Friday night, in the face of the final event of the 2022 FIA-F4 series, Syun Koide, as he confessed himself, couldn’t get to sleep util late hours.
“It was the night before Saturday from which qualifying sessions and the race would start. That made me nervous and fall into a gloomy fit of musing, and I had hard time to go to sleep. I spent much of the night stewing in doubt and fear, thinking, ‘What should I do, if not for the championship title for this time?’ and so forth. I felt I was almost crushed by those thoughts and, to be honest, it was really tough.”
Once into Saturday, Koide finished 2nd in the penultimate race, R-13. While the showdown on the series title against his own team mate, Yusuke Mitsui, has not been settled yet, Koide could increase the gap between the direct rival which made his evening much easier and relaxed one than the night before.
“I went for supper to a restaurant that had casual Yakitori-shop-like atmosphere. No alcohol of course, and neither a special menu for the match tomorrow. Eat Katsu-don for good luck, as it’s usually the case. But no, I ate what I wanted to eat, deep-fried food in the main.”
The conclusion of the 2022 FIA-F4 championship was carried into the final round held on Sunday, and the entrants will have to show up by 7 in the morning. Koide went to the bed at 11 p.m. as he customarily does the night before the race.
“I sleep long hours normally, 12-hours or so. That’s why I always feel sleepy when I wake up on the race day. But for this time, I slept very well and woke refreshed if compared to the normal Saturday night in this season. Got to sleep easily, no tossing about in bed like day before. I’d gone through R-13 Saturday, widened the gap and got upper hand against my rival (Mitsui). I thought with some confidence that, ‘I’ve as good as won the title.’ My only concern was weather I could win the final race or not.”
Koide adhered to round off the season by winning the final race. If he did it, he would simply be the champion. If not, and even if Mitsui won it, he would still be the champion as long as he finished 8th or above. But Koide had his own reasons he must win.
“It was a sort of self-imposed pledge, and I had to fulfill it. I could be the champion, very likely, and yet, I might end up being tagged a mediocre driver if I didn’t win the last race. That’s what I couldn’t swallow somehow. So, I really determined to close out season with victory.”
In such a state of mental fortitude, Koide said he could relax and went to sleep quite easily, albeit a hazy wakening on Sunday morning.
“It’s hanging heavy in my mind, ‘Today is the day, whether to laugh or cry.’ If possible at all, I’d like to have the race put off for a day. I was sleepy and wanna stay in bed a bit longer, but I knew myself it’s because of mental pressure. It was huge.”
Despite the perilous frame of mind, Koide could, much to his own surprise, adjust his mindset to the race mode rather quickly.
“As soon as I walked into the circuit, a psychological switch in me turned on, automatically I guess. Not intentional, anyway. I did some warm-up exercise, changed into my racing suit and put the helmet on. It’s a routine, fixed set of procedures. Once I got on the same flow, I noticed all the weight came off my mind immediately. I felt it’s quite natural.”
With his mindset and innate aggressiveness matched well together, Koide, starting the final race from 2nd grid, overtook the race leader, Rikuto Kobayashi in the middle point, then commandingly walked away from the pack behind and captured the victory as planned, which also was a sample of the most dignified way of conquering the championship. For Koide himself, it was a hard-earned glory finally arrived at the third year of his challenge in the FIA-F4 series to which he made his untimely debut in the 4th round of the 2020 season just in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m simply happy that I could gain the champion title, for I’d been solely concentrated on that purpose without thinking about the future or whatever comes next,” said Koide expressing his inner joy.
“I’d got nervous and mentally worn sometimes during the season, however, I had my own goal to achieve, to become the series champion that is, and it helped me to keep myself psychologically intact. If I’m not mentally tough enough to fight through the FIA-F4 series, I knew I’d not be able to step up higher categories. So, I was totally devoted to endure the trials of racing.”
Koide, now at the pinnacle of a junior racing category, epitomized his three seasons in FIA-F4 trifled by COVID-19 as follows:
“It was incredibly dense three years felt both long and short. I’ve acquired not only the speed but also the strength. I personally feel I’ve made tremendous progress in these three years.”