I finally did it! I completed a two-day test at the world famous Suzuka Circuit. This was a long time coming with tons of planning; nothing is ever spontaneous with the Japanese. That is not a bad thing – in fact, when dealing with motorbikes and foreign countries, having a detailed plan is the right way to go.
I flew from Montreal to Tokyo and, as expected, the team was at the airport waiting for me upon my arrival. We immediately hopped in the waiting vehicle and away we went. The good news was that somehow there was wifi in the van which was pretty cool. The bad news was, I never thought to ask the translator how long we would be driving!
Let me back up for a minute… No one on the team (including the team owners) speak or understand English. I don’t understand Japanese. We would communicate by getting “Jumbo” on the phone or Skype (Jumbo is a friend of theirs who lives in Australia). He is Japanese but speaks English, and has been an important part of me getting all these amazing opportunities. It makes for interesting conversation when he is not available, since we both end up agreeing on things we don’t always fully understand. When I come in from a session, we usually call Australia so I can explain what I am feeling on the bike, and then Jumbo explains that to the mechanics. For race weekends, they always have a translator on hand. I cannot emphasize enough how professional this race team is on all fronts.
As I sit in the van wondering how long we will be driving, I log onto my iPad and decide to look up where Suzuka is located in relation to the Tokyo airport. Hmmm.. a five-hour drive, more or less. That was a shocker after flying 17 hours! I had a 9 am meeting with track officials the next morning and would be on the track shortly after. I fell asleep in the van and woke up as we were pulling into the track hotel. They had already checked me in (some of the team had arrived earlier that evening) and the room key was waiting for me. I passed out again and next thing you know, I am at breakfast staring face-to-face with raw and possibly still moving seafood on my plate. I was scheduled to be in Japan for three days and, looking back, I should have brought some peanut butter.
In all fairness to Japan as a country, I have been from top to bottom and side to side and eaten the strangest things in my life there. None of them ever seem to be cooked. However, I have never gotten sick there. They are clean freaks and only consume fresh food for the most part. I wish I could say the same thing about China. I have been sick plenty of times over there since they cook everything in oil and I don’t think the food is very fresh…
My meeting with the Suzuka officials that morning was essentially a private riders meeting. The only glitch was the fact that it was entirely in Japanese and no one knew how to translate to me. Some things were common sense and some things you could get the idea of by the photos on the projector. However, there were some areas of the meeting that left me with more questions than answers… yes, I had some anxiety at this point. Adding to that anxiety was the fact that the team was convinced that I would be fast based on my test earlier in the year at Motegi, which went amazingly well.
Once I got back to the pit area, I was in awe of how prepared the team was and how seriously they were taking this test. This was no casual track day (which by the way is a seriously fun way to spend a Saturday) and I realized the bike I’d be riding was the same bike being used by a top Japanese Superbike Championship contender. It was his “A” bike no less! I am not sure I had ever been on a motorbike with so many goodies on it. We adjusted everything to fit me and made some adjustments to the suspension. They also had the laptop plugged in every time I looked over doing some sort of mapping or programming. Like I mentioned earlier, the Japanese are all about planning and preparation. It is very impressive. It also got me thinking that this was about as serious of a bike outing as I had ever been involved in…
Tune in next week for Part 2 of Dan’s Suzuka test!