The plan after the Lowstars Meeting in Nikko was to bolt over to Tochigi City, where a private kollection of incredible automobiles are nestled away under the roof of an old train JR (Japan Railway) station.
The ‘Mahoujin Supercar Museum’ is deceiving on first encounter; it seems like an old, unused building that has been preserved for the local community or something of that nature. But step past the ticket barriers (after you pay for admission) and what welcomes you is pretty astonishing.
The cars you are about to see are what I believe to be the pinnacle of supercar history. The 90’s machines have that perfect balance between technology and rawness, and the cars that predate that decade are pure analogue bliss.
I am sure you will spot some of your all-time favourites in this assortment…
… ‘cos I know I did when I caught this red Delta HF Integrale Evo 2 sitting in the corner of the gallery.
The dudes you see gathering around that Porsche 959 arrived at the museum in a convoy, one had some kind of Mercedes 2-door coupe which didn’t peak as much of my interest as the FD2 Civic Type-R (which I probably should have chosen to rent out instead of the Integra) and the two Alfa Romeo saloons. Dare I say, the Italian 4-doors beat the heck out of the Honda with their sharp looks.
Upon exit, the owners of these cars followed behind and they got chatting after they caught me taking photos of that black 159. I vented my frustration with the rental car, so they offered to phone the company and give them a very polite, Japanese earful. Nothing came out of it really, but at least they tried. A couple of them reckoned it was a faulty crank/cam angle sensor, which I also speculated, but that wouldn’t explain the nasty throttle pedal feel.
Thats all I have for this one, the visit was more of a bucket list check-off than anything, and since it happened to be along the route to our stop in Tsukuba, I thought I’d might aswell pay it a visit.
The post to follow is gonna be exciting, as you might have guessed by the aforementioned destination…
April 14th was when the race weekend commenced for Luke, whom I have mentioned in previous posts and you will have spotted him both photobombing my shots, and being sniped by me and my camera. I had the honor and chore of being his right-hand man as he couldn’t pitch up a “one-man” gazebo solo. Luckily his Caterham, which you will see quite a bit of in this entry, held up well and took the heavy trackwork in its stride all weekend so I didn’t even touch a spanner or socket which I suppose is the benefit of racing one of these solid machines; check oil level and tyre pressure, torque the wheel nuts and back out you go.
Camp set up, I left Luke to have some personal time with his car and went to wander and browse some of the cars parked up next to their respective owners’ tents and motorhomes. The variety was cool, I like seeing all sorts in the same arena which is what the BARC (British Automobile Racing Club) Northern Saloon & Sportscar series is able to demonstrate with open-wheel kit cars and V8 “supercars” pitted against each other amongst other types of vehicles, albeit with a very broad range of competitiveness. Its a pretty stark contrast to the Caterham Graduates Championship (the one that Luke races in) but I guess the mix delivers to all audiences. Here are some of the battlers that caught my eye when walking the campsite.
Before cooking up some food and hitting the sack, we took the opportunity to go for a track-walk whilst the sun was still above the horizon. The track literally just had a well-needed resurface and Luke would be amongst one of the first to put rubber down on the fresh tarmac. It is surprising how much you notice when traversing the course on foot. Things like slight kinks in corners where the ground isn’t entirely flat and the aggressive undulations on some of the rumblestrip. These are some of the elements that you may not pick up when driving, so I can see why making the effort to stroll the circuit can be beneficial for drivers.
After the 2.1 mile lap, it was time to chill. -5 degrees Celcius made that easy…
The Saturday morning sunrise entered, almost seamlessly from the night before. I got approximately 3 hours sleep in my car, because the tent was just as frozen as I was. As for Luke, who’s probably better suited to irregular sleeping patterns due to his day/night job, he got zilch shuteye. Its not as if he needed any energy for the day ahead like…
Some more entrants rocked up early in the day, including these that I thought were photo-worthy.
My heart raced when I spotted this E46 M3 at the end of the row. Unfortunately this supercharged monster was troubling the team, I guess that comes with the territory when shooting for nearly 700 horsepower. I hope they come through strong as I caught it out on track and its Martini-livery-draped armour looked nuts. Easily wins the beauty contest of the series!
