Japanaholik’s Journal | First Day in Tokyo

I threw up a rough itinerary beforehand, because when travelling Japan for two weeks, ideally, you need to know when and where you want to visit in an organised fashion. Simultaneously narrowing down the must-see spots and then ensuring they are within fair proximity of each other is a task and a half. Tokyo, as big as the metropolis is, has an efficient and smooth-running public transport system, so I didn’t even bother hiring a car out for the first portion of the trip.

Tokyo and its greater area is home to many famed tuning shops and motorsport outfits. But its the lesser known garages that I wanna check out, so I made it out to Car Make Corns’ location in Edogawa, just outside central Tokyo. The ‘Corns’ in the name is a literal metaphor for the kernels found on a corncob. It represents the unity between Roadster enthusiasts and how the members of the community are one and the same. This might sound a bit idealistic, but I met some cool lads on my visit, and they all owned MX5s so I can verify the company’s quirky name.

CMC is a well established company from what I could see, and I know that their online presence is healthy, with distributors in both the UK and the USA. CMC USA distribution co-ordinator a.k.a. MiataMan happened to be there at the time I went. He was helping out at their vending stall at the Karuizawa Roadster Meeting (the event I missed by a few days!).

Anyway, heres the stuff I got to see.

The conversion kits caught me by surprise, and definitely look even better in the metal. I’m glad these kinds of modified MX5s exist, as it shows how limitless creativity can be without sacrificing quality and execution.

I mean, that off-white/cream Pit Crew NA wasn’t exactly showcar quality, as the owner clearly drove the car well, but it exudes character and charm. Even when you look at the interior, every detail is thought out and nothing clashes at all, from the billet CNC-machined handbrake lever to the custom quilted dashboard.

As you can see from the photos, a lot of their product range consists of accessories and dress-up items for your Roadster, but they do manufacture some of their own parts such as stainless-steel exhausts, bucket seats, and the CMC-03 14″ pepperpot-design lightweight wheel. They also have a good link with Mazda themselves which allows them to source and sell those old and hard-to-find OEM bits to the hardcore purists.

After hanging out for a bit, I felt like I ought to get going, because the longer I stayed there the more emotional I got due to being an ex-Roadster owner. Since I was only window shopping, we bounced and headed in the direction of Tokyo over the Arakawa River to the most R.E.spected tuner of the land.

The first time I saw an RE-Amemiya FD was on Gran Turismo in the form of the 2004 JGTC car the company built and powered using the extraordinarily turboless 20B 3-rotor engine. It was the first RX7 I had come across with fixed headlights, so it took some time for me to warm to it, but as we’ve gone through 15 years of awful styling (especially in the west when it comes to race cars) the car looks better than ever.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to live out my childhood dream by witnessing the car up close in the “real world”, but the guys at RE-Amemiya were working on a bunch of cool stuff, including the next D1 Grand Prix season’s competitor: 20B RX-7 ft. forced induction.

This location base the company have in Tokyo is quite compact in comparison to their Chiba shop from what I have seen of it online. I regret not taking time out to visit the other one, especially with it being close to the airport… there’s always next time…

I am by no means a keen Toyota enthusiast, and I have always looked at the brand a bit sideways as they tend to cater for the masses, especially in recent times. Nowadays, cars are measured by their numbers and stats, and it appears that Toyota does that very well, but lacks the vital property that is SOUL.

I won’t go off on a tangent in this blog post, so I’m gonna let you check out what’s under the roof of the ‘Megaweb’ situated on the artificial island, Odaiba. It’s part-museum, part-R&D centre, part-dealership, surrounded by and connected to a retail shopping complex.

Thats it for the main body of this post of my third day in Japan. Plenty more to come, and I promise that it will get better!

Scroll for the extras…

UK Time Attack Championship Rd.1 | So[u]lo Kampaign

So, here we go, my first visit to the ‘mini-Nurburgring’, where I got to be on the other side of the fence as a spectator of the first round of the UK Time Attack Championship.

