Sunday, 27 September 2015


Date: Sunday 27th September 2015

Weather: Hot and sunny … I'd prepared for wet weather therefore, I lacked any real protection from the sun and, as a result, my arms and neck are partially burnt.

MP3 track of the day: The winner takes it all – ABBA

Having circled the track yesterday, there was very little point in getting to the circuit early today. My room had been small, but the bed had been really comfortable and it was with some regret that I left it at around 7:30am. I got ready quickly before I left my room, bound for the breakfast hall; once in the hotels lift, I discovered that this hotel had a library and a games room with table tennis tables, pool tables and air hockey. I though it strange at first, that a 'reasonably posh' hotel would have to go to the length of providing that sort of entertainment; and then I remember that I was currently in one of the most boring cities in the world.

Whereas the bed had been great, the breakfast was okay. I chose anything western as I couldn't cope with copious amounts of rice this early in the morning. I watched the local news - amazed that there wasn't a single mention about the Formula One – before trying to workout what the days weather would be like but alas, no weather information was forthcoming either. I therefore gave up and went back to my room; I packed my bags quickly and did a final 'check' before vacating. I left my main bag in reception (to be collected later) and headed back to the train station.

Once again there was little in the way of information, for F1 fans, at Nagoya's train station. Today was 'race day' and so numbers would surely be higher than yesterday. There was however plenty of posters advertising that the 'Phantom of the Opera' would be shown in Nagoya next month. Also, for some bizarre reason which I still haven't worked out, the song 'he needs me' from Oliver was playing within a local shopping centre. I, of course, knew where I needed to go thanks to yesterdays trip; I managed to squeeze myself on a train - which was just departing - quite shocked to find that it was leaving Nagoya at the same time as the train I caught yesterday.

Once on the train, every minute felt like an hour. The train was packed and this morning's driver had failed to turn on the air-conditioning. It was during these 'one hour commutes' that an 'F1 buddy' would really have been handy to fast-track the hour; all I had was a toddler – in the seat behind where I was standing – who was fascinated in pulling my satchel's strap towards her. This caused a brief moment of fun but didn't really kill any time.

Once at the circuit's train station, university aged lads – wearing reflective tabards – directed me towards the circuit in the same fashion as yesterday. Though the race didn't start for another four hours, I was still battling my way through the crowds towards the circuit because, last night, I had finally decided what merchandise I wanted to buy and I didn't want to be told that 'my size had been sold out'.

It is very rare for me to purchase brand new sports shirts or designer clothes. I believe, bar a few exceptions, that you pay through the roof for a product which is worth half the cost 'quality wise'. When it comes to premiership football, F1, NBA or any other major sport, it does annoy me that business franchises – who aren't short of cash – fleece their own supporters for as much money as they can. I mean, if Manchester United can afford to pay a football player, who barely understands where Manchester is, millions of pounds a year, then they can surely afford to sell their team's shirt at £8.99. Usually I therefore have no problem in turning up, on race day, with clothes a few seasons old. Today however, and I am still not sure why, I decided to push the boat out and purchase not one, but two t-shirts and a baseball cap for £110.00. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I'm stuck in a country where F1 is as alien as a Mars bar; or if it was because I had specifically saved money to buy F1 merchandise however, I decided to buy the latest gear. Once bought I asked the saleswoman to cut the tags off the baseball cap and the 'Suzuka Lewis special t-shirt'. I then said thank you before popping off to buy a 'soft pad' for my seat, two bottles of drink and to go to the toilet where I changed my shirt and began to show allegiance to the great Lewis!

As I walked towards my seat, the sun was beating down hard and I was there in my new BLACK Mercedes Lewis t-shirt though, it didn't make me as hot as I thought it would. Once at my seat I rolled up my trousers and began to de-heat; as luck would have it, I'd arrived just as the Porsche support race was kicking off. Though I didn't know any of the drivers, the race was entertaining enough and I was very happy to see that, though this was a 'lower-division race' to F1, the first, second and third place drivers all got the same treatment as the F1 top three with podium celebrations, interviews and champaign.

