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August 30, 2018

Top Effort, But Not The Top Step

David Perel’s self-realised dream of being a racing driver continues to become richer and richer. Having always heard the legendary tales about the race tracks, fans and general motorsport mayhem in Japan, he recently had a chance to experience the fever firsthand.

The 2018 running of the 10 Hours of Suzuka saw David driving for HubAuto in a Ferrari 488 GT3 alongside Nick Foster (Silver) and Hiroki Yoshida (Bronze) in the Pro-Am category. The team’s weekend got off to a great start when, after a wet practice session, they qualified P3 – not just in class, but overall! David’s teammates’ extensive knowledge of what he now considers the best track in the world was put to good use.

The following day saw a change in the weather, and a lot of track time in the dry; the #28 car managed to say in the Top 10 throughout. A consistent concern of all teams was severe tyre degradation, and HubAuto was no exception; but a lot of work on the car (and a shift in driving technique) saw them as prepared as they could be for Qualifying.

Split into three 15 minute sessions, Qualifying takes the average time between the drivers to determine which teams would make it to the Super Pole shootout, where one driver from each car would attempt to get Pole. Foster went out first and proceeded to obliterate the field by over 7/10ths of a second, posting a barely believable time of 2:02.3, where no-one had previously broken into the 2:02’s. David was up next and was more ready for the challenge than usual, thanks to specific Suzuka qualifying preparation on his simulator. The practice paid off – he became the second driver to break into the 2:02’s and claimed Pole Position in Qualifying 2. Not a bad result for a maiden outing at Suzuka.

Bronze driver Yoshida-san was next, and his lap was good enough to see the team through to Qualifying 3. Foster was nominated for the shootout and delivered an astonishing 2:01.7 – putting the team on overall Pole Position for the event. A prize in itself to be sure, but with the added satisfaction of out-qualifying the multitude of factory-entered cars and drivers. 

Race day morning delivered less satisfactory news: the car developed a problem and wouldn’t start. The Ferrari engineers spotted the problem immediately but with not enough time to change the part before the start of the race, the team found itself on the back foot. When the cars were given the ‘Engine Start’ signal on the Pre-Race grid, Foster was unable to pull away, and was subsequently passed by a number of cars on the warm-up lap. He quickly made his way back to Pole Position but the infringement resulted in the team receiving a heartbreaking drive-through penalty within the first hour of racing.

Foster pulled a 5 second lead over the field before pitting to hand over to David, who served the penalty. After exiting the pits he found himself amongst the traffic, making it difficult to make up for lost time; it wasn’t impossible though, and he eventually got back into the Top 10 before the 3 hour mark.

Each pit stop saw the team having to go through a long engine starting procedure that involved multiple buttons and switches; the nett result was lost time and track position, which made the racing even more intense – compounded by the fact that the temperature inside the car got so high that the soles of the drivers’ shoes were literally melting! After each one hour stint, the drivers were on the physical limit, but there was almost no time to rest before the next stint, and another big push to catch the leaders.

High traffic, high heat and high concentration conspired to make the race an intense battle in many ways – but after 8 hours of racing, the team had fought their way back into contention – the Pro-Am leaders were only 8 seconds ahead. But it was not to be. Being stuck behind a Porsche in the final hour, and unable to pass, meant the gap to the leading #75 Mercedes couldn’t be closed. In the end, David and his teammates crossed the line 2nd in the Pro-Am Class. Although a podium is always an achievement, the pace shown throughout the weekend had promised more, and it wasn’t the result David aiming for. There were positives though – says David:

“Pole Position and a podium in Japan, at one of the most challenging race tracks in the world? I’ll take it! A big Thank You to the HubAuto team for selecting me as one of their drivers for this event. It was an incredible experience and one I hope I can repeat in the future.”