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2010 SUZUKA RACE BLOG

2010 SUZUKA RACE BLOG

Hello, I’m Alistair Weston, although I’m more widely known in the team as Spag! It’s a long story to try and explain that one but anyway I am the No.1 mechanic on Michael’s car which means I am responsible for the team of mechanics who work on his side of the garage.

Saturday, Race Week

Saturday in Suzuka… well the only way to describe today would be as a total wash out!

We arrived at the circuit for 8.15am for our usual pit stop practice but it was already raining very heavily so Matt, our chief mechanic, decided it would be better to cancel the practice rather than risk any damage to the car. So we got our car fired up and checked everything ready for the start of the final practice session at 11am.

The rain didn’t ease before practice so we sent Michael out to do an installation lap to check the new engine and race gearbox and he came straight back into the garage afterwards. And then that was it… we waited and waited but the rain just got heavier and it was far too wet to send the cars out again. The two Toro Rosso cars went out towards the end but they really struggled and were aquaplaning massively on the straights. Our only activity was pushing both cars out into the pit lane for a practice start just before the end of the session. It was essential for our controls guys but not popular in the garage as we all ended up soaking wet with cold feet after running through the water to push the cars back in!

So our preparation for qualifying was pretty straightforward as the car had only done one lap. We all suspected that qualifying might not happen but we still had to get the car ready to go in case we got the call. So right up until the final track inspection with the safety car, our car was ready and we were doing fire-ups every thirty minutes to keep the engine warm.

As we had all predicted, it was far too wet for qualifying to go ahead with the safety car going out every half hour to check the conditions and the inevitable message coming back that qualifying would be delayed for a further thirty minutes. It was quite entertaining really as it was very relaxing and we had the drivers in the garage chilling out with us. We got the Moto GP qualifying streaming through one of the garage laptops and even made a boat out of drinks bottles with a little Mercedes flag to float down the rivers of the water flowing down the pit lane!

So tomorrow will be busy now with qualifying scheduled for 10am and then the race at 3pm followed by our usual pack-up of the garage. It should make for an interesting day!

The downside to today’s events meant that we were able to leave the circuit earlier than normal around 4.30pm and got caught up with all the spectator traffic struggling in the rain. This turned our normal 30 minute drive back to the hotel into a two hour crawl!

Friday, Race Week

Hello, I’m Alistair Weston, although I’m more widely known in the team as Spag! It’s a long story to try and explain that one but anyway I am the No.1 mechanic on Michael’s car which means I am responsible for the team of mechanics who work on his side of the garage.

Friday is always our busiest day of the race weekend as we run the car for two 90 minute practice sessions and then repeat all of our preparations on Friday evening, in addition to fitting the race engines and gearboxes, to get the cars ready for qualifying on Saturday.

Japan is a difficult race for the team as the jet lag is really tough to deal with and most people have only been getting two or three hours sleep a night since we arrived on Monday.

We arrived at the garage for 7.30am this morning and went straight into pit stop practice. We take turns at each race weekend with regard to whose car is used and this week, it was Nico’s car, so my equivalent on his side of the garage, Nathan, had the responsibility of ensuring the car was together and ready on time.

Practice went pretty well and afterwards we were backing working on our car to fire-up and shift check to ensure all of the systems are ready for running later on. The first practice session ran quite well. We worked through the run plan that the engineers had prepared, did several changes to the set-up and managed to do a few ‘live’ pit stops with the full crew as practice for Sunday. Michael loves the Suzuka circuit and he got up to speed really quickly finishing in 8th place in the session.

The lunch break of two and a half hours meant a gear ratio change and some more set-up changes ready for the afternoon plus the chance to grab some lunch quickly before we were back out again for the second session. Again that went well and Michael was pleased with the progress that we made, saying that the car felt better than he had expected here, and he finished the session in 8th place again.

The end of Friday running is when we really get busy with engine and gearbox changes and preparing the car to the engineers’ specifications for qualifying and the race. After firing up the newly installed race engine, we take the car to the FIA patch for scrutineering to check its weight and legality. Then it’s back to the garage to complete the set-up preparations and do all of the final checks before Saturday.

I’m about to leave the circuit and go back to our hotel which is in Yokkaichi, a ‘city’ about 30mins drive from Suzuka. We’re all going back to the hotel praying for a good night’s sleep finally and then we’ll see what tomorrow brings. The forecast is for heavy rain over the next 24 hours so it could be a wet qualifying which will mean that we will all need to be on our toes.

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