07/11/2013

Yoshioka Battles Pikes Peak in a BRZ

The GTNET TOMEI BRZ team recently finished the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for
the first time in the BRZ. This would be the third year for Yoshioka.
The Pikes Peak project began with an unbelievable setback the day everyone was
supposed to leave. They encountered “severe engine trouble” on the dyno due to uknown
causes. Toshi received the email sent at 4am explaining the bad news. It was time to leave
and the engine was blown.

While things like this happen in racing, it was still devastating.
The team met up at later that morning and assessed their situation. Yoshi explained that
as soon as the engine failed, he called Eiji fromTomei Powered and proceeded to have a
midnight conference call with Japan’s president Mr Sasaki. In Japan, the time limit for DHL
was 2 hours away. Without hesitation, Mr Sasaki ordered a test engine to be immediately
crated and shipped overnight to LA. This was miracle 1.

All hope was not lost yet.
The engine would take a day to arrive so the team had to split up. Toshi left first by car and
would negotiate team registration and tech inspection. Yoshi would leave a day later and
and pull the wounded BRZ to Colorado by himself. He would sleep at gas stations to make
it in time.
Crew chief Koji would stay behind and wait for the motor. He would then rent a minivan
and drive through the night with another team volunteer, Nakamae-san. They would all
meet at a local tuning shop, Underpressure Power and Perforamance. This shop was
introduced to us through DSPORT.

With this emergency plan in effect, the team knew that physical sacrifice would be
the only way to make it in time. Since Yoshi’s Time Attack qualifying was on Wednesday,
the team had only one day to remove the old engine, install the new one, and test and
tune.
Toshi and Yoshi managed to meet up in Colorado and pick up Mr. Tomita, Tomei Japan’s
engineer. Although he was sent to monitor engine condition, he would now be forced to
help the engine installation and become head tuner. The BRZ passed tech inspection and
was ready for work.

As the team worked without sleep to remove the engine and repair a cracked bell-housing,
the shop crew offered their time and help for which the team was grateful. And, as hoped,
Koji’s minivan arrived on time early in the morning with the new replacement engine.
Without rest, Koji joined the team with the work. It was truly an inspiring moment.
And by nightfall, the new engine was installed and the sound of the boxster engine
echoed throughout the shop. The team was teary eyed, but there was no time to celebrate.
The fuel map in the car did not match the characteristics of the new engine and the BRZ
went straight onto UPP’s dyno. The engine install and availability of a dyno was miracle 2.
Somehow, we managed to make it to the practice session the next day…obviously with no
rest or sleep. Pikes Peak practice sessions were held early in the morning before the
public could use the roads, so setup and meeting times started at 3am. The team would
leave their hotel at 2:30am every day from there on out.

Each practice day focused on a certain portion of the mountain. For our team, we would
practice on the bottom section, mid section, and top section accordingly.
Yoshi’s initial practice runs were conservative as he tried to get a feel for the new engine.
The team looked on as he gradually began to push the car. The rear suspension was
tweaked to reduce understeer and Yoshi began to pick up the pace. While his first times
were ranked quite low, he moved up considerably and was close to the top 5. Considering
that that Top 5 cars in that class were last year’s champion car, 800HP+ Porsches, and
AWD Lancer EVO’s with plenty of experience, the team new they were in good shape.
The GTNET TOMEI BRZ now had a chance to break Yoshi’s previous record and a shot at
the fourth place. Considering the car did not even start 2 days ago, this was miracle 3.
With high hopes and confidence, the team used the last day to rest and went into
race day. With constant media attention, Yoshi prepared for his run. However, miracles
may only come in three’s and it seemed that the team would not be able to get out of
the biggest challenge of all.
After Sebastien Loeb shattered the Pikes Peak record with a blistering 8 minute 13 second
run, the weather began to deteriorate quickly and by Yoshi’s turn, he was told that it was
raining quite low on the mountain and there was hail and fog at the top.
In car cams showed Yoshi could not hide his disappointment and despite all the sacrifice
and work that the team made, he would not be able to make a record breaking pass. The
rain would make it impossible. His one year of preparation would end like this…
However, Yoshi did not give up and vowed to use every technique he had to control the
BRZ up the mountain. In car cams showed good progress until…the front windshield began
to fog up. Although there were vents in the car, the sudden temperature change and air
flow in the cabin caused it to fog up wit no visibility.
Yoshi was forced to drive by his memorization of the 156 turns and although he safely
made it to the summit, his in-car explosion of emotion showed his disappointment and
frustration. His time would be 12 minutes 13 seconds and 5th place out of 20 cars.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was not only a challenge up the hill, but a challenge
of teamwork, hope and a constant battle with mother nature. Veteran drivers told us that
weather was a part of the race and that to truly conquer the mountain, a driver had to
win several years in a row.
Our team plans on doing just that and we hope everyone can come along for the ride.
Please find our pictures at:
http://stage-10.net/brz/?portfolio=pikes-peak-international-hill-climb-c…
In car cams can be found at:
http://stage-10.net/brz/
Please email Toshi at Toshi@stage-10.net if you would like hi-res copies.
Also, please feel free to use these images as well.
Thank you for your support and we’d especially like to thank Tomei Powered for saving the
whole race project. We could not have done it without you. Also, thank you to all the
volunteers who helped us get to the summit. We did it all together… See you next year.

 

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