The last weekend in February marked the start of the new season of VTEC Club at Willow Springs International Raceway. WSIR was once again packed with some of Southern California’s most dedicated Honda enthusiasts for a full day of track fun. The local popularity of this series was more than proven last year, and if the first round was any indication, 2016 looks to be on the same track.
As we landed back in Narita on the evening of the 12th, I couldn’t help but feel like I hadn’t even left the country. The sun had just began to set through the scattered clouds on the horizon and the diffused, orange glow of the afternoon’s last rays forced it’s way through the aircraft windows and into my eyes. It had only been 3 weeks since I was last in Japan, a travel duration that becomes the norm during this time of year; the hectic 3 month period when time attack events are at their peak. Actually, back in the States, I was so busy with new contracts at work and getting the store up that I hardly had time to post any content on site before heading back. Nevertheless, I had returned to Japan and first thing in the morning we would make our way back to Tsukuba for the second, and final, round of Battle Evome.
There’s a strange equality to winter, I think. It’s a balance that can only come with the sacrifice of life; a level playing field for all beings; a restart to a long year of effort and hard work of rebuilding from the previous season’s eradication. It sounds rather bleak, but it gives us, it gives everything, a chance to reestablish a new, improved form. It provides an opportunity to apply what we’ve learned from the past, to return stronger, an enhanced version, and if all goes as planned, a superior adaptation to that of last year. And so it is each year for the competitors of Battle Evome.
This week has flown by and I really haven’t gotten a chance to just sit down uninterrupted to edit and write. All last week I was in Tucson for work, and have been using this week to kind of catch up. I took the little free time I did have to spend at the shop working on the new motor and to start fabricating my dashboard. I don’t quite have all the parts collected to finish the head yet, so I should be concentrating on other areas of the car, time permitting. I have some work scheduled for it mid-February, and hoping to have a few open items finished by the end of the month. I’ve also been working to restock the site store by, and wrap up the new shirt design – mostly by way of email correspondence! We should have a few announcements coming within the next week or so. In the meantime, I managed to finish the edits from Tokyo Auto Salon and have one final post for you – check it out below.
I don’t want my last post on TAS to be misconstrued in any way. I started thinking about it after someone had commented on the Facebook page about it. I’m not trying to downplay TAS in anyway, it’s a great event. In fact, many people from all over the world plan their trip to Japan around that show. I am not in Japan as often as I used to be, and that means choosing dates wisely. It’s come to the point where the amount of opportunities I have outweigh the time I have to take advantage of them; and that’s something I am very grateful for. I’ve worked hard over the past years to put myself in that position, and am thankful for the friends that helped along the way. It would be different if I could devote 100% of my time to the site, but I’m just not in a place where I can make that a reality right now. I have a self-defined prerogative to share with you up to date information and coverage of what’s happening in Japanese Time Attack events, so naturally those are the events I align myself with. I’m glad this time I was able to do both, as there was a lot of neat stuff at TAS this year. I was especially excited about the handful of Super GT unveilings. If you have the opportunity to go I would highly encourage you to do so, and not to get discouraged by any of my opinions I throw up on the site. I’d never want to unintentionally discourage anyone from doing what they’ve always wanted to do. With that said, let’s jump into the second round of my selective coverage from the halls of Makuhari Messe.
I certainly didn’t plan to attend TAS this year. In fact, It’s been 5 years since I’ve purposefully started avoiding it. If you asked me why I’d honestly have trouble explaining; it’s a massive undertaking that showcases some of Japan’s best builds…so what’s the deal? Even as I type that out I’m squinting at the screen, eyebrows furrowed, questioning myself. Ahhh…that’s right, it’s literally just a giant car show and frankly, car shows are just not my thing anymore. The first TAS I went to was in 2009 – I went in 2010 too. 2011 was the first year I not only attended, but I covered it for the website as well; and it actually turned out to be my last. In 2014 my good friend Sekinei was well on-board with NDF and helped source some coverage of the show as he was attending anyway, and in 2015 I basically just didn’t post anything despite having coverage. I really just wanted to focus on our niche and at the time felt that anything else just contributed to a deviation of that (despite increasing traffic dramatically). Or maybe I just got jaded that it wasn’t a unique experience anymore; I’m not sure. So, you could say this year was sort of a fluke. I was going to be in Japan anyway to attend Evome on the 16th, and I had media passes for TAS on Friday so I wouldn’t really have to deal with hordes of testosterone crazed Japanese men in search of booth girls, and I literally had no plans on my calendar. Sounds good right? So why not return?
