. Oh well, step by step.

After almost running out of gas (I did leave my tank at minimum level on purpose, underestimating the thirst of the VQ) it was time for lunch. 

Due to COVID restriction the restaurant was closed, so we were served a high quality bento (Japanese assorted lunch box). Very OCD-pleasing, and delicious.

During the break I managed to get around a bit and look at other participants’ cars, but no surprises, as they are all regulars whom I met during the previous events.

While prices of Skyline GT-Rs have skyrocketed over the past 12 months, some owners in Japan still track them. I wish I was as brave. The BNR34 of the left is a almost CRS-like V-spec II, fitted with a R2 engine (upgraded from R1), upgraded piping and cooling, suspensions and R35 brakes. The Gunmetal Grey BNR32 has a freshly built 2.7L F-sport engine and similar setup - no engine bay shots due to privacy reasons, but incredible cars nonetheless.

The instructors, however, clearly had the better machinery: GT-R Nismo with N-attack Package, R35 CRS and Z-tune Proto.

And with the lunch break coming to a close we started preparations for the afternoon free lap session.

This time, instead of passenger laps, the menu included an extra 1 on 1 session during which one would first follow and then be followed by an instructor while receiving directions and comments via radio. I was assigned to Fujii-san with the Z-tune Proto. This is possibly one of the best ways to learn the correct lines, braking and clipping points and overall just observe a professional driving. 

Despite this being my third time admittedly I still struggled with focus and couldn’t help but think that I used to watch this car on Best Motoring videos 20 years ago and now I was chasing it down a track! All these years and I guess I’m still a fanboy...

Looking at other more experienced drivers is also a good way to gain knowledge. Some of them are participants in the Z Challenge one-make series and have years of seat-time under their belts.

As always the 5 sessions flew by way faster than one would wish and I found myself clocking the best time of the day on my second to last lap, albeit a second slower than my best to date, which I set in January.

The main lessons learned this time were to brake hard right away (rather than increase force on the pedal after initial pressure) and that braking hard enough and at the right timing is more important than nailing the perfect heel and toe. I also have a tendency to approach corners too close to the center of the track, rather than the optimal out-in-out, which led me to miss apexes in a couple of corners.

All very positive, but in retrospect I realized that I was never truly comfortable throughout the day. Perhaps it was having to adjust to the brake feeling of the new Endless pads fitted just the day before, or maybe was that slight slide on turn 2 (the fastest on the track - I though I was going to crash) early in the session that undermined my confidence for the rest of the day, but this time I just couldn’t get in the zone.

Oh well, it’s all part of the learning process of getting to know your car and, most importantly, your limits. The whole purpose of events like this is learn while having fun, but also return home without the need of a flatbed, which is exactly what went through my mind as I drove into a spectacular Tokyo sunset on my way back.

This time the event finished slightly earlier, so after a quick shower I headed to Setagaya for dinner with a friend.

La Befana in Simokitazawa delivers a pretty authentic pizza experience at a very reasonable price - check it out if you are in the area.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.

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