“I’m concerned about the time (left for me,) obviously. The time passed mercilessly, and races were over with or without results of any value to me. I’m in a sort of desperation, to be honest.” uttered Kazuma Nishimura who has been participating, from this season, in the FIA-F4 series as an apprentice of HFDP.
Nishimura has become twenty-three in this July. Six months have passed since he joined the serious motorsport field that has shown a significant trend of lowering age. The 5th event of the season was held at Sportland Sugo on September 17 -18 (R-9 & 10,) and there are only two events/four races left for him to consign his hope for the future. Nishimura, in such a crunchy situation, inevitably vacillates between his own ‘age’ and ‘progress rate.’
Before entering HFDP, Nishimura had already experienced car races in a Suzuka-based team. But in the HFDP regime, circumstances seemed to be largely different from what he had known beforehand.
“I was the only driver in the team I run before, not like HFDP where plural drivers work together. So, the team set up the car for me alone. But in HFDP, there’re three drivers, and a manager, advisors, engineers and mechanics in charge led by a chief mechanic taking care of all three of us.”
The difference in team structure has led to the difference in learning process, said Nishimura knowing himself still being halfway up the radder.
“Suppose that, I told the feeling of the car to the engineer, when I was the only driver in the team, they set up the car to comply with my feedback. But now, all three drivers tell their own views and feelings are different each other. In the beginning, I couldn’t understand why drivers feel in different ways.”
The three drivers in question, Shun Koide in his third year in the camp and two other rookies, namely Nishimura and Yusuke Mitsui, have been working together in this season at HFDP. The trio customarily shares the setting data, and tweak each car with reference to it. The feeling and the driving style naturally differ depending upon the character of each driver. So, there never be the “unitary solution” when it comes to the racing car. Nishimura bumped into the actualities of racing for the first time in his career, and had almost lost sight of himself.
“Koide and Mitsui made comment that is different from mine sometimes. Their results were usually better than me, and that made me anxious. ‘Do I get the feeling of cars correctly, or not?’ I feared.”
There occurred an opportunity for Nishimura on the verge of self-negation to find the way out from the dilemma.
“When we went to Autopolice for the test, I realized that my feeling was way different from Koide’s. That’s why I thought I’d run on his setting. It’s just for a trial, you know. And then, I found it was far from what I was aiming at. I mean, it was the car that could ‘turn!’ I was deeply impressed, ‘Wow! It can turn like this.’ Really an eye opener for me.”
Nishimura’s style has been more or less a “swinger turn” in which he tries to change the direction of car by pitching the nose into corners with some help form repulsive force. That is why it gives more clue for him to know the ‘driving style that suits a particular setting’ rather than the ‘difference in car settings.
“I’ve got the knack of it and I’m convinced right away. I came to know the setting can differ in such a big scale according to the driving style. I’m not deft enough to adjust myself to the setting quickly, but I acknowledged the method now, and since then, I’ve been trying to drive with such a method in mind all the time.”
He has two colleagues who drive in different ways and it enabled Nishimura to add up another “repertoire” in his driving style, which is definitely what we call “progress” in motorsport term. Nishimura says that he has now got a clear grasp of his own progress.
“The HFDP system is full of lessons to learn for me in every possible aspect I can think of. My driving style, setting up cars or whatever.”
Nevertheless, time is always in a short supply. For anyone seeking his own methodology, casting a doubt on it at times, and yet learning from team mates, a full-season is by no means long time to do them all.
“My time is running out,” says Nishimura. “From the season opener to this round, races were over in a flash to me, and there’re only two rounds left. I feel I’m under the gun, just a little bit. But I ain’t compromise, never. I have to keep on going even if it’s too late. I wanna absorb whatever I can learn, make full use of it, and upgrade my driving as long as I have chances to do so.”
In the weekend at SUGO, Nishimura finished 9th in R-9 and 8th in R-10, accumulated some points, and placed himself 8th in the overall ranking. Two events/four races are left in the 2022 FIA-F4 series to which Nishimura is looking forward to extend his stake-all performance.