As a “genre” of motorsport, time attack is without a doubt my favourite. I have always been the type of person who would rather spend countless numbers of laps making virtual rounds on Tsukuba Circuit in Gran Turismo’s Time Trial mode, as opposed to battling the blind AI on Single Player campaign. The sport is literally self-improvement & development in the most definitive sense. The ego is made to take a back seat, okay even if you are technically competing against other drivers, the primary challenge is yourself and bettering your own abilities. Don’t get me wrong, I can see the desire for wheel-to-wheel racing, and watching drivers chase the lead like there’s no tomorrow can be as exciting and dramatic, but something does lack when I see F1 or Touring Cars on televsion. Maybe its the fact the cars look and drive very similarly due to the strict regulations; then again that could be a fundamental aspect of motorsport where its all about the man/woman behind the wheel and less about the vehicle. Time Attack, to me, exhibits the ultimate balance between “man and machine”. Self-expression is just as important as exercising your physical and mental strength and prowess over the opponents.

For the most part of my life as a car enthusiast, I have been pretty much oblivious of the UK’s series, even though it has been running since 2006. Maybe it was just me being bias towards the scene out in Japan, and neglecting any interest of the motorsport right here in my country of residence. In order to get myself out of that prejudiced rut, I decided to head out to the Cadwell Park the first May Day Monday of this month and give Time Attack here in the UK a fair chance.

Keep scrolling for the snaps I kaptured with my new Sigma tele-lens. This post is going to have more structure than previous in terms of gallery layout, so enjoy!

I arrived slightly later than I should have, mid-morning was when the 20 minute practice sessions started for the top tier classes (Clubman/Pocket Rocket – Club – GT3/Pro, in that sequential order) so I shot over to trackside straightaway, starting with the Hall Bends section and then working my way to Gooseneck and Mansfield. It did rain on and off throughout the day, which wasn’t nice and I didn’t fancy getting my new-to-me used lens ruined so I cut the day short whilst ensuring I got some worthwhile photos.

This deep teal EF9 Civic caught my eye in an instant, wearing a custom splitter and sideskirt combination and boot-mounted wing, it certainly looked the part. To top it off it had a set of the undisputedly greatest Japanese wheel set of all time: RAYS Volk Racing TE37. Passenger windscreen-wiper delete hints at the seriousness of this car, shedding any weight where possible. It is a good job Chris (the owner/driver, who journeyed from his home in North Wales to compete) kept his side’s wiper fitted for the showers later in the day.

An uncommon sight for time-attack is the middle-child of the “2nd-gen” Nissan Skyline trio. The R33, particularly in stock form, was always the odd-looker out of the bunch, even the GT-R model with its aggressive perhaps messy front bumper. Recently, however, it is growing on me, and when done right (which is a rarity) the R33 Skyline is a tough-looking car. Need inspiration? Go ahead and Google Nismo’s 400R which in my view is how the standard GT-R ought to have been specced from Nissan’s factory. Failing that, search ‘R33 GTR LM’ and feast your eyes on that.

This rear-wheel-drive Skyline you see here actually finished 3rd in the Club 2WD class with a best lap done in 1:39:030, faster than Porsche’s 997 GT3 RS!

A wild roadster appears. I will never know how Honda pulled this timeless look off with the S2000 back in 1999. This even wilder J’s Racing-widebody donning car with a turbocharged F20C under the bonnet shooting out well over 400bhp, was worth the entry price in my opinion.

Continuing on with the Honda theme, this FK8 from Dream Automotive will hopefully inspire future generations of time-attackers. I do wonder how far Honda will go with the Type-R moniker and concept; will they venture into new hybrid territory with the current NSX? Personally, I want to see the next NSX-R without all that unnecesscary weight of the battery and motors, something along the lines of a Super GT racer for the road. Are you listening, Honda?…

With a lot of Lancer Evolutions dominating in time attack all over the globe, it makes sense to opt for the chassis with strong reputation. My favourite of the ones I saw on the day has got to be the AKB Racing Evo IX recording a 1:33:264 ending up 2nd in class, but 1st in my book for styling, no doubt. Although, the HKS livery on the white Evo V competing in Clubman class was nicely executed, both visually and competitively as it came out on top with a time of 1:39:842. Rally machines reign supreme wherever they go I suppose.

Interestingly styled R32 GTR was pacing around Cadwell. I like the centre-mounted single wiper, symmetry in the rear aswell with the dual exhaust tailpipes.