After having a nosey at the other competitors, the time had come for Luke to suit and ready up for the qualifying round. 20 minutes to set a hot lap, which then determines where you start on the grid for the initial race. The accents of blue on his car reflect the driver’s calmness, unphased by the 32 opponents he would need to fend off during Saturday’s heat.
Lapping a swift 1:30:899, Luke was content with the pace he could make on the new-and-improved Croft Circuit. To put his time into perspective, a Lamborghini Gallardo and Porsche 997 Turbo take roughly 7 seconds longer to get around the track according to http://www.fastestlaps.com. That is lightyears in comparison.
These Mini’s that had their own series looked stupidly fun, with almost every single one three-wheeling the first bend.
Next on were the roadcars-turned-racecars. These were enjoyable to spectate, each one looking different, sounding different, driving different. Their individuality is what appeals to me. How far can one go with the budget and resources they have in order to further amplify an already capable road-going chassis.
I didnt’t manage to get many keepers of Luke in Race 1, but those I did snap came out nice. I need to get around trackside quicker and experiement more with different vantage points. This section at the far end of the circuit offered some picturesque backdrops.
Coming out 5th overall and 1st in class, Luke rolled out the pits satisifed with the result. He repeated this outcome the following race on Sunday, something like deja vu. All he is fokused on now is prepare to the fullest for his outing at Snetterton in the first weekend in May. So if you you see a blue flag, Luke’s seeing red.
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More to come, especially with Time Attack season starting soon here in the UK.
Last month I was invited by Luke, again, to act as personal photographer/pit crew member/brake checker at a track day put on by ‘Circuit Days’ over in Donington Park. This venue is located in Derby, UK, and has its roots in the birth of MotoGP. Noteworthy is the fact that Ayrton Senna put some rubber down on the circuit in the European Formula 1 Grand Prix during the early 1990’s.
Donington Park is a really well done and sorted race track, which is most likely due to the acquisition made by MSV (Motorsport Vision) in 2017. This organization clearly want to see British motorsport grow, and this is evident in the quality of their facilities.
It was bound to happen, but this journey out to the ‘land of the rising sun’ came to manifest unexpectedly for me. I can say it was destined, you could say it was just coincidence. My father’s childhood friend who lived in the same village when they were both growing up in India, had travelled further east, and ended up working and settling in Japan. My dad kept in contact with him, I think, on and off meeting up to reminisce whenever their trips to India coincided, or the one time he and his Japanese family visited England years before I can properly remember.
Fast-forward to 2016, almost as if it was at random, my parents had booked flights to Japan and I can remember not being particularly excited at the time. Maybe I was just stunned and could not grasp the fact that it was actually happening.
Anyhow, you will now view the gallery of photos I snapped when I was out there. 59 is the image count, so commentary will be dialled down to the minimum and the pictures will paint the scene. Enjoy…
Literally a minute walk around the corner from where we were staying, this gem of a find which goes by the name ‘Body Make Kazu’ stopped me in my tracks gobsmacked, and this was only Day 2 of the holiday! It was what seemed like three separate buildings in close proximity, perhaps owned by one guy or family run. It comprised of two small garages, a medium-sized storage unit, and then a little single story office/reception building across the road. Very odd, but outside on the yard was a plethora of all sorts. The Liberty Walk GTR obviously caught my attention, but not as much as the cold stock silver RX7 FD. All this wickedness in some random, remote village in Kamagaya about 25 miles away from the airport.
The highlight of the trip without a doubt. I rented an FD from a small but growing business called ‘Fun2Drive’. Without going into too much detail, the RX7 was a machine that did everything right. The perfect sports car, front to back. Oh yeah, the roads in Japan’s mountainous areas are sublime.
This red legend will be revisited in a future post.
I almost didn’t get the chance to experience 7’s day that year. But thanks to the typical friendliness of the Japanese, a scenario played out that was written in the stars, for real. Long story short, I was young and dumb, I failed to plan, realised at the wrong time that Daikoku Parking Area is access-only via vehicle, a bystander who had just finished work in the evening offered to take my parents and I into the service station. For me, even that very short 15 minutes, felt like complete heaven.
Another tuner/service garage a few streets down from my uncle’s house. This place, ‘Seed Racing Car Engineering’, seemed like it was serious. I am regretting not taking enough photos, being overwhelmed by it all. What a place…