Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Well, here we are in 2018 already! I hope you all had a great holiday season, and this new year is a good one for us all. I am feeling very positive about what lies ahead… but more of that later.

As you know, last year was one of huge change and development for me, moving to a new country and culture and, of course, to a new racing series. It was quite a rollercoaster ride at times, but it was awesome being part of, and truly experiencing Super GT. My focus was very much on establishing myself into the series and finding my feet, so to speak. So, I am massively proud of how much I learned and how much I have grown, not only as a driver, but as a person too. I feel these past years have made me stronger, more confident and prepared for the new challenges ahead, ready to make 2018 about advancement and achievement.

It has certainly been a long season, much longer than when I was driving in America. During my time in Pro Mazda, our final race was in September, but this year Super GT didn’t finish until the middle of November! As a result, I hadn’t been able to visit my family back in Australia as much, so coming home for the holidays felt even more special.  

Spending time down in Melbourne with family is a Christmas tradition that I really enjoy, and a wonderful way to unwind after the intense racing season. Especially as I get to hang out with my Grandpa and uncle Greg, who, alongside my Dad, both helped fuel my passion for motorsport. Greg restores old cars, and his yard is full of them – including the old go-kart I used to watch him race when I was just two or three years old! Almost coming full circle, Greg and I actually went karting together out on Phillip Island, which was fantastic fun, and, exactly as you’d expect, ridiculously competitive too!

It really was an awesome way to spend the holidays, and catch up with my family. Like so many top athletes, I know I couldn’t do what I love without their support, and I’m incredibly thankful to them all.

Although I enjoyed my time back in Australia, it was also good to get back here to Japan too, as it’s truly starting to feel like home now. I love it here, and almost feel like a local! I definitely could have done without the ‘welcome back’ magnitude 5 earthquake though. We regularly have tremors, but that is the biggest one I’ve experienced since being here. It certainly got my attention!

The weather was a big change too - going from the hottest day on record in Sydney to snow and minus numbers here, is quite a shock to the system! I actually enjoy the cooler temperatures though, and I’m looking forward to exploring the snowy prefectures (states) as part of my on-going training regime.

Of course, now the holidays are over, I am fully focused on the season ahead, and making the right choices for my career. I’m thrilled that we have a lot of good, strong options to weigh up right now and feel positive about where we are heading. There will be lots of meetings and discussions before we make the right decision for where I need be – advancing and achieving, challenging for victories and championships.

Keep posted on my website and social media for all the latest news and updates, as we’ll have exciting news coming very soon.

Hold tight though guys, as 2018 is going to be a big and fast year….

Jake

What Lies Beneath…

What Lies Beneath…

It’s hard to believe that my first season in SuperGT is drawing to a close, with the final race at Motegi only a few weeks away.

It’s fair to say that 2017 has been quite a big learning curve year for me, as I didn’t do things by halves – moving countries, race series and even style of race car! The change from formula cars to GT was a challenge, but I’m really happy and proud with how I’ve developed, learned and grown as a driver as a result. We’ve had our frustrations at times, but most importantly, overall, we’ve shown strong, consistent improvement, speed and progress throughout the year.

At the last round in Thailand, although we had an unfortunate fuel problem, we were matching the pace of the top ten runners, and in the wet conditions I was comfortably mixing it with the points contenders, which is a huge boost going into the final round. The Motegi circuit is an interesting track, that I feel will suit our car well. I haven’t raced there before, but we tested earlier in the year, so I feel confident going into the event, and look forward to finishing the season on a high.

I’m currently working hard on my plans for next year, keen to take the step forward to start challenging for victories and championships, after a solid year of learning and developing. It’s been amazing to establish myself in SuperGT, as I have always wanted to race here. It’s such an intensely competitive series, that requires 100% effort, skill and commitment from the driver. And these days the work and commitment required outside of the car, whether on preparation, set-up and training or sponsorship and fan events, is just as important as what we do behind the wheel. It’s all part of the ever-evolving business of motorsport technology, and I’m thrilled to be part of creating that future.

Driving in the SuperGT series, one thing I have found is that the cars are much more familiar to fans, being based on high-end road going vehicles. The characteristic body shape of the Audi R8 that we run may be instantly recognizable, but the #26 Taisan SARD car is a very different beast from the version we all drool over in the showrooms.

The biggest difference you will find is the weight, or lack of it actually! Our V10 spec car, has a 5200cc engine and weighs just 1225kg, giving us more power to weight ratio. To make the car as light and efficient as possible, the body panels are replaced with carbon fibre, and every non-essential item is stripped from the interior, right down to the bare frame. Some teams take weight saving to the extreme, even replacing the door handles with string! Thankfully we don’t do that, as I find something quite reassuring about having a door handle.

You definitely won’t find any padded seats, sat nav or drinks holders in this car. Every single item must serve a vital purpose, or it is removed. My only slight luxury in the car is a small cushion to sit on, to help overcome the height difference between myself and teammate Shinnosuke Yamada!

