CHAMPCAR/CART: Motegi Diary Day One

Motegi Diary: A Feeling of Fraternity by Ron Richards [Ron Richards, CART's vice president of communications, files a daily diary of his activities while in Japan for the Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi.] Coming to Japan often ...

Motegi Diary: A Feeling of Fraternity by Ron Richards

[Ron Richards, CART's vice president of communications, files a daily diary of his activities while in Japan for the Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi.]

Coming to Japan often reminds me of my days in college.

The CART community spends a lot of time together as preparing and conducting the activities for the Firestone Firehawk 500 at Twin Ring Motegi -- Round 2 of the 1999 FedEx Championship Series. The sense of fraternity is very strong.

Unlike most races, where teams, sponsors and officials are scattered throughout the city in which we race, in Japan we all ride buses together. Eat together. Attend functions together. Spend time in the Twin Ring Hotel's Blue Note Lounge together.

While it's not quite like, thankfully, the camaraderie found in the Delta House fraternity in the comedy classic "Animal House," the trip to Japan does provide us with an opportunity to get to better know one another. It's really a throwback to a time when sport in general was a little less complicated -- less sophisticated.

Both Mito and Utsunomiya, where the majority of the teams' personnel are staying, are about 45 minutes from the track. Team members and race officials often share space and time on buses, which wind along narrow two-lane roads that occasionally require bus drivers to pull to the side while a man dragging a cart full of wood scraps slows traffic to a crawl.

Eating at the track is another shared activity and each team member, official and driver walks a short distance from the garages and pits to a tented area in the infield. Curried rice, hamburgers, hot dogs, salad and spaghetti comprise the majority of the menu items. At regular race weekends in North America, drivers and teams go to their respective hospitality areas for breakfast and lunch. There is little sense of togetherness like we have here in Motegi.

Most everyone bunched up again Wednesday evening, when the fine people at Twin Ring Motegi played host at the annual welcome party. The specially designed sake boxes are a commemorative item for everyone to take back to the States. Traditional Japanese music was a significant part of the evening. As expected, the food was excellent and included sushi, Mexican dishes, tempura and desserts.

What all this togetherness seems to do is reiterate some of the basic values of sport. Competition is one of the key elements to the success of any sport, and nowhere is that truer than in the FedEx Championship Series. We have a list of at least 15 drivers who fans can expect to see on the podium. That competition is at the heart of what we do, and, while everyone wants to reach the top step of the podium at race's end, a great competition against a quality opponent is a big part of a successful weekend.

All of our PR group, plus Carl Cohen, executive VP of marketing Carl Cohen, buddied up in a small bus to make the run to the track from Tokyo Wednesday morning. It never fails to make a strong impression as you work your way through Tokyo. This city goes on for what seems like an eternity. The trip took a surprisingly short time. We covered the entire distance in less than two hours as Tokyo traffic was less congested than expected.

We followed the river north out of the city for about 20 miles before we came to an area of rolling hills. As we continued north on the 6 Freeway, the terrain changed again, this time from rolling hills to small mountains. Off in the distance, a very impressive chain of mountains in the west towered above the valley. As we moved along, we passed rice paddies tended by Japanese in traditional outfits.

We reached the Mito exit off the freeway and headed west and northwest and traveled on a twisting road for more than 20 miles. It wound past centuries-old buildings that come right to the edge of the road. These bus drivers are pretty amazing, missing streetlight poles or the corner of a garage by mere inches.

We set up our PR operation today and struggled with computer configurations that wouldn't allow us to reach the Internet. We ran our trouble past a few of the track people before finding someone who could help us to figure it out. A big thanks to those from Twin Ring Motegi who stepped up to help us find a resolution. The telephone issue aside, this track is one of the most magnificent facilities in the world.

The group thing continues tomorrow. The focus will change as fraternity turns to a very high level of competition.

Talk to you again then.

Source: CART Online

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Series IndyCar