And who’d have guessed it – I had a really good time.
With all the running around and traveling I’ve done for the busy holiday I almost forgot I had a couple more shots from the final round of VTEC Club to post up. After chatting around the paddock area, and bouncing from the beginning of the straight to the end, Duane approached me and asked if I wanted to head over to Cotton Corners. I gladly accepted because I don’t get to go to the infield at these events too often. It’s nice to get a different perspective when photographing track events. As a result though, most of the on-track shots in this post will be from there and may be a little repetitive.
It never ceases to amaze me; the successes of hard working people. The last VTEC Club USA event took place last week, and it’s given me a chance to reflect on the entire season, and everyone that’s been involved in the project all the way from the conception phase. The individuals who saw the need to fill a missing niche in our world of motor sport, and took the steps to achieve just that. Even those who had the foresight to see what type of community could be created from a series like this are probably surprised at the outcome. Starting a new series from the ground up, albeit hosted by a well-known name (Extreme Speed), takes a lot of work and to have it explode in popularity overnight is a testament to how well it’s been organized. Duane Bada, ‘Tom Attack’, Kristian Wong, Matt Rojana, Yuta, Amir, the sponsors, the media partners, and everyone else that has been involved in making the series what it is deserve a huge thank you from anyone who has participated this season. I’m definitely looking forward to next year, but first, for the last event of this year, we head over to Buttonwillow Raceway Park one last time for Round 5 of Season 2.
I had a couple more shots Sekinei sent over from the Attack event last month that I processed real quick; thought I’d just clump them together in a bonus gallery to start your week off on the right foot. Probably should have just included them in one of the two posts, but I think I may have gotten side tracked haha. Don’t want them to go to waste, so click past the break to see the gallery.
We pick up at Tsukuba right as the green flag for the first session drops. I’ve always thought the anticipation of a Time Attack event is second only to the time the cars take to the track. The consuming sound of the high reeving engines, late breaking into corners, the snapping of the cars as they oversteer out of the turns; it’s almost too much excitement to handle. Let’s head track-side for the second round of Monday’s coverage; click the break to see the action.
Attack season in Japan officially kicked off with the first Attack Fever event being held at Tsukuba’s infamous TC2000. The event drew a good amount of participants, no doubt eager to start racing once again. While the weather ended up taking a turn for the worse halfway through the morning, there was still enough time for a handful of ideal laps to be thrown down.
This past Thursday, Global Time Attack, in conjunction with Super Street, held the Super Lap Battle event at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. SLB is the last event of the GTA series and as usual, the most looked forward to of the season. Teams from all over North American arrived with hopes of breaking records and clinching titles. This was the first time I’ve attended SLB in quite some time, and it was interesting to compare it to the events I’ve been going to both here and in Japan. SLB is a two day event, and it’s much more expensive than your run-of-the-mill track event, so you know that those competing are putting everything they have to be on top; not to mention the cost of those traveling across country. It all makes for a very vibrant feeling around the pits and on track.
This past Saturday, Joey from The Chronicles held his annual meet at the Eibach Facility in Corona, CA. 2015 marked the 7th year of the website, and hundreds of people came out to show their appreciation for Joey’s work. I was headed up North that weekend, but came to Corona a bit early to say hi to everyone before I left. A lot of friends from Japan attend as they are in town for SEMA which is going on this week. I was able to get some coverage before I left around 1.
The flip side of all this is, naturally, what’s going on now. The grassroots drift scene in Japan is as alive as it ever was and events like BariDoriTen do a great job of catering to both generations. It’s true that nowadays many of the younger people jump straight into car ownership, they still have a working knowledge of their predecessors. There’s no discrimination between age here, which makes for an event where some can relive their youth while others are experiencing it in the present.
There’s a tremendous amount of history that kind of flies under the radar when it comes to the roots of the concept of ‘hashiriya’ in Japan. As is the case in most of life, a lot of what we see today is derived from a heavy influence on trends from the past. When the current generation of tuners in Japan were growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, before they were old enough to drive cars, they were introduced into the world of motor sports through motorcycles. To celebrate this derivation of history, Yuji, owner of Pro Shop Wave, assists in putting together the Bari Dori Ten event at Mobara. This year was the 3rd annual event, and the turnout was as good as ever. Sekinei was on hand to handle media for the event, as per Yuji’s request!