Once the Porsche race had finished, the stands were packed and the sun was beating down. The Japanese woman – who I'd spoke to yesterday – had arrived and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. I now had two hours before the race commenced. I therefore left my seat and went to replace my, now two empty bottles of liquid, plus I had a bowl of Ramen for lunch. Once I'd used the toilet, I paused to make sure that I had done everything I needed to. Once certain I made my way back to my seat; I still had an hour or so until the race started. I looked up at the sky and realised that no rain would fall today; in fact, it was so hot that I tried to use my coat– which had been brought for wet weather – to protect me from the sun however, I knew, that I would have a few burnt parts once this was all over.

With forty-five minutes to go, the drivers parade started. At some races, the drivers are driven around the track on an open-top bus, so that they can wave to the crowds. At Suzuka – same as in Spa now I think about it – they were drive in classic open-topped cars. Only Perez was drawing some slight anger from my stand because, as he went past, his attention was directed to his phone. Seconds later, it then turned out that he was selecting his phone's camera option and, as he pointed his phone's camera towards the crowd, all was forgiven.

Once the parade had finished, the calm before the storm occurred. Still trying to keep the sun off my neck, I watched as the F1 cars drove a full lap of the circuit to get to their starting positions. Some cars – obviously wanting to practice some new set-up settings – did two or three laps before settling in their grid position. Two of those cars were the Mercedes boys, which worried me a little. After that my view was blocked by the grand stands; I focused on the TV and listened to the noise of the engines in the distance.

At 2pm precisely, Nico Rosberg led the cars on their 'warm-up' lap. As the cars came past my stand, I took a lot of photos as, during the race, I wanted to put my camera away. Content with the images I'd taken, I turned my camera off and put it in it's bag. As I was doing this the cars were finally lining themselves on the pit straight, ready for the red lights to go out.

And off they went! Nico made a terrible start which allowed Lewis to be by his side as they went into the first corner. Lewis had the driving line through the corner and came out of it in first position. I couldn't contain my excitement; usually Japanese people just sit their quietly and clap whereas I, seeing Lewis take 'P1' after the first corner, engaged my mouth to scream out his name and for my arms to wave in the air … much to the annoyance of the British Button fans in front of me. Once the drivers had made it through, Massa and the Red Bull boys came limping behind which, I guessed, was due to 'first corner collisions'. The race, very quickly, settled down into, what can almost be called a procession. Lewis was pulling away from Vettle at almost two seconds a lap! At the midday way point, Nico had fought back up to 'P2' but was seventeen seconds behind Lewis. Everyone was behaving themselves and, with no rain on the way, it suddenly dawned on me that this race, though through yesterdays qualifying had the ingredients to be electric, was probably going to be pretty boring. It's quite a difficult situation; it's a bit like your favourite football team leading by seventeen goals to nil at half-time. You're happy because your team is winning however, at the same time, you're a bit upset as the sport event lacks competition. This was how I felt during this race and, quiet honestly, my brain often switched from 'what’s happening race wise' to ' doesn't that car look pretty as it goes through the 'S-bends'.

With five laps to go, I could hear that the Mercedes boys had switched their engines down and, with Vettle thirty seconds or so down the lane, the race was effectively over. As Lewis crossed the finish line, I let out a cheer; nothing could be taken away from him. His drive was faultless and, I do genuinely believe, that I had been witnessing an 'F1 great', of my era, at his peek.

Due to Lewis' dominance, the race finished fifteen minutes before schedule. In some ways this was good because, to avoid the crowds, I'd pre-reserved my train ticket. I won't go into details but, originally, the race was due to finish at 4pm therefore, I had wanted to reserve a seat on the 5:35pm train. Sadly this train had been fully booked before I managed to get a seat therefore, I opted for the 4:46pm train, fully prepared that if there had been an accident or rain had fallen, I would have missed the train. As it happened I had plenty of time … or did I?

As soon as Lewis had past my seat on his 'celebratory lap', I got up and said goodbye to the Japanese woman next to me and headed out. From my seat to the station was a good thirty minute walk and I had just over an hour to complete it however, the crowds were incredible. At some points I was standing still with about a 1,000 other people resigned to the fact that I was going to miss my train. As it happened, after passing the second bottle neck, I was free to walk quickly. I arrived at the train station with fifteen minutes to spare; I'd even had time to go to the toilet and buy a bottle of coke for the way back to Nagoya.

