SBRS: Dear Diary: Roger Yasukawa

Barber Dodge Pro Series Co-Rookie of the Year Roger Yasukawa earned that title in 1999 by finishing races with remarkable consistency. Out of 12 races he scored points in 11 of them. He finished his rookie season ninth in the overall standings...

Barber Dodge Pro Series Co-Rookie of the Year Roger Yasukawa earned that title in 1999 by finishing races with remarkable consistency. Out of 12 races he scored points in 11 of them. He finished his rookie season ninth in the overall standings and looked toward 2000 to establish himself as firm front runner. Yasukawa, 22, who was born in Japan but now resides in Southern California, has carried the consistency over from last year having scored points in all but one of the seven races run thus far. A career high best came at Lime Rock Park with a fifth-place finish. The results have yet to come though Yasukawa is optimistic about his potential.

Round seven at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was an up and down weekend for Yasukawa. Following is his story told in his own words.

- George Tamayo

Aug 9, 2000(Wed)

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to catch my flight to Columbus, Ohio for round 7 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. I got onto the plane and was back to sleep before it even took off. When I landed in Columbus, my father was already at the gate waiting for me. My father works for the McLaren Formula 1 team as a marketing agent in Japan, and he gives me many tips on how to be a professional race car driver. Even though I have been racing for 10 years, my father has seen me race not more than 10 times. I’ve never done well in front of my father, so I was quite excited to perform well and show him that I have improved a lot since my first karting experience in the streets of Tokyo.

From the airport, we went straight to the hotel and found out that we were booked into a single room. Although I haven’t seen my father for 2 months, I didn’t think I wanted to share a small bed with him, so I complained and fortunately we were moved into another room with two queen beds. After that we went to have dinner, then back to the hotel and to sleep.

Aug 10, 2000 (Thu)

On the first day, we had two 30-minute test sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I met up with French engineer Mr.Alain Duluard to discuss our strategy for the weekend. Alain was able to join me at Cleveland and also this weekend to help me set up the car. The first session was not so bad as I just concentrated on which way the track goes. I was only 10th quickest but I knew there was a lot more to come so I was not so worried. After the first session, Alain and I had the first of many long debriefings over the weekend. We usually spend about two hours thinking what to do after each session. But I feel that it is a good experience to work with a guy like Alain to prepare myself for the next level. In the second session, Alain and I decided to try many changes to the car during the session. The result was very disappointing, as I was only 18th quickest of the session. However, we learned what not to do for the set up and I was pretty confident that things could only get better. We went back to the hotel after the second session and met up with Mauricio Gugelmin (PacWest Champ Car driver) to have dinner. Mauricio is a good friend of my father since when they worked together at the Leyton House F1 team. We all went straight back to the hotel and to sleep after seeing Mr. Chip Ganassi arriving with his helicopter in front of the hotel and having dinner at Burger King.

Aug 11, 2000 (Fri)

We arrived at the track early for the practice and the first qualifying session. I made a drastic change to my car set up and I was hoping to get faster with a new set of tires. The track was still slippery without Champ Car rubber on the track. My car felt much better and I was able to post the eighth fastest time of the session. After the practice, I discussed with Alain about possible changes to make my car handle even better. We concluded with some changes to make and I went to the Honda hospitality to have lunch and talk with some Japanese media. Soon after the lunch, we were back on track for the first qualifying session. The track felt a little better with the Champ Car rubber. I drove hard through out the session but I was unlucky when it most counted. I was not able to get a clear lap at the end and I only managed to post ninth quickest time. My car felt good and I was gutted for not being able to perform better at the end. Even with minor set up problems, I had two and half-hour debriefing with Alain and we went to dinner at TGI Friday’s and back to hotel. I was asleep soon after finishing my day report and sending it via e-mail to my sponsors.

Aug 12, 2000 (Sat)

We were luckily in bed until 7:30 a.m. since the last qualifying was scheduled at 1:00 p.m. Even so, we were at the track by 8:30 a.m. in order to be well prepared for the last qualifying session. My strategy for the session was to concentrate on the last three laps as usually the quickest time comes at the end of the session. Throughout the session, I made sure that I will have a clear lap at the end and I started to push hard when there was 10 minutes left in the session. I was third quickest just until 5 minutes to go, and drove even harder. Unfortunately, I made a big mistake and nearly went off the road at the high-speed turn-12. I backed off a little bit for the last lap and tried to drive smoothly. I guess it didn’t work at all since I couldn’t improve my time. At the end, I fell all the way to eighth and I was very disappointed about the session. The qualifying session was very competitive as I was only 0.15sec. away from being on the second row. During the debriefing with Alain, we decided try less downforce for the warm up and possibly for the race. However, Alain likes to look through the data thoroughly and it took us nearly 3 hours to make that decision!!

Aug 13, 2000 (Sun)

The last day at Mid-Ohio was the longest day. I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at the track just about 7:00 a.m. I got there before the mechanics. I was fully prepared to start my session at 8:00 a.m., not knowing that the session was supposed to start at 9:15 a.m. Just 15 minutes before 8:00 a.m., I realized that the warm up wasn’t going to start for another hour. Instead of embarrassing my self, I pretended as if I wanted to watch the first part of the Formula One race in Hungary and went back to my car just in time for the warm up. I believe my plan went well except for Oswaldo (Negri) and Rod MacLeod (BDPS test drivers) who realized that I was the only one with the racing suit on very early in the morning. It was probably the only one of many plans that went well over the weekend. The warm up started on time and I drove hard in race trim to test how the low downforce car would work. I was very happy with the car and I was sixth quickest just .3sec off the pace. I decided not to change much on my set up and concentrate on getting good start for the race.

Again, I went to the Honda hospitality to have lunch and went to my rental car to have some sleep. I was back in the paddock an hour before the race and started to spy on what other drivers might do for the race. The race started at 4:10 p.m. just after the Champ Car race. My start wasn’t too bad and I was able to gain one position during the first lap. During the second lap coming out of Keyhole (Turn-2), I was trying to get a good run but made a mistake and dropped two wheels off the track. Luckily my friend and rival Michael Valiante decided to follow my path, and I was able to hold on to my position. However, after that incident, I lost my rhythm and made many mistakes and I was back in 8th place where I finished the race. After the race, there wasn’t much to think except to look forward for the next round at Road America. When we had just about enough of Mid-Ohio after the race around 6:00 p.m. we quickly drove to downtown Columbus where we were going to stay and went to a Japanese restaurant after checking in to the hotel. I usually like to go to a Japanese restaurant before the race and order Ton-Katsu(Pork Cutlet). Ton means pork and Katsu means win. Obviously I ordered Ton-Katsu for my dinner and satisfied myself at least at the dinner table. My long weekend was over when I went back to the hotel and finished up my race report at 11:00 p.m.

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Mauricio Gugelmin , Michael Valiante , Roger Yasukawa , Chip Ganassi , Rod MacLeod