Here’s a terrific F1 Fans Diary entry from Dave Madgwick, who attended the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend. He’s a partner of BAM Motorsports (purveyors of the ultimate in motorsports experience) and has been to over 200 races.
Arrive in the land of the rising sun – finally! As if the long haul to Tokyo isn’t enough, the journey has only just begun, walking through arrivals passing the chauffeurs waiting for the dignitaries – (saw Ross Braun et al making a late show) and made our way into the subterranean world of the Narita express terminal to whisk into Tokyo for our second train, the bullet Shinkansen.
Collecting a Bento box for the journey (one doesn’t want to look like a tourist) we hurtle out of the capital though the decreasing concrete sprawl along the Honshu coast to Nagoya, with bowing ticket inspectors and not a mobile phone ring anywhere the journey flies by. Then onto the rickety branch line up to journeys end at the part time F1 enclave of Yokkaichi, some 25 miles from the circuit but it feels like we’ve arrived.
There’s an buzz in the air with team folk mixing with the locals around the streets ahead of the day’s action, another train ride to Shiroko and then a bus and the circuit finally comes into view with the famous ferris wheel looming over the horizon.
Entering the track you remember how great this place is – an old track, like Monza or Interlagos with the Japanese fans going beyond the Tifosi or Paulista with their enthusiasm for the sport and their new found rising son Kamui Kobayashi.
The crowd is strong, dressed in team gear old and new and personalised creations such as the Jenson Button Kimono (must get one for Silverstone next year) and various contraptions adorning headgear.
I head around for a good Friday walk, in the direction of travel down to turn 1 and beyond, the cars scream by and as I reach my tremendous vantage point on the Esses,Vettel is testing the limits already with a double twitch that leaves the fans gasping. From my elevated position I get a great view of all of the first five corners and what a set of corners they are, turn one having such a quick entry, I can’t get the images of Senna and Prost out of my head trudging through the gravel, world championship in the pocket of the Brazilian.
The walls in the hotel are so thin that when I hear the Mclaren boys leaving for the track I know its tine for me to get up.
Approching the track I can see its going to be a huge crowd, the bus transfer queue has taken on epic proportions but with the typical Japanese efficiency we are trackside in no time. Today I am going to head to Spoon curve, nemisis of Damon Hill and others, passing by the crossover and 130R on the way.
I arrive just as the cars take to the track. The usual high fuel runs and sporadic flow of cars start the session but things soon come to a premature hault when Senna loses the back exiting Spoon and makes contact with the barriers. The wheel tethers do the job and hold the wheel in place but Senna gets a nasty jolt as the wheel cathches under the car. No harm done though as he is back on the pitwall still wearing his helmet before the session restarts. Petrov, feeling sorry for his mechanics with less to do loses it on the same lap and flies through the gravel at the esses.
Suzuka’s high speed curves are perfect for seeing the qualities of the good cars with a visable difference in speed and poise in the Red Bulls and McLarens. The Saubers by contrast seem edgy and Perez and the local hero are wringing the necks of there machines it seems, much to the delight of the appreciative crowd.
The last 15 miinutes sees a great session on soft tyres and McLaren gain hope for the remainder of the weekend with an unflappable Button again on P1.
Qually arrives to packed stands and high temperatures as the crowd eagerly anticipate a big performance from Kobayashi. Q2 is all about one thing, can Kamui progress to Q3? With only three minutes to go and Vettel sitting comfortably in P1, KK posts 6th with a huge roar from the crowd as they then hold their breath as he drops down to 10th and safely into Q3.
I’ve decided that Yokaichi is the perfect base, very local Japanese, more lively than Suzuka as I found out from my night out with the guys Sutton Images.
Come morning and the weather is great again, which is good news as contrary to my plan the bus queue is massive! There is a cracking buzz as I get to the circuit entrance. I headed for the food and merchandise area, it’s rammed with enthusiastic locals as well as plenty of dedicated fans from outside Japan.
I grab some Asahi and noodles and head up to my great seat, not the most expensive, but a great view and I’m thoroughly entertained by the Marshall at the Esses post who sings and dances, to rev the crowd up with a load hauler and then start making human pyramids! Amazing! Credit to them and it strikes me that this just sums up th Japanese GP, fun.
Everyones in their seat for the start, the Kobayashi stand next to me is a great sea of White and red flag wavers, he had made the effort to get out of his car on the drivers parade to salute them which was a nice touch. (Mansell without the ‘tache!?)
A Great race ensues, everybody stays until the end and Buttons win with Vettels championship seem to be popular, despite Kamui not getting the result they wanted, but he made the event for the locals.
If you have any questions for Dave about his Japanese GP weekend, or the other grands prix he’s been to – ask away in the comments below. He’s also off to Korea this weekend! For more info on BAM, see their website here.