Kazuma Nishimura, a debutant from HFDP to the FIA-F4 series from this year, made his name known to everyone at the moment when season’s first real actions started.
The 1st event of the season (R-1 & R-2) at Fuji Speedway was literally his maiden campaign in the series, and he marked the top time among 20-entrants of the Group-A qualifying session, thus sitting on the front row of R-1.
But in the race, Nishimura’s fate deteriorated all of a sudden. Starting from the front row, he fought a due battle for the lead with the pole sitter, namely Shun Koide, his teammate, and went so far as to push his elder comrade into a spin.
Nishimura was given a drive through penalty for the accident, which made him fall far back in the field and finish 28th in the race. He ruined not only his own superb performance in the first trial but also the race of his teammate who has been regarded as one of the strongest candidates for the series champion. It was a mistake that should have never happened, and Nishimura’s debut race turned from heaven to hell all at once.
“I have no future if didn’t make results in this season, and it made me impatient, I think. I am terribly sorry for Koide and many other people concerned.” said Nishimura reflecting the accident.
While the majority of young drivers in recent years start racing kart as soon as they become old enough, Nishimura came to realize the pleasure of motor racing only when he was graduated from high school. He is a late-bloomer. An oddball, in other words.
“Baseball took me away till I graduated from high school. But I like cars too. It’s an influence from my father. I watched racing videos and played computer games of racing simulation when I was not playing baseball. My father noticed my penchant, and showed me the leaflet of SRS. It was when I retired from the high school baseball and got a driver’s license. ‘Don’t you want to try this, do you?’ he said to me. I’ve never tried a circuit driving before. But I was fascinated by the idea somehow.”
He took the plunge into SRS-F (Suzuka Circuit Racing School, now called as Honda Racing School - HRS) in 2018. Despite his inexperience in racing, he had not very much lagged behind in the beginners class, however, it was too hard for him to step up to the advanced class. Nishimura already captivated by the pleasure of racing asked his father’s support to make way to a racing team in Suzuka. The father and son came in contact with WEST RACING CARS and arranged the mid-season entry to the Clubman Sport Class of the Suzuka Clubman Race.
Having experienced in active racing at VITA, Nishimura came back to the SRS class next year, however, he could not pass the final selection yet again. Such a setback didn’t dishearten his passion. He had his third SRS-F lesson in between the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally stepped up to the advanced class in 2021. His performance was within the pass zone for the scholarship, but he couldn’t produce result in the final selection race in which Yuto Nomura and Souta Arao grabbed the opportunity to challenge the French F4 Champion ship as a member of RedBull junior team.
“I was really disappointed, of course. Why not me? I felt bitter for not getting the scholarship, and at the same time, I knew I had some shortcomings if compared with Nomura or Arao. So, I was convinced to myself after all.” said Nishimura.
Although the scholarship was missed by a narrow margin, his score was good enough to open the way to run in the FIA-F4 series from HFDP. Nishimura was more and more aspired to go abroad, and inevitably got envious of Nomura and Arao who would race in France. But told himself, “I’ll have to do my very best and get results no matter what. That’s only the way I can do for now.” Nevertheless, he was not totally immune to the inner fret.
“I’ll be twenty-three this year. Nomura and Arao went to Europe at the age of sixteen or seventeen. Most of the other trainees in HRS are teenagers. I can’t help but dwell on my age.”
Indeed, he was psyched too much by this hastiness or hustle he might prefer, which led Nishimura to the unthinkable mistake at his debut race.
“I was thinking too much about the age and it definitely played no good at the season opener. My teammate Mitsui (Yusuke) will be twenty this year, and can’t help but compare my age. ‘I’m three years older. If I don’t make result this year, I’m done for.’ That’s the way I thought. In addition, I made a good start from the front row in R-1, and it made me puffed up. That’s why I messed up with Koide.”
Things went all wrong for Nishimura at the 1st event in early May whereas his teammate and same rookie, Mitsui, had done great job, winning R-1 and 2nd in R-2. A stark contrast put under the nose of Nishimura who was caught in the trap of overthinking.
But Nishimura soon perceived that the mistake had been derived from desperation albeit latent, and calmly set about preparations for the races ahead. He said, “I looked into all the data, videos or whatever related to the 1st event, and got a feeling that I was rather ‘in a good shape.’ It means, ‘I should not read too much into the outside world. I’ve got to focus on my own performance, raise my game, and face the race with such a mindset.’ That’s what I told to myself.”
The imminent FIA-F4 event was the season’s 2nd double header held at Suzuka Circuit on May 28-29, where he got 3rd grid in both R-3 and R-4, finished them 4th and 5th respectively, and put himself up to 6th place in the point ranking. Did Nishimura reassured his true self? But, how much?
A Driving Advisor at HFDP, Toshihiro Kaneishi describes this season’s Nishimura as follows.
“He looked full of vigor at the first test. I thought, ‘awesome!” really. As I noticed he had a tendency toward overdoing things, I told him to ‘hold back just a little bit,’ then he held himself back all the way. Sometimes, he put on gas before finishing turn-in move and therefore lost traction. He has a so-called ‘natural speed’ but lacks in experience. That’s why he has hard time to control maneuvers aptly. But I’m sure he’s getting better step by step. He has such a capacity for adaptation. When he adds to his experience with actual battles in the race, results would come along by themselves. He has the speed to make that happen.”
Nishimura, after the first two events, says, “It’s good to have some results. But I was frustrated not to make it to the podium ones while both Koide and Mitsu did twice each. I was pissed off with myself getting chicken out at the crucial moment. I haven’t done racing kart and so, I’m not good at racing tactics. I back off too much too soon. I know I’m abrupt sometimes whether to push or not to push. All those flaws of mine must be overcome as soon as possible. There's a couple of months before we go to the 3rd event. We’ll have test at Autopolis and I will take part in the Fuji 24-hour, Super-Endurance race during the interval. So, I’d like to do some more mileage and build up my experience as much as possible.”
Nishimura is trying harder to conquer the age-bound anxiety, as well as to make all his speed and experience become instrumental to the result. Let’s wait and see how the 23-year old rookie would evolve in a full two-month interval before the next event.