All the GT3 cars are left-hand drive, and where the passenger seat used to be, we have a cool box full of ice that we plug our drinks and cool suit tubes into. Using a button on the steering wheel, these provide us with essential fluids and cooling during the hot, humid races. We also have a rear-view camera display in the centre console, which is incredibly helpful when you’re racing. The rear visibility isn’t great in a road going R8, so the screen makes it much easier to see what is happening behind you on the track, especially with a whole grid of cars battling for the same piece of road.

Another major difference from a road car is how often the components on our race car are replaced, renewed and adjusted. During a race weekend, the car is constantly being changed, rebuilt and adapted to suit the conditions and situations. Can you imagine having to change the springs on your road car every time you went for a carton of milk?!

The engine, gearbox and electronic components are all highly tuned and specially prepared to race specifications. There are so many differences in the car, with such a lot to process. Each time I get into the seat there are lots of electronics to plug in, re-set and manage. It’s never just as simple as get in and go! The custom made steering wheel has many buttons that help us to set-up and adapt the car during races too. For example, we have 24 different settings just for the ABS and traction control depending on the track surface, temperature and weather conditions.

We also have the pit speed limiter on the steering wheel, reducing our speed to 50kph coming down the pit-lane. It feels extremely slow when you’ve been racing at up to 300kph! At least it gives you time to undo your belts and prepare for the pit-stop though. Managing pit-stops and the driver change was actually one of the biggest new elements I had to adapt to and learn coming into SuperGT this year. It can have such an impact on your race, as a couple of seconds fumbling over a seatbelt can cost you vital places on the track. Again though, it is another new skill set that I’m proud to have developed and improved during this season.

I really have learned such a lot this year, and I’m excited to put it all into practice next season, continuing to build, grow and achieve my goals in this awesome series. I genuinely can’t say a big enough thank you to all the fans that have come to the circuits to support me this year. It has been amazing and quite overwhelming at times.

Here’s to finishing 2017 on a high at Motegi, and looking forward to next season!

ありがとうございまた!モテギで会いましょう 

Jake 

The Road is Long....

The Road is Long....

It’s hard to believe that we’re now over half way through my debut season racing in Super GT - where did the time go?! 

I’m still loving being over here in Japan, and feel incredibly proud and privileged to be part of the country’s premier racing series. It’s been a huge learning curve for me, but I’m really pleased with the progress we’re making as a team, and especially with my progress and growth personally as a driver. I feel much more involved in the technical development, feedback and set-up of the car now, which is all very positive and important for my future. 

As ever, between races I have been working hard off the track to further my progression on it. Continuing to work with the team, building my physical and mental strength and developing vital connections on my journey to help drive the future of motorsport.

Right now, though, all my attention is focused on the highly anticipated next round of the series, the prestigious Suzuka 1000km next weekend. This will obviously be my first-time competing in the event, and I’m super-excited to be part of such an internationally renowned race. Super GT is massively supported here in Japan, but the Suzuka 1000km is on a whole new level. It really is the ultimate standout, showcase event for the series - kind of like Monaco is in Formula 1 and the Indy 500 is for IndyCar. 

In fact, it’s such a big event that 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button is also taking part, racing in the GT500 class. He’s a long-time fan of the Super GT series, and, now that’s he’s retired, is thrilled to be able to join in the challenge! It’s going to be an awesome experience lining up on the grid alongside a driver I watched reach the pinnacle of motorsport when I was a teenager. 
Being our longest race by some distance, double what we did at Fuji earlier in the season, Suzuka brings a lot of unique challenges. Team strategy is going to hold extra importance, with a lot more to coordinate, especially as our team dynamic is changing. Jenson’s fellow ex-F1 driver, Christian Klein, is joining us at Taisan SARD, and I’m particularly looking forward to working with and learning from him throughout the weekend. 

We’ll be figuring out the format of our time in the car during the practice and briefing, but we must make a minimum of five pit stops during this race. I like the fact that we’ll have so many stops, as the single driver change often puts a lot of pressure on the whole team. Having multiple stops gives a little more scope to balance out lost and gained time, and to improve technique. Tyre choice will also be crucial for the race, as we have hard and medium hard compounds to choose from. Again, we’ll be taking our insights from practice, then brainstorming together to find the best option. Unlike many motorsport categories these days, we don’t have to run both compounds during the race, which makes the decision even more important to get right. 
Although I obviously haven’t driven in the Suzuka 1000km before, I feel competing in the Bathurst 12-hour race at the beginning of the year has given me valuable experience and confidence going into this event. And, like Bathurst, Suzuka is the perfect place to hold such a big event. It’s an amazing circuit to drive and has so much to offer; high-speed sections, technical areas and passing opportunities. It’s certainly going to be an eventful experience for us all and I genuinely can’t wait to get out on the track!

We’re keeping a close eye on the weather at the moment, as it’s been unseasonably wet here for the past two weeks. We even had to cancel a planned hike up Mount Fuji during my build up work for the race, which was a big disappointment. So, fingers crossed the Japanese summer returns in time for Suzuka, and that I get to see the view from the top of Fuji one day.

The big race is only a week away now guys, so I hope you’ll grab extra provisions, and a perhaps cushion, to join me on what is going to be a long, but very exciting journey!

