Mie Prefecture is a long way from Yokohama; a lot further than I expected anyway. Whenever I’m planning road trips through Japan I get this false sense of distance because I’m not accustomed to using the metric system. So my brain still equates 60 ‘x’ of a distance to roughly an hour. Because of that drives typically go by quicker than I expect. Well, not this time. Maybe I’m getting used to it, maybe I underestimated the distance, or maybe it was the weather, but Thursday evening when we set out to Suzuka Circuit I had no idea I’d be driving for over 6 hours…
Sekinei and I, both tired from work, shared the driving duties through the night. Despite pushing the little Vitz to 120kph when traffic was clear it still took us what felt like weeks to get past Nagoya. It probably didn’t help that we left at the tail end of rush hour; we had a late start because we had to wrap up some DMV paperwork, and put snow tires on before leaving. The forecast had called for snow that night, which would later clear and lead into more snow showers the next evening. It was a good thing we did though, because on the way back it started snowing a pretty good amount.
Cloudy, but dry skies as we left Tokyo, headed toward the familiarity of Kanagawa. A quick stop back at the shop to complete the aforementioned duties and we’d be on the way to Suzuka.
No matter how many times I got through these things, the last second gate openings always gets me…
Work completed for the day, 90’s R&B playlist loaded up, and navigation set, we headed West.
We tried not to stop too much during the night, simply because we wanted to get there as soon as possible. Sekinei booked a room at the Suzuka Circuit Hotel, that included indoor hot springs; reason enough alone to break the speed limit. Being exhausted and driving through the night isn’t a great combo though, so Neopasa stops it was.
I opted to eat the Pacific Ocean for dinner.
Flash forward several hours, a handful of rest stops, and many static accompanied songs later and we had arrived at the hotel….an hour late to use the hot springs. Dammit. Truth be told, if I had gone into a large body of hot water at that time I most likely would have fallen asleep in it.
We checked in and were dropping our stuff of in the room when Matt called. He had gotten a ride up with Hara-san of CSG after they finished work, and was staying in our room that night. We met him downstairs, took a shower, had a beer, and hit the pillows.
When my alarm clock went off in the morning, I immediately hit the snooze button in a poor attempt of acquiring more sleep. When it went off a second time, I reluctantly rolled out of bed and slowly came to terms at how long of a day it was going to be. We got dressed, gathered up all the pelican cases of photography equipment, and headed downstairs.
Outside we were greeted with the sharp density of the freezing cold, and were gifted this amazing sunrise. The clouds from last night’s snow were lifting, and it looked like it was going to be a really nice day; albeit rather chilly.
Some leftover frost on this MR-S was a testament to how cold it got overnight. It snowed a little bit during the day, but I’m glad the weather held off the majority of the event. We were initially concerned with there being ice on the track.
We piled in the Vitz and took off down the complex, headed to the track. This was my first time at Suzuka, and was amazed at how large the facility was. I’ve been to tracks all over Japan and the US, and Suzuka ranks up there as one of the nicest facilities I’ve seen. After exploring the grounds for a day, I now understand why this has been a stop on the Formula 1 circuit for so many years.
Despite my brilliant idea of sleeping in, we managed to arrive with the majority of competitors for the day. Most of the cars were already offloaded the previous night, and resting inside the garages. I made my way up and down the paddock sizing up the builds and noting which had a significant amount of changes done to them since I last saw them. As usual, I’ll do my best to profile each build separate, but I do like to have overall event coverage to lay the groundwork.
Hiroyoshi Shimada made the trek up from Kyushu, along with Sumihiko to compete in the event. It seems like anywhere North of their home track of Autopolis is a marathon, but I would imagine getting the chance to drive at Suzuka is worth it.
Shoutarou and his Meishin Tire/Aslan supported DC5 were in attendance from Kobe. Since the event’s title sponsor was Meishin, it was cool to have the chance to shoot his car and Masayuki’s S2000 together before the event.
