For many years, Under Suzuki has been the ‘Peoples Champion’ not only at WTAC, but to the time attack community worldwide. Competing in a ‘shed-built’ S15 Nissan Silvia that he has been campaigning for well over 10 years, it has been a continual development path that has seen the car in various different guises over the years and competing almost every year at WTAC since 2011 (last year was the first year he didn’t finish the car in time). This car has been a labour of love as he has tinkered away in the corner of his friends’ Tokyo workshop well into the night almost every day of the week. He does everything from carbon fibre construction to fabrication to building the engine. Then, he turns up to the track and drives it to record-setting times himself! It’s not hard to see why he is an inspiration to many thousands worldwide.
Despite smashing records in his home track of Tsukuba, the one thing that has alluded Suzuki is the WTAC Pro Class Champion trophy and that’s the one he REALLY wants. He has come close before with 2014 being a nail-biter where Tilton Racing’s Evo pipped him in the dying minutes with a time of 1.24.84 to Under Suzukis 1.24.88. It is rare that he has been not on the podium in recent years. Being RUNNER UP is not what Under Suzuki built this car for, he built it to WIN, and that’s what he plans on doing with this year’s brand-new set up.
What has always been the question looking down pit lane at recent WTAC events is how on earth a ‘hobby guy’ from Japan going to compete against all of these professional teams with ex-F1 engineers, banks of computers, all of the rest of it, particularly as it’s just him and a couple of mates. We then discovered he has a very proficient Sydney engineer working away in the background joining the team this year that may well be the ‘missing link’ that Under Suzuki so desperately needs.
His name is Danny Nowlan and while he may not be a household name to the average Aussie, he is certainly well known throughout the world of professional motor racing, and we caught up with him recently to find out what his plan was to help Suzuki finally get on the top step at WTAC.
WTAC: Hi Danny, great to meet you. Can tell us a bit about yourself?
Danny: Hi guys, great to see you. Well I started life as an aerospace engineer designing fighter jets but eventually progressed to motorsport and ‘joined the circus’, so to speak, spending many years overseas working with many of the top DTM and WEC teams. I then returned home and designed the “ChassisSim” program that allows simulation of a complete race car prior to actually changing anything. This has become a very powerful tool for anyone that has used it.
WTAC: How did you feel about Under Suzuki’s car before you started working on it?
Danny: So I have followed Under Suzuki for years and have always admired his dedication. He is truly and inspiration. But what you say is correct. It has moved dramatically in the past few years and these cars are now right at the pinnacle and therefore need every detail to be absolutely spot on. What Suzuki has always lacked is proper race engineering. Considering what he has had to work with it is incredible he has got to where he is. I feel what I bring to the table is actually the one thing he has been lacking and could provide the key to the success he has so long chased as it certainly appears he has all the other bases covered.
WTAC: So tell us exactly what you will be doing for Under Suzuki in 2019?
Danny: Ok so firstly let me say, I have always wanted to engineer this car. It is kind of a dream for me to help him. I have visited him many times over the years in Japan and have seen it evolve. I have worked alongside Andrew Brilliant many times in the past and when it comes to aerodynamics he certainly knows his stuff. So what I have done firstly is a total analysis of the vehicle and then designed a bespoke damper, spring and bump stop package for the new chassis. This should be a massive difference from where it was. I will then work with him and his team at the event analysing data and making appropriate changes depending on conditions.
WTAC: So can you tell us what dampers and springs you will be using.
Danny: Unfortunately I don’t discuss specifics unless we have an obligation to a sponsor. But what I can tell you is these are all bespoke units designed exactly to my specifications developed through computer modelling using the ChassisSim program. It should be extremely close straight out of the box eliminating the hours and hours of testing normally required to get this sort of thing spot on. What I will say is it will not be too dissimilar to what they run in DTM.
WTAC: And you have also been involved in the development of the “third spring” system?
Danny: Not so much the design but certainly the tuning of it yes. I remember when Indy Car bought in the “third spring” and it was going to be the “magic bullet”. As it turned out a badly tuned third spring can work backwards and you would be better of with a conventional setup. (a third spring is horizontally mounted spring that only becomes active under aerodynamic loads)
WTAC: And also this is not your first foray into WTAC either, tell us a bit of your history at the event.
Danny: No it’s certainly not. In 2015 we worked with Nick Ashwin from NA Autosports doing a similar thing and managed to get the car from P17 to P3 with much more left in the tank. As an engineer I truly love the ‘open rulebook’ that time attack provides. It is such a refreshing change from the ‘cookie cutter’ classes that motor racing has evolved into worldwide. The only restriction here is the tyre and I actually think its a good thing all teams are on the same rubber.
WTAC: Thanks Danny how can we learn more about ChassisSim?
Danny: You can head to my website https://www.chassissim.com/ where you’ll find more info about the services we provide, as well as some examples of how we’ve applied ChassisSim to real-world racing applications to net some tangible race results!