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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.