A week or two ago, my friend Jay and I had been playing with the idea of attending the event at Auto Club Speedway, but my tentative schedule had me slated to be out of town that weekend. I knew there was a VTEC Club event being held on the same day, and was a little disappointed as my work schedule has been keeping me from most of the second season. Well, as luck would have it, my schedule opened up and a day or two before the event I messaged Duane to see if there were any openings. Upon hearing the news, Jay was on board to drive as well, so early Saturday morning we left the shop bound for Fontana.
When I left off the first post, I had just got done making my rounds in the pit, getting acquainted with a few people, and generally just getting a lay of the land. It was my first time at US Air and really wasn’t familiar with any of the track layout. After Mico introduced me to Nick from Touge Factory, I was able to get a media pass and head out to the infield to start getting some shots of the open practice session that was going on.
Being on an airplane nearly every week for the last year has somewhat numbed me to the miracle of flight. Commercial airlines have figuratively made the world a much smaller, and more obtainable place. The opportunity of creating new relationships and experiences are increased exponentially because of our ability to understand flight. As I travel for work quite frequently, I often have to step back and view the act existentially as to remind myself of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the help of those winged metal tubes. Arriving home Thursday after a 4 day stint in Tucson, Arizona, I had one day to catch up on work, and gather my camera gear, as I had made the decision to make my way Northeast on Friday night.
Watching the beginning of the race unfold through my camera lens served as a great way to get me even more pumped up for my first outing on track. I spent a good hour running back and forth between shooting in the paddock and watching lap times drop on the garage monitor as the drivers began warming up to the conditions.
Two weeks ago I made the not-so bad flight (I was lucky enough to snag a first class seat, so I slept the entire way) across the Pacific to Japan. I would once again be driving with the RWB team in the Idlers 12 hour Enduro at Twin Ring Motegi. This would be my second, non-consecutive, time both driving and photographing the event. It had been 5 months since I was last in Japan covering Evome, and in all honesty I wouldn’t have been back until Winter if it wasn’t for this event. The relationship that RWB has with Idlers and the people involved in both organizations are the key reason behind this event being so fun, not to mention well organized. Aside from driving Porsche’s around Motegi (not sure I need any other reason), seeing the international involvement is reason enough to go. Reuniting with people from all across the globe, and putting faces to names, is what makes this event so special to me.
I didn’t even know I was going to be in Northern California until about a day before I left. A few friends of mine were going up to Berkeley this past Friday for a concert and while I was hesitent to go because of my schedule, I kind of wanted to tag along to see a few friends that live in the City. I eventually ended up getting a ticket last minute and attending the concert as well. Since we were going to be staying in East Bay until Sunday anyway, the general consensus was to make the slight detour to San Jose and attend Wekfest.
With the year’s new Summer taking no time to bare it’s teeth, 107 degree temperatures plagued the desert at Round 5 of the 2015 VTEC Club series. Willow Springs International Raceway played host to the season’s final round, where competitors gathered to claim the last points available in each run group. While the heat may have hindered some, there were a few drivers that were able to grab personal bests despite the weather, and lap times that secured victories for each class.
As the afternoon wore on, I kept making my way around the lines of cars with Kristian checking out the variety of cars at Wekfest. The show was coming to an end so we eventually made our way to the exit gates and watched everyone leave.
Whenever I archive photos from events that I attend for the site, I always save them by dates so when I go back to create and edit collections in Lightroom, I’m not scouring the thousands of files I have on my hard drive. That’s probably pretty common amongst most photographers, but in doing so it allows me to see just how many times I’ve attended a particular event. In this case, this was my fifth year attending Wekfest LA (amongst SF and New Jersey as well).
As I sit here writing this on my way to Kansas City, 39,000 feet in the above ground in a tube made of various metals and composites, traveling a good 550mph, I struggle past my exhaustion in an attempt to coherently transcribe my thoughts from this past weekend. It’s interesting how my perspective on our local track events has changed over the past couple of years. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become a little more open minded (perhaps even a collective change in outlook amongst my peers), or have had the good fortune of befriending many of those involved, but I no longer view them the way I did (unnecessarily arrogant so to speak).
