Castle Combe Circuit – Spring Action Day 2019

We now enter the seasons where daylight lingers, less layers are worn, and of course when nearly everybody gets their pride and joy out to get their respective motors’ rubbers and fluids warm because they have been sat stone cold in the lockup.

The car show season kicks off unofficially at Castle Combe Circuit nestled in its home village of which it is named after, located in Wiltshire, UK. This track is quite a trek for someone who lives ‘up north’ so that is probably why I have never ventured this far before, but I can honestly say I did not regret the early start that Saturday morning. With a mix of ‘show & shine’ cars sitting pretty in their club stands and vendor tents, and track-ready monsters hauling ass on the tarmac, it was kinda like a small scale Goodwood, but instead of elite-level four (and sometimes 2 or 3) -wheeled weaponry, you have normal guys and gals who cherish their cars and just want to enjoy them however they like. Saying that, a Mclaren did show up, so…

Upon entering the circuit’s premises from across the road where we parked up the Demio in a grass field, I was drawn to this R35 and its clean and sharp look. The all carbon Knight Racer rear wing compliments the back end quite tidily, and even though its probably not all that functional, I can still appreciate the uniqueness of those bowed ends.

Innocent Blue Mica. I reckon the ability of the powertrain – from the looks of that single-turbo conversion – is nothing like the innocuousness of the name Mazda gave their colour option.

A stock-bodied S15 Silvia sporting the stylish Spec-R aero kit that could easily be mistaken for an aftermarket setup, especially with the rear-wing’s extravagant design including its integrated third brake light. The late 1990’s to early 2000’s gave birth to some of the most modern and fresh looking Japanese cars, that even to this day, pushing nearly 20 years old, still remain youthful in appearance.

Questionable styling on the rear end of this FD RX7. The rest of it including the fine details such as the metal flake paint and FEED carbon door handles add to the Mazda’s already characterful presence. The Scoot ‘Viper-style’ bonnet rounds it off nicely aswell. Very 1990’s Japan feels when I spotted this.

Ahh, the LanEvo IV. These generation of rally-bred beasts always make me swoon and I put it down to two things: the aggressive look without very much sharp lines on the car, and the analogue nature of the chassis, which in fact weighs ~1260kg in RS trim, which is unheard of in the modern gizmo-filled AWD performance cars of today!

These E30 M3s do give off a cool vibe, I will have to admit, even if I am more swayed by the 190E. You could tell the owner really treasured his Evo II model, as he had the boot stuffed with detailing kit which he obviously uses well enough to make the purple body gleam when the sunlight beams off the paint.

White on white RX7 looking healthy with its Borg Warner snail sitting snug in between the engine and chassis.

Walking through the paddock area, we stumble upon a set of rough looking, but well put together drift machines, mainly Silvias and Skylines, the odd Soarer, and then one brown coloured FD sat in the corner patiently waiting to rip up the course.

The ER34 Skyline you see above is easily ranked highly in my books for best in show. Very well executed, but I find it hard to imagine making a 4-door R34 ugly to be honest.

I am consistently irritated/saddened by the lack of well-built and styled Mazda 3/Axela MPS chassis, in the UK especially. I know of a few cool looking ones overseas, but never have I ever encountered one over here that hasnt been wrapped awfully or specced with distasteful wheels/aero. The limitless potential of both generations of Mazda’s hot hatch have been suppressed, I feel.

Another highlight of the show was this early generation VW Scirocco. I love the look of headlight deletes, do you reckon new cars would look cool with this mod? I wish I got more shots of this raw beast but thats my retrospective bane in life as a photog. Shame I did not see it out on track either.

This E46 in Alpine White wowed me, which isn’t difficult when I am met by one of the best M3 models to come out of Munich. Someone is ballsy/experimental when fitting current-gen M4(?) wheels to the predecessing coupe. It surprisingly suits the car almost perfectly, going to show how timeless this BMW is.

Now this is where the action takes place. Castle Combe is actually bigger than I imagined, and lapping the grounds’ perimeter is atleast more than a couple of mile. Sessions were split into the standard ‘Run What Ya Brung’ format and drift demonstrations performed by those more familiar with track work. Its refreshing to go to a show where you can see cars in motion, thats when they come alive in a sense.
I’ll let the photos do the talking.

So, thats your lot. Making the trip down south was worth it, especially when it can get tiresome seeing some of the same cars when attending shows in the northern part of England. I suppose it also gave me some practice taking panning shots, obviously I have loads to improve on in terms of composition and tracking, but for my first time these came out better than I expected. Stay tuned for future posts and let me know in the comments what your favourite car was out of the set!