Unfortunately, I failed to get any shots of the front of this EK Civic, but I can reassure you, it was just as aggressive as the rear. I reckon you can’t not see this chassis doing rounds at any given track event where road cars are running. It’s like the front wheel drive MX5!

Not only are these rare on the roads here in the UK, but this has got to be the first Lexus ISF I have seen on a track! It didn’t smash any records but I’m sure the driver was having a ball (in comfort) sending it.

This super saloon was almost Japan-turned-Germany, as the premium marque attempted to send a counter manoeuvre to all Euro and USA 4-door blitzers. I remember when it was launched in 2007 and subsequntly featured on GT5 Prologue on the Playstation 3, and as I was flying around the Nordschleife I shifted into 6th, then 7th… and then 8th gear, my mind was blown! 8-speed automatic transmission?! I am sure it was only the E60 M5 that came out around the same time with 7 gears, but now its pretty casual to see 9 or even 10-speed auto-transmissions in production cars. Lexus claim to have done this to successively bypass the U.S. market’s Gas Guzzler tax by squeezing every possible drop of fuel efficiency.

A fairly serious Nissan 350Z was able to lap 1:37 flat around the track that day which is impressive with all its weight. It is definitely a capable machine when set up correctly.

A Bentley Continental GT3 car stormed the track with all its mighty V8 grunt.

I don’t like to toot my own trumpet, but I will say that I took my MX5 around Cadwell faster than this NA did. So yeah, I am race driver… Note: it was wet so I guess my boasting doesn’t matter since my lap was on a dry, hot summer’s day.

This Ford Escort Cosworth stopped a few metres away; if it didn’t I would have been flattened. For some these cars are crowd-pleasers; must have been a Mustang driver HAHA.

Here are some shots of the non-Japanese motors that I didn’t want to discard because they turned out quite good after editing.

A few carpark finds…

… and thats your lot for an intro to UK Time Attack from my perspective. Apart from the naff British weather it was enjoyable to be able to get out and experience the event and see it for what it is; drivers pushing the envelope and setting out to wring the potential out of their cars and pour it out on the tarmac.

The race was paired up with the Modified Live car show on the same day at Cadwell Park which I have more of in the pipeline. For now, I will leave you with a couple of shots of this Rocket Bunny FD3S.

Harewood Hillclimb 2018

Last year’s warm-ish spring season was when I attended the hillclimb event over in Harewood, Leeds. The course is lay out on a portion of a farm, which made for some picturesque shots. This was the first time I had ever ventured out to an event of this kind, as it has that ‘grassroots’ air about it, which was what I reckon pulled me in. Saying that, the day that I went, it seemed that all categories were competing so there was the whole spectrum of machines as you are about to see…

A basic black DC2 Inte Type-R sat out on the lawn, in what appeared to be JDM specification if you go by the square reg plate and ‘better-looking’ front end.