I usually like to entertain myself at car shows by scrutinizing each car that I pass by. Obviously, you’ve seen from my past coverage of any car show, that I’m fairly particular in the cars I post. This makes for a less comprehensive view of the event, but I’ve always done my best to keep the site to a specific niche, and not posting just for the sake of posting. That being said, I like to pick a car at each show that I like the best, and give it the imaginary NDF award. At last weekend’s Autocon show, it was this S2000 here which received such a pretentiously made-up honor of the NDF Choice.
I’m back! In town that is. Well, long enough to get the second part of our Autocon LA coverage up. We continue our retina stimulating walk through the Pomona Fairplex with a look at the Pink Ribbon Racing FD3S.
I had the strangest sensation of déjà vu when we pulled into the Pomona Fairplex parking lot this past Saturday morning to attend Autocon. I don’t know if it was a combination of the weather, which mirrored the overcast skies at last April’s event, or the fact that I was with Yuta once again, or even the time of year, but I got it (much like the three cups of coffee I just drank have given me over-caffeinated body shakes right now; not even sure how I’m able to type this without error).
That sensation, though, reminded me of just how much I’ve come to enjoy Autocon over the past 5 years.
With my small involvement in this industry, and the often times overwhelming amount of events in the area, I’m sometimes faced with conflicting events (ie. HKS Premium Day and Evome being on the same day) . This is usually not a concern because my interests happen to fall into a smaller niche of the whole of automotive lifestyle; such was the case for me this weekend. Formula D took place in Long Beach this weekend, as well as the accompanying car show downtown. Earlier in the week however, my friend and employee of GMG Racing, Dom, invited me to hang out with the team for the sprint race at Auto Club Speedway. Needless to say, I did not attend Formula D.
On the Sunday of February 22nd, VTEC Club held the second event of their 5 round season at Big Willow at Willow Springs International Raceway. The excitement and success of the first round no doubt carried through to the club’s follow up event with, once again, over 50 entrants participating. To say the day was perfect though, would be a stretch. The week leading up to the event, the temps in Southern California had steadily been dropping, and rain was on the forecast for race weekend. Ryan was once again on hand to grab some shots of the event.
So, yeah. This will probably go down as the most random post of 2015 NDF, but I figured I’d combine the two as we didn’t spend that much time at either. The same day that HKS held their Premium Day event, our friends at Tension reserved the Fuji drift track and held their own ‘Premium Day’ so to speak. While the guys in Tension are all super nice, they have a somewhat sketchy history, so I’m glad Sekinei is good friends with them. They’ve always support NDF and I couldn’t be more stoked about it.
So during the lunch break on the Speedway side, Sekinei and I meandered over to Fuji’s drift track to say hi and snap some photos.
“If you build it, they will come.”
While I wouldn’t necessarily call Streets of Willow a “Field of Dreams”, I will admit that Kevin Costner’s iconic line applies well in this situation. The organizers of VTEC Club, a Honda specific spin off of Extreme Speed events, have successfully created not just a niche event, but are well on their way to (possibly accidentally) creating an entirely new community of race fans.
There I found myself; laying on the ground, the unmistakably cold chill of the natural wooden planks pressed against my warm back, staring blankly at the clouds drifting lazily overhead. I slowly closed my eyes, ignoring the incredulous stares from the other men in the room, relaxing my exceedingly overworked muscles. As the cool breeze consumes my elevated body temperature, and a somewhat effervescent steam radiates from my naked body, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander – recollecting upon the events of the day. It had been a long one, I thought to myself, and ending the day with a trip to an onsen was nothing short of perfect (I realize that introduction has very little to do with the event, but I thought it was notably humorous).
The automatic doors opened and a rush of chilled winter air, mixed with the morning’s new sunlight, hit my face as I reluctantly left the warm comfort of the conbini. Surprised, as if for some reason I had forgotten about the cold already, I fumbled to pull my neck warmer up with my hands full of coffee and various pastries. Leaning up against the passenger side of the BMW, my warm breath visibly creating a fog around my head, I waited for Sekinei to exit the 711 to unlock the car and rescue me from the cold. It was 5am on a Monday morning, I had landed in Japan 12 hours ago, and with just 4 hours of sleep to my credit, we were off – headed to the countryside of Tsukuba where we would rendezvous with Japan’s fastest privateers as they prepare to take on the first round of Battle Evome.
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