Jake

Moving On Up!

Moving On Up!

Well, it may have been a while since our last race in Super GT, as the series takes its mid-season break, but it certainly hasn’t been a holiday as the business of motor racing never stops. We’re constantly working on moving forwards, both on and off the track.

It was great to have a chance to return home to Australia for a few weeks though, and have the chance to catch up with my family and friends. As any top-flight athlete knows, it is impossible to reach the heights without their support, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me on my journey so far….and beyond!

One of the big highlights of my time over in Sydney was taking a fantastic road trip to the Gosford Classic Car Museum with ten friends. We were massively privileged to drive some stunning cars there, including the rare and utterly awesome Audi R8 V10plus. It was an amazing trip that we’ll remember for a very long time.

I’m back over in Japan again, having stretched my linguistic skills to the limit while moving to and setting up my new apartment! Thankfully now I can focus fully on preparing for round four of the Super GT series at Sugo in a couple of weeks.

I joined my Taisan SARD team-mate, Shinnosuke Yamada, at the Sugo circuit last weekend for an official test, and we made a lot of progress with our set-up and feedback with the car. So, we’re all feeling very positive going into the next race and can’t wait to get back on track again.

Rather excitingly we’re also beginning preparations for the biggest event on the Super GT calendar too, the Suzuka 1000km. The race doesn’t run until the end of August, but it’s such an important and unique event the build-up and work begins now. I’m thrilled to be heading out to Suzuka for a two day test this weekend, as it’s such an iconic track. I’m pretty sure I will get chills when I see the famous Senna vs Prost corner/gravel trap too!

With it being a 1000km race, we’re also gaining an extra team-mate for Suzuka in the shape of former Formula 1 driver Christian Klien. Really looking forward to teaming up, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from him over the test and race weekend.

It’s certainly going to be an interesting and exciting few months ahead, as we continue to take big, positive steps forward together, and turn that into results on the track. Keep posted on my social media sites and sign up on my website for all the latest news and updates on my journey - it’s going to be one hell of a ride!

Roll on Suzuka and Sugo!

Jake

From Super GT to Super Mario!

From Super GT to Super Mario!

Hi guys,

It’s hard to find the words to explain what an amazing experience it was racing in front of 55,000 people at Fuji during the last Super GT race. Such a fantastic atmosphere to race in! The support and passion of our fans is just incredible, and something I’m proud to be part of. We hit some bad luck during the race, but once again we showed our strong overall pace and made good, positive progress too. Moving to Super GT has been a big transition for me, especially from the US based formula cars I was driving last year, but I’m feeling much more comfortable with the car, and fully cemented in the series now, so roll on round three in Autopolis!

Fuji was definitely a spectacular event for me, and it was even more special having my family over from Australia. It was great having them cheering me on at the track, and being able to show them around Tokyo too. I don’t think I’ll be adding ‘tour-guide’ to my resume/CV any time soon though, as it’s absolutely exhausting!

We did find a really cool, enjoyable way to explore the city before they left though, finishing off our race week perfectly by doing a Mario Kart city tour! First, we dressed up in outfits to represent characters from the Mario Kart computer game, then took to the streets in a go-kart for a tour around the iconic Tokyo sights! It was so much fun, a super quirky way of seeing this amazing city. Though I must admit the sight of my Dad dressed as a giant Pinkachu is an image I could have lived without!

All in all, it was a fantastic way to end a challenging, but inspiring race week with the people I owe so much of my career to. An athlete is nothing without their family and the team around them, and I am so grateful to mine for all their support and more.

As part of team Taisan SARD, over the weekend my teammate Shinnosuke Yamada and I took part in the 2017 Kamiyamada Historica GP. This historical Japanese road rally and hill-climb takes place around three hours out of Tokyo, in the world-famous skiing regions near Nagano. The scenery is stunning to drive through, if a little scary at times with sheer cliffs at the edge of the road!

The team took five of its road cars to the event, which we drove along the rally course, through many different suburbs. It was great fun with people standing on the side of the roads watching us go by and taking pictures. We also did a hill-climb practice, which was a fascinating and unique experience for me. I had no idea what to expect beforehand, but it was a very cool, friendly event to be involved in, and a big honor too, having only been in the country for a brief time.

I’m thoroughly enjoying living here in Japan and rising to the new challenges Super GT is presenting me with. I am growing and developing as a driver each time I get in the car, and feel very positive about the rest of the season ahead. We’re back in action this coming weekend at Autopolis, and I can’t wait to get back out on the track. I hope you’ll come and join us, but be sure to follow us online for all the latest updates if you can’t be there.

Here’s to driving the future!

Jake

P.S. Make sure you’re first in the queue at our Autopolis autograph sessions to claim your limited-edition hero cards and fun giveaways! 

Come Fly with Me

Come Fly with Me

Of course, the work involved in motorsport doesn’t stop when you get out of the car these days. As a result, I’ve had a busy and exciting week since the race, visiting Shanghai for some extremely productive business meetings with potential partners and clients.

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My Tokyo Home

My Tokyo Home

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!

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