The 2022 FIA F4 series champion, Syun Koide stepped up to the Super Formula Lights (SFL) series this year, just one more push to the Super Formula series, the top notch single-seater category in Japan.
But he will have to add up his skills, polish them as good as it gets, and above all, produce some decent results. Otherwise, his future is by no means guaranteed, or even bleak one would say.
At the point when he had done 6 races in the first two events of the season, Koide so far achieved three podium finishes, one 2nd and two 3rd, albeit no win. How Koide himself reflects those results for a start? He mentioned, among other things, about the astonishment he felt when he first drove the SFL car.
“The speed level was different, in a big way! Downforce was much higher too, and it made corners for FIA F4 simply the place where you step on the gas, I mean at full throttle! After a lap, I felt as if some corners were missing, really.”
The FIA F4 car has about 160hp, whereas the SFL car has 30% more and better aerodynamic performance. Koide coming freshly from FIA F4 had to drive racing car in a way that was utterly strange to him.
“I was taken aback little bit, thinking I’d go racing with this animal. Awesome! Isn’t it? That’s what I thought at first, but I wasn’t scared. Whenever I drive faster car of the upper category, I always felt that way. I mean, it’s the same animal I have to tame with steering, accelerator and brake pedal.”
One prerequisite for Koide is that he has to master a new driving technique optimized for the performance of the car he was given. And yet, he has something else to do other than focusing on the performance-oriented driving.
“The car is much quicker. Means its potential is higher too. The higher the potential you run on, the more the accuracy of setting is required. The tiniest change in setting in the context of the FIA F4 method often ends up with a completely different driving character. That’s why setting becomes more critical as such. Of course, I have to change my own way of driving in order to cope with the dynamism.”
For Koide who has had various problems since he stepped up to SFL, Takashi Kobayashi accompanies as the appointed adviser and is supporting him to develop as a competent driver. Kobayashi himself is a graduate of SRS-F (currently HRS) as same as Koide, and was the 2010 Japanese F3 (former SFL) N-class series champion, and currently is the partner of Koide in the Super GT GT300 class. Any advise from the senior colleague driver who is still active in racing is indeed a treasure, says Koide.
“He kindly watches my driving from outside as much as he can, and points out, ‘Koide’s maneuver is like this’ and ‘Quick drivers do it that way,’ and so on. Each one of those comments is convincible to me. I can’t see my driving objectively coz I’m driving. It’s why the difference between my ‘driving feel’ and my ‘actual driving’ is little hard for me to perceive. If someone watching outside showed me anything I should improve, I’d easily go along with it. ‘Ah, that’s exactly what I was thinking,’ I might well say, and it encourages me to confront my own problems. He’s the one currently running in the race, so he speaks ongoing driver language that’s absorbed straight in my head, and in my body too.”
During the 2nd event of the season held at Sportsland SUGO in June, Koide said he had received valuable advice from Kobayashi.
“Kobayashi-san who had seen SF and SFL already gave me an advice, like this. ‘Quick drivers deliberately slide the rear, change the direction of car while controlling the amount of slide at will, and accelerate out the corner maintaining the initial speed as high as possible.’ As a matter of fact, I myself thought same way. I mean, I was wondering, ‘There’s something short in my driving, and it must be what he described.’ Actually, I was surprised by the insight of a qualified onlooker like him.”
Even if a driver was furnished with the best possible advice, it does not simply means he would succeed in the race. Koide for one will have to think by himself on the advice, correct his way of driving and produce results at his own responsibility.
“Anyone can have his rear slide, probably. But to adjust the turn by controlling the slide is completely a different matter. If you fail, you’d spin, or clash in worst case. It’s so scary that you tend to drag on sliding, and you know, this is the best way to go slow. It’s really hard to let the rear slide and yet to turn faster. I know I’m blessed with the adviser who have enabled me to get wise to such an idea which is extremely important for me at this moment.”
How Koide judge his own growth rate so far being in 3rd place on the point table after running 6 races in the first two events this season?
“To be honest, if asked my point standing, 3rd over all now, is reflecting my true ability grown till today, I say probably not. But in somewhere not visible, my driving and setting for instance, I personally feel I’ve got better for sure. Of course, we’re doing in limited time frame, I don’t say I feel no frustration. Simply, I’m a type of person who can accept one’s failure with composure so long as the effort was maximum and ultimate. If I’d have time to see my confidence weaver in the future, I’ll try to keep my mentality intact by telling to myself, ‘You’ve done your best up until now and had nothing to regret nor feel shame,’ so that I can restore my mindset, I hope.”
The 2023 SFL series consisting of 18 races in 6 events will soon be going into the mid-season climax, starting with the 3rd event held on July 1-2, at Suzuka Circuit, where Koide had spent his juvenile days. Let’s see how he would perform at his home track with his determination firmly focused on ever higher goal.