Simple styling on this NA MX-5. Reg plate says UK model, ‘EUNOS’ side stripe decal says Japanese domestic. Whatever the case may be, this car had a FRP replacement bonnet, as if the aluminium factory fitted part isn’t light enough! Well, I suppose when running the hill you’re gonna go for gold!
My all-time favourite BMW. This Phoenix Yellow example definitely matches the coupe body perfectly; the flared arches are accentuated when the light beams off the paint.
Another surprising Japanese import. Hailing from Toyota’s golden era, this SW20 turbo-equipped version was parked up but I did not see it run. This one seems to be a Harewood regular from looking at that rear bumper sticker.
Appears to be used as a daily run around, as the OEM seats are retained but Willans harnesses have been bolted in for the driver. Stable seating position is crucial when having to manage corners at the limit.
Interior reminds me of the NB MX-5, especially the centre console. Although, the MR2’s flows into the gauge cluster hood, making for a more driver orientated design.
Another Bavarian bruiser…
This rare-to-come-by 1M coupe sat out in the visitors car park and caught my eye immediately. It has so much presence.
This Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio was also in attendance. This is such a breath of fresh air amongst all the typical German high-performance saloons I get use to seeing in the UK.
Oh yes. What were the odds on this boxy beast rocking up to the show!? Even this model had plastic wrap on the driver’s seat, which makes me wonder whether it was the same car I encountered at the Classic Car Show (NEC Arena). These WRC derived weapons are legendary. You can barely tell that it is a 5-door hatch, because the rear box flare sits so proud, it makes the overall length of the car seem shorter.
Now, for those who are thinking I am a Lancia fanboy, you’re mistaken. But to have two Lancias in one day only makes sense for me to capture both of them and show you. This Lancia Beta coupe wasn’t too far away in the grassy field. I admit they look cool, must be those twin dual headlamps. That crooked tailpipe is quirky, I wonder if that is standard or someone decided to add some character to a slightly – dare I say – bland rear end.
If I remember correctly, a Ferrari owners group made it out to run the hillclimb, believe it or not some Ferrari drivers like to DRIVE their prancing horses.
This Ferrari 355 coupe is more than you can afford pal. Okay, that ‘The Fast and The Furious’ reference is not completely fitting, since this was not a convertible. That MR2 would have definitely given it a run for its money.
No idea what this was. Somebody, enlighten me.
This LanEvo was all belts and braces.
Boxer brute. I quite like the look of the latest WRX offering from Subaru. Has more style than some of its predecessors such as the ‘bugeye’ and the GR model hatchback.
For the initial duration of the day, these single seaters were at the front line. Very ‘Formula-1’ based design, but due to their inherent lightweight, most of these were running motorbike engines with reasonable power, and even more potent power-to-weight ratio.
Soaking in the scenery was nice. However, I do recall it being warm as the sun’s core that day, so I was also soaking in sweat…
Most of whom were driving these, I am sure, were young teenagers which was bonkers considering how swiftly these were moving up the hill!
The Italian V8 monster is tough to tame, as this F430 twitched its rear on exit more than once. Still, I commend those owners for trying, albeit in a poorly suited environment. I guess the risk is low driving up a bendy hill and barely having the space to stretch the legs of a 480bhp luxo-sports machine.
At the other end of the scale, a modified Peugeot 106 skirted up the track with pace.
This was probably my favourite competitor of the event. These are uncommon, and probably for good reason (unreliable(?)), but all I know is that the Fiat Coupe 20V with those bronze 4-spokes is the meaning of style. Well done.
Well then, that was a brief recount of my trip to the Harewood Hillclimb last year, and I might return in 2019 who knows. It wasn’t overly crowded, the course is that short you can catch the cars fly by you from any viewpoint, and you might come across something you would never expect in the rural outskirts of Leeds.

Cadwell Park TrackDay – The Orange Peeled Off

Last summer on a visit to Cadwell Park, I joined Luke who, at the time, owned a homebuilt kit car. Now, I have never been keen on kit cars, especially the Lotus 7/Caterham “style” variety. It must be something to do with my awkward feeling towards replicated designs. This topic is something I could write on and on about, so I am going to stay on course for this one.

This particular machine Luke built in his garage is an MNR Vortx, space-frame tube chassis, fibreglass lightweight body, driven by a 1.8 BPZE engine from a Mazda MX-5 NB/MK2. The basic concept is excellent though, as I experienced in the passenger seat that day at Cadwell Park, which nestles in Lincolnshire, UK.

This blog post won’t revolve around his car however, as I did not get the best of shots in retrospect, but other cars were out there blasting around the 2.18 mile course which is actually designed for motorcycle racing; picture narrow track width and grassy runoff areas.

