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Hattori Racing brings Japanese students to Iowa

Published: Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 11:31 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 12:03 p.m. CST
(Kate Malott/Daily News)
Twelve Japanese students, three instructors, Hattori Racing Enterprises owner Shigeaki Hattori and driver Ross Chastain stand with the No. 1 car on Friday at the Iowa Speedway. The Toyota Technical College students joined with Hattori to learn and participate in their first successful pit crew experience during the half-way break at the Autolite Iridium XP 150.

Racing isn’t just about driving fast cars and sponsor merchandise. For many behind the scenes, strategy and science accompany the craft of racing.

Hattori Racing Enterprises owner Shigeaki Hattori was approached by Toyota executives to partner in a unique experience where the top two students at each of the Toyota Technical Colleges in Japan are given the hands on experience of working with a car in a real race environment.

“I wanted to give young students a new opportunity. This is totally different opportunity for them,” Hattori said. “The young kids are so focused, and joyed. They learn a lot.”

At the Toyota Technical College, students study mechanical systems engineering, electronics and information science and materials science and engineering, and the top 5 percent of students move on to Toyota Corporate.

Hattori chose to bring the students to the Iowa Speedway because of the Autolite Iridium XP 150 has a half-way point. During the break, there is a 7 minute period which allows the crew, and the students, to make pit adjustments where the HRE staff will assist and make any corrections.

The students arrived to the U.S. on July 24 where they studied chassis set-ups, ride heights, tire pressure and pit crews at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. They spent the mornings in the classroom and the afternoons in the pit.

On July 26, they attended the Red Bully Rallycross race in Charlotte, N.C. where they were thrilled to meet Ken Block and Nelson Piquet Jr., two popular drivers in Japan.

On Wednesday, the students and HRE crew arrived in Iowa, a land different than anything they’ve ever seen. The students were surprised by the vast amount of farm land and corn they saw while driving along the Iowa roads. They were also pleasantly surprised by the kindness of midwestern people who they thought were very friendly and hospitable.

“I couldn’t imagine going to another country and working on a race team. To get thrown into it like they have, it’s been a real experience for them. It’s really neat to see how far they’ve come and now get to work with them,” HRE driver Ross Chastain said. “It’s been just as cool of an experience for me to get to see them do it.”

The students took the education from Japan and North Carolina and applied to this rare experience working on a car in pit lane during a race. They performed the tasks asked of them under the guidance of Chastain’s regular crew.

“I’m proud to wear team uniform and want to get win together. It’s exciting. We’re very gracious for this experience and very happy to be here,” one student named Yuki said. “My favorite part of the trip so far is right now, at the race track.”

Contact Staff Writer Kate Malott at (641) 792-3121 ext. 6533 or at kmalott@newtondailynews.com.

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