Seyama was back, ready to tackle the large circuit once again. Even though I saw a lot of these cars just the previous weekend at Tsukuba, it’s always cool to see them in a venue like this. It’s almost like they take on a more professional appearance; a product of their environment I suppose.
Nagashima’s RWB 964 was one of the cars I looked forward to seeing again. Was great to see it let loose on the large front straight.
Each team carried plenty of fresh A050’s for the day.
Speed Club, Moty’s backed Miata. The engine bay of this was pretty wild; although they had issues throughout the day.
Direzza Challenge Lotus. There were a couple cars in attendance from the Tokyo based shop Outer Plus. It’s really cool to see the Japanese take on the British designed car.
The Sakamoto Engineering FD took home one of the top times of the day. Despite the wet track, these cars were still going all out. Netting a 2’09.698 put Hiroki Sakamoto fifth overall, and totally destroyed his previous best of 2’14.xxx.
Someone decided to bring a gun to the knife fight with this SPR Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo, which is basically equivalent to a GT3 car. Surprisingly enough though, it didn’t take top honors. It had to settle for the fourth fastest time of the day with a 2’09.332. I gotta say it sounded amazing though.
Was nice to finally see Masumoto’s GTR up close; his team said it was running really well for the event.
Auto Craft Engineering FD3S – by far my favorite FD in attendance.
Ido-san’s carbon clad TiRacing Lotus Exige was pretty cool to see. A 1000 kilo car with 430ps is no joke. I really like how he kept the full interior as well.
Mr. Nyan and his 2JZ project. No words for this thing, really, except for it matching his personality perfectly. Unfortunately he was having some issues throughout the day and wasn’t able to put down a benchmark time.
One of the baddest FD’s in the sport; Shinobu’s TFR built machine. Seen here getting inspected in the early morning.
The infamous Wacky Mate R32. It seems like this car is developed and driven so well, that it just destroys everything in it’s path. A bit new to Suzuka, Masa walked away with the 7th fastest time of the day.
The No Mark S15 not only looked good, but did quite well for a street trim build.
Auto Select had a handful of GTR’s in attendance; both 34 and 35’s. Those were cool and all, but I was more interested in their incredibly awesome support bus. This is how you know you have a legit racing team.
Ziek Power 86 made a reappearance!
One of the garages was set up for registration, sponsor booths and a very small merch sale. Enkei had a nice display with some of their newer models.
Literally the best JZA80 in Japan. The Esprit backed Supra was easily in the top 10 with a 2’09.747. It seemed a lot of the front runner cars were bunched up in the 2’09.xxx mark for most of the day. I would imagine with a dry track they could break out of that zone.
Matt-kun on the front straight, praying to the God’s of racing while simultaneously taking a cell phone picture.
If you think of Gran Turismo when you see this picture then you and I have a similar mind track.
Aoki’s magnificent hair blowing in the wind. This guy must have put down several miles just running up and down the paddock all day.
The class bully. Escort’s 700hp EVO 9 walked the competition at Suzuka by a couple seconds.
The Anshin/Lucas Oil backed R32GTR of Manabe-san took second to the Escort Evo; great performance for a privateer.
Before long the drivers were suited up, helmets on, and heading out to the track for the mornings first session. I took my position up on the front straight to watch the first couple of full speed runs to start their hot laps, and then hit the gates to start wandering around the course.
I’ll have more coverage and a closer look at the cars in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
HI NDF – any details on the orange s15 parked behind the 2j rx7
Glad to see coverage at Suzuka! It does remind me of Gran Turismo with all of the time spent playing over the years. Seeing photos of Fuji Speedway, Tsukuba, Suzuka and Twin Ring Motegi makes one reminisce about such games we played in our younger days while dreaming that we could be there someday. I have yet to experience such events or visit these tracks during my limited time spent in Japan, yet I am determined to see some of these tracks next time. I am looking forward to the upcoming coverage of this event.
Thanks again for bringing amazing photos and stories to those who share a love of Japan, all things automotive and racing!