Thanks for reading if you stayed this long!

Japanese Dream: Another Trip to Tokyo, and Beyond

Here we go, again.

Back in 2016, after returning from Japan, it was in my heart that I knew I had to get back out there, so before I knew it, later that year, flights were booked for late June 2017, and a more structured itinerary was put down in preparation. It went something like this: Tokyo – Mt. Fuji – Hiroshima – Kyoto – Yokohama. All within a two-week timespan.

This post is a recollection of the memories, stored within the photos. Looking back at them, without sounding like I am blowing my own trumpet, my shooting skills also seemed to step up a marginal level.

I hope you enjoy, and maybe you too will take the leap to the farthest east.

Me and my sister landed in Narita International Airport around evening, and by the time we were out of the terminal and on the train to Suginami it was 9pm. The sunsets earlier than it does in the UK, so even in the summer the daylight passes sooner, unless you wake up and start your day very early.

I caught this MX-5 RF the morning after our arrival in the morning traffic on the main road a few minutes from the AirBnB. A Club / Launch edition in that Reflex Blue Mica on factory BBS wheels is a quality sight. This car will take a very long time to get old.
A classic VW Beetle sat outside the apartment building we stayed in whilst visiting the Tokyo area. Even this car’s owner installed a double DIN multimedia system on the dashboard, but this is not surprising as the majority of vehicles on the road have them built in from factory, most with broadcast television!
An enthusiast’s machine. Not my ‘cup of tea’, definitely slow, but atleast the paintjob livened up the concrete jungle scene.
One of the coolest things Toyota created. I would grab one in a heartbeat, and I am not even into SUVs or offrading.
The infamous Shibuya Crossing. We did not spend much time here, as we were only passing by to get to Shibuya station, nor did we partake in the scramble. I know, how boring of us… Whatever.
We set out to Odaiba, which is an artificial island in Tokyo’s Bay Area. It is mainly home to entertainment and shopping outlets, attracting many tourists thanks to its scenic nightlife and modern architecture. This photo was the back end of the Fuji TV building, which I had no idea of at time of taking the picture.
In my experience, the service I received all over Japan is impeccable. This was at a typical city restaurant in Shinjuku. You sit in a private booth, with a service ringer at hand if you need a waiter’s attention. Oh, and they cook the food right in front of you, which makes for a more engaging experience.
Now onto the exciting part of the journey…
You probably saw this coming if you read my last Japan blogpost. I revisited the guys at ‘Fun2Drive’, and this time it was time to get behind the wheel of the one and only ultimate supercar of the Japanese 90’s. First stop, Fuji Speedway.
The way the tours work, if you opt for the ‘Ultimate Hakone Drive’, is a steadily paced roll out on the touge leading to the area surrounding Mount Fuji, and then the afternoon is literally an all-out blast through the mountains and forests behind what was this time a definitely-modified, wailing-wastegate Subaru WRX STi, just like the one Bunta rips in.
Unfortunately, on this excursion, Mount Fuji was being a shy bugger, hidden behind the clouds.
I feel this car is so special, it deserves a full report. But for now I will keep it short and simple….
… this car is a driver’s dream. It was equipped with what I was told, a KeiOffice exhaust system that made a glorious naturally-aspirated V6 tune. I assume the suspension was standard, by looks and feel of the sensible ride height and shock absorption. This is the definition of sportscar, and I undersand why it was a supercar in its day. It shook up the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, nevermind the domestic rivals such as Nissan’s GTR, and Mazda’s RX-7. I am not ruling out the Toyota Supra, but that was a more GT vehicle, with a little more of a civilised character. Pushing this car to limits was an absolute joy, especially when you are behind an R35 GTR (that was driven by another member of the tour party) that struggled with all its weight in the tight and technical sections. I can and will never forget having the honor of taking the NSX for a ride.
Just about caught this snap of what I think is a Daihatsu disguides as a classic Mini? The owner kept/fitted a UK number plate behind the Japanese one, which I thought was funny.
There is not one bad angle on this machine
Just before lunch, two more joined the party.
Man, stock R32 GT-Rs look too good its bonkers. Simple body lines, subtly pronounced arch flares, those iconic 5-spoke wheels. I bet this was fun to drive…
We got about Hakone in a rented out Honda Fit (aka Jazz). Public transport is great in the major cities, but once you go off grid so to speak, it only makes sense to traverse the dreamy routes of the Japanese touge in a car. This new generation Fit/Jazz was a bit appalling though to be honest. The CVT gearbox was naff, as you would expect, droning through the ratios. But even the steering felt Audi-like, so numb. No complaints, as it was roomy and comfy enough, however.
The day after the NSX experience, before leaving for Hiroshima via shinkansen (bullet train), we decided to visit a local shrine in Hakone, almost as if we were ritualistically receiving blessings, but this was not the case.
Both, Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples dotted about all over the country are peaceful and tranquil places to visit.
So, after trekking about the western regions of the country, we hitched a bullet train once again to Yokohama City, which borders Tokyo’s outer area. This time the rental car was a Mazda Demio (Mazda 2). In comparison to the Fit, this was the better performer. And, Japan get these in an All Wheel Drive variant?