Once at the train station I breezed past the 'peasants' – stood in two dense columns four wide and about 150 deep. I showed my reserve ticket to any official who dared to stand in my way. I then joined a queue consisting of about thirty people; I stood there momentary chatting to two Japanese Ferrari fans whilst the 'peasants' looked on with a mixed sense on anger and jealously. Soon I, along with the thirty other people, was escorted to my reserved train carriage where the seats were comfortable, the air-conditioning was on and no one was stood in the isle. As I looked around, everyone was shattered and the carriage started to resemble a library. As I sat in my cool seat, and put my feet upon the foot rest, I decided that if I was to attend this race next year, this is how I would travel for both days. The usual 'rabble ticket' cost £8.00 one-way whereas, this luxury ticket came in at £20 one-way. For the two days, travelling in style would cost £48.00 more however, at that moment in time, I thought that it was worth it.

Once back in Nagoya, I trekked up to my hotel to retrieve my bag before heading back to the train station. It was now dark and the walk really did highlight that I had burnt the insides of both of my arms and the back of my neck. Once back at Nagoya's train station, I failed to find the restaurant I was looking for and, instead, I opted for an expensive café. My mind was settled on this café due to the large selection of ice cream desserts and fruit-ice drinks. I ordered some toasted meat sandwiches – with a mixed fruit shake – and then a huge chocolate banana ice cream crape for dessert. Having been in the sun all day, I allowed my body to decide what I would eat.

During the middle of consuming my meal, a Chinese family - the size of which would be compared to a small UK village community – came in. One of the youngest members of the family was chosen to speak to the waiter as her English was pretty good. The Japanese waiter, being old, didn't understand English however, I felt that he was making it more difficult than it had to be due to the families nationality. Of course, the elder Chinese generation – plus the government – hate the Japanese … but actually, I would say that the Japanese's hatred towards the Chinese is greater. As I watched the elderly waiter finally break down a few of his own barriers, I wondered if these two nations would ever been able to live together harmoniously.

Once I'd finished my meal, I waddled to the exit where I met the elderly waiter. I asked him – in Japanese – where the bus station was and he was extremely helpful. I said thank you and left following the directions given to me. After buying a bottle of water I sat down within the bus station's waiting room and got out my book. This bus station was quiet bizarre due to it being located on the third floor of a shopping centre. I continued with my Wars of the Roses book until my night bus to Sendai arrived.

Once boarded I immediately disliked the bus. It was older than yesterday's bus therefore, I had a lot less room. To exacerbate the issue, one of my bags wouldn't fit in the over-head storage area meaning that I had even less room. I tried to make myself as comfortable as possible and, incredibly, I managed to fall asleep ever-so soon … only to wake up at midnight.

- Monday 28th September -

As one o'clock approached panic set it. I felt as though I would never get back to sleep however, as if by magic, I awoke to see the clock had changed to 5:30am. The bus had just stopped at a service station; after this stop it was an hours drive to Sendai. The driver told us that we had thirty minutes, so I hobbled off the coach trying to walk normally however, I soon realised that I couldn't due to the the position I had slept in last night. Once I'd freshened up, I drank a cup of hot chocolate quickly before boarding the coach for the final leg of the journey.

Once in Sendai I got off the coach and went into the nearby train station. As luck would have it, a train was waiting for me to take me home however, it was pretty full so no seats were vacant. As I stood there, half asleep, I thought about my trip and asked if it had all been worth it; the night buses, Nagoya, the disappointing race and qualifying plus the endless crowds and expense. I smiled and realised that it was a resounding yes. There is something special about going to a sport event which happens in many different countries only once a year; F1 is unique and, if given the opportunity, I would like to attend more races in the years to come.

Once back at my apartment I settled down and unpacked my bag, washed all my clothes (including the Lewis Suzuka special t-shirt … I gave that it's own private wash) before checking my emails and photos of the past two days. I was pretty tired therefore, I new today would end early and that most of the day would be spent relaxing, watching TV and preparing for my winter holiday (only two months to go!). One thing I must watch is the Japanese GP … it would be nice to re-live my memories and see if I can see myself on TV.


Toodle Pip!

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