Waiting game…
Okay, I am going to have to open with this beauty. The FD RX-7 you see in front of you is a full RE-Amemiya GT kitted spec. The highlight of the car was the colour and unfortunately my photos do not do its aesthetic quality any justice in my opinion.
It was well put together and style like this is rare to come by, definitely in the UK anyway. But it sure is a treat when you witness something as wild, but simultaneously disciplined in the way it stands. I chatted to the owner briefly, I can remember him having some teething issues with a new single-turbo setup, which is a shame but I manage to catch a glimpse of the rotary ripping out on the field.
I do wonder what the status/condition the car is in at the moment…
Good luck trying to find a trackday where an MX-5 isn’t present. I mean, how could you NOT want to drive one of the purest sports cars ever created, on a racetrack?!
Future historic legend; flipped the FF (front-engine front-wheeled-drive) game on it’s head.
There were two EP3 Civic Type-Rs out that day, both equipped with this hatch mounted GT wing. Part of me sees the appeal in it, part of me realises it kind of looks out of place…
Maybe here, with the trimmed rear bumper, the spoiler’s toned down wing-stands suit the chassis more so. Downforce times call for downforce measures I suppose.
Luke getting a feel for the track more than the car, as he had already made some familiarity with it at a previous shakedown which did not go quite as he planned. Good to see him stretching its legs with confidence, albeit the day cut short because of an electrical gremlin…
The highlight of the car’s performance was most definitely its ability to change direction almost immediately. The G-forces you experience are atmospheric, and made me wonder what on earth F1, or even entry-level Formula cars for that matter, feel like.
One off incident occurred that day, which luckily was not too serious, driver was intact and physically sound after bouncing his Ariel Atom off the tyres midway through the day.
Taking a wander in the paddock area where both drivers and cars take a breather, I took a closer look at some of the motors attending. This K20 swapped EK9 was very nice and cleanly done. What is most impressive though, is the fact that the driver had one prosthetic leg, so the car was kitted to enable the driver to operate the clutch by hand control! Incredible.
This ‘RWB’ styled Porsche was cool. I know very little about these German powerhouses, but I have always felt that they have been held with high regard and respect as sportscars, so there must be something to them…
It did/does look good out there though, and it sounded even better.
One-make duel. For French cars, these hot hatches are not all that bad.
This Starlet Glanza is a very uncommon sight, so it was a breath of fresh air seeing it being thrown about. The deep turquoise colour suits it perfectly.
Track check up; the safety/pace-car M235i BMW for the grounds made its rounds.

I hope to return to Cadwell Park in the near future. The entire place has a cool vibe about it. That wraps up this “throwback” post. Getting out there and shooting more track events is one of my aims this year, so, until next time…

DriftCup UK 2018

Never really grew up with much, if any at all, drift culture involved in my car life. My initial exposure to the artform was probably as cliche as it gets: Fast and Furious Tokyo Drift. My brother introduced me to Best Motoring as early as I can remember, Japanese guys sending cars sideways, in both factory and tuned forms. It’s almost as if it was in their DNA, without sounding cheesy.

Nowadays, especially because of the Internet, the passion for drifting, as both a sport and an automotive ‘scene’, has spread to all pockets around the world. Even managing to worm its way into Wigan, UK. This was my first time attending a dedicated drift competition event, which appeared to have more focus on the drivers and cars, instead of acting as an all-in-one festival type of event as can be seen with the more commercially popular shows. Less circus, more circuit…

Low Supra; such a graceful silhouette
Sileighty chassis S13 will always be my all time favourite from the Silvia selection. This Vertex kitted example caught my eye.
Very unusual sight. A Porsche 944 is definitely something I did not imagine encountering when I was picturing all the machines that would be competing before arriving at Three Sisters Race Circuit. No idea why the ‘PORSCHE’ decal is out of line on the door, but I’m feeling the mismatched wheels.
One of the more serious-looking entrants I spotted that day with the tailpipe looking like a bazooka.
Back to front. Hardcore boyz don’t need rear bumpers. And check out that front camber; nuts!
The format of the race was a basic lead-and-chase run. The classes of cars were separated so that similar power and tune cars were pitched against each other to keep things fair. Judging drifting is subjective but only to an extent, as clipping points and proximity act as measurable markers for high skill and precision, which win you points.
The drift section was short as only the first 3 corners of the track are used from the pit-exit, but this allowed for higher frequency in runs and gives chance, to those who need it, for seat time in a competitive environment.
I loved seeing the less powerful machines, particularly those in NA tune, being pushed to the absolute boundaries. This Corolla was cool-looking.
If I remember correctly, that S14 rocked a R35 powertrain, so it sang some beautiful songs as you can imagine.
Here comes trouble. This RB26DETT-powered non-GTR R34 Skyline was dominating every session, it just goes to show how capable the chassis is, even in FR layout. To be honest though, this was far from stock so my comment is near enough irrelevant with this machine.
Coming in hot. I liked this take on the E36 coupe BMW, makes me wonder what it would look like with those headlights in combination with a full front face… The front and rear quarters don’t really flow, but that adds to its quirky character.
ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME (ON THE STREET…)
Very well styled. The S13 coupe Silvia does grow on me from time to time, this is a great looking model if done right