That night was the 7th of July. That only meant one thing. Time to hit the expressway and join the rotary klan…

Again, this year, the plan in my mind did not materialise in the way I had pictured.

Using Google Maps, we navigated ourselves to Daikoku Parking area in the Demio. This route to this spot is a headache and not as straightforward as you might think, with the rest of Japan’s transportation systems being so streamlined. It wasn’t meant to be, I must have driven through the same toll gate twice, but couldn’t find a way in. Luckily, the police were shutting the parking area down at that time.

If I remember correctly, I think we were about to give up and just abort mission, but as I was about to make way to Yokohama, I spotted this guy with a backpack on foot who looked either lost or eager to get to where we wanted: 7’s day gathering. So, for some reason, I pull up, roll the window down, and ask him if he is a local in hope of getting some direction or assistance. Turned out he was from the States, and was in the same situation I was in last year. We told him we would give him a lift, as he had a good-enough idea of how to get to the secondary meetup location: Tokyo Bay Aqua-line…

On the last day, we took some time out to visit the Nissan Global HQ Gallery, which includes a floor completely open freely to visitors, where both new and old vehicles and technology are put on display. Not only that, but there was also a live RC-car race hosted by Tamiya.

So, there you have it. My second Japan journal entry, hopefully you saw some stuff you thought was cool and intriguing, some maybe even motivated you to get yourself out there to explore the epicentre of car culture.

More to come…

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2015

Rewind back to an unmissable event, or atleast a show that you have to attend once in your life on this planet.

27th June 2015, my first Goodwood experience. Travelling from the humble settings of West Yorkshire, attending the event held on the grounds of some wealthy aristocrat’s country estate was out of my comfort zone; at the time I didn’t really see myself fitting into that type of “crowd” of car enthusiasts. That sort of socio-economic nonsense is almost irrelevant when the love of cars comes into play though, as you begin to shove all prejudices in the bin and discover a common interest, destroying any barriers we put between ourselves.
Mazda is a car maker that is definitely one I have grown up to become fond of. My dad owned a 1992 Mazda 626 which soldiered on strong until a van went into the back of it, and then after two Volkswagen, returned back to the brand and bought a 2003 Mazda 6/Atenza Sport which was in my eyes an amazing car in its time. My brother owns an 1997 MX5/Roadster and has had it for 12 years, which is a legendary automobile of its own right and everyone knows it but is just afraid to admit, because it doesn’t have the ability to inflate one’s ego I suppose.
The few seconds we got to speak with Mad Mike. He was a cool man, just as you would expect (a Mazda owner) him to be if you’ve ever seen his presence online. He has grown up with the rotary engine and its unusualness, which reflects in his wild character. His passion is real and you can tell, particularly when he is in the seat of any of his machines, the guy knows how to rip.
The RX7 book by Jack Yamaguchi that my brother brought along in hope of getting an autograph from Johnny Herbert; didn’t go to plan, so we settled for Mr Whiddett’s instead.
…all over the show.
That’s one of the main attractions I guess, getting the chance to see cars you would probably never get to lay eyes on, up close. They are pieces of art. Especially these three. The Lexus LFA truly is one of a kind, a future classic as the prices for them are clearly proving. Lexus, with the LFA, seem to be continuing to push the limits of design, similar to the Pagani Huayra but that is definitely more of a piece of art. The Lexus embodies pure technology and function in an amazing package that I doubt will ever age.
Exhibit B
がんばろう! – roughly translates to ‘Lets do our best!’ Mazda’s philosophy here should reign supreme!
…my cousin doing his best to pick up the giant Honda in a plastic blister box whilst I try framing the shot. Effort = 10/10!