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Scott Speed's Suzuka diary 10 Oct 2006

Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day Suzuka, Japan, 7 October 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day Suzuka, Japan, 6 October 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso at a Scuderia Toro Rosso team photograph.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race Day, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2006 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Japanese Grand Prix, Race, Suzuka, Japan, 8 October 2006

Mechanical failure halts Speed's march in Japan

For only the third time this season, Scott Speed’s Toro Rosso suffered a mechanical failure during a race. But before his premature retirement on Sunday, the American Formula One driver managed to complete 48 of the 53 laps of the Japanese Grand Prix.

The race in Japan was just one week after the Chinese Grand Prix, and so Speed headed straight to the Suzuka track. He spent the next few days hanging out with his team mates.

“It was cool because I had absolutely nothing to do and I was hanging out at the track the whole time,” he explained. “It kind of reminded me of the go-kart days, just hanging out with the guys. I don’t get to see a lot of these guys most of the time, anyway, so it was cool to spend time with the team.”

The American also sang karaoke with his team mates at The Log Cabin, a famous karaoke bar near the circuit that many of the Formula One fraternity have visited. This was the last Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka as the race moves to the Fuji circuit next year. Speed has wanted to race at Suzuka for years, and he finally got his chance.

“It is probably the most challenging track that I have ever driven,” he said. “It is certainly a very special place, and I just feel lucky that I was at least able to drive on it once before it goes away.” He posted the 21st fastest time on Friday’s opening practice session. It rained for much of the day.

“Although the track was easier to learn than I expected, doing so in the wet is not ideal!” he said. “It’s a great track, like Spa, and it’s cool that I have had a chance to race here. With only a couple of laps in the dry, the car seems quite well balanced. But it is too early to have a clear picture of anything.” It was dry the next day for qualifying, but things did not go well for California native Speed.

“My qualifying lap started great, and I had a good first sector,” he explained. “Then, going into Turn 9, Jenson (Button) was trying to let me go, and I caught up to him too quickly and lost some downforce. So when I exited the corner, I ended up going over the exit curb, stayed on it too long and then ran onto the grass, got dirt on the tyres, and that was really the end of my lap. Here, Lap 1 is the only one that you have. We haven’t hit traffic in the last five qualifying sessions, so I guess it was about time for it to happen again. It was unfortunate as the car was handling good. We did some guesswork on set-up going into the session, and it was working well.”

Speed lined up 19th for the race and mad a great start to vault to 14th on the first lap. In the early stages of the race, he dueled with David Coulthard, who drives for Toro Rosso’s sister team, Red Bull. Unfortunately a poor pit stop dropped Speed in the running order.

“After we lost all the spots in the pits, I was being too aggressive and spun,” he said. “It was a difficult corner so see, and I just hit the inside of the curb and that threw the car into the air. I am not sure if the car was okay after that, but to me it did not feel any different.”

Five laps from the finish, Speed pulled his car into the pit garage. “The power steering went out,” he said. “The reliability up to this point has been really good.” The next and final race of Speed’s debut Formula One season will be the Brazilian Grand Prix later this month.