Japanaholik’s Journal | Rough World Koncept

Well, here we go again. Usually I grow tiresome of repetitiveness in life in general, but visiting Japan for the third time felt almost like the initial venture. I cannot put exactly into words how landing in the country makes me feel, but something along the lines of “exciting freedom”. I kind of knew what to expect in terms of the unique culture and lifestyle that Japan is rich in, but there is always something you see or experience that makes you realize how amazing the country is. Through these following posts, I will try and convey my feelings as truthfully as I know how, because my end goal with all of this is to just express myself, and present what I find that makes the Japanese automotive scene and culture in general so interesting.

Me and the old man went over this time round, so I made sure I planned the two weeks out so that it wasn’t all car-related activities. We landed on my birthday, 23 years old, man, its a weird age. Like the bridge between post-teenager and young adult.

Anyway, I am gonna let the photos tell the story for the most part, and what’s better than to kick this series off with the undoubtedly freshest and ballsiest classic-Porsche craftsman, Nakai-san.

We stayed at a family-friend’s home in Fujigaya, Kashiwa, Chiba Pref., which is a small rural area about an hour’s drive from Tokyo. Little did I know that the RWB HQ is based literally down the road from where we stayed for the majority of our time in Japan. Knowing this, I headed straight there on day #2, armed with both my D500 and D5100 Nikons.

We went around the last corner as per Google Maps and boom, Porsche Carrera 993s & 964s wedged onto the forecourt as efficient as possible utilizing every square inch of space. Luckily theres some land beside the medium-sized industrial unit, so I dumped the car next to a row of Carreras.

Hesitant to just barge in, especially since I didn’t even give Nakai a headsup, I tried for the front door but it was locked, so I took my time and gawped at how crazy his machines are.

Next thing, I saw a blue kei car with a dropped ride-height and multi-spoke wheels roll by and I locked eyes with the driver*, who just happened to be the man himself (*maybe pissy since I think I parked in his space). He spun his car around and parked up, whilst I was nearly shitting a brick, because if it were anyone else he might have told me to scarper. But he just greeted us and kindly invited us in.

I didn’t stay at RWB for long as it almost felt like I was in his house. The place, which acts as Nakai-san’s workshop/bodyshop/hotel/bar, is like a mini-museum with so much of the history of Rauh-Welt Begriff kept on display. To see that it all started from messing about with AE86 Corollas, this global icon has turned the heads of Japanese-car enthusiasts (including mine) and made old Porsches seem cooler than I had once believed. With his next project being the 996 chassis, I wonder how far he will go with the 911 lineage in the years to come.

Leaving Nakai-san’s natural habitat, we headed back to the house, just because I didn’t have much planned whilst being situated in Chiba.

But, on the way back, I came across a familiar signpost: SEED. I remember stopping by this place the first time I visited. I like how common high-performance tuning garages are, but in a very Japanese sort of way, most of them look like your average, run-of-the-mill service centres to the untrained eye. Though, once you spot the HKS or Greddy posters/banners, or the four-wheeled eyecandy for that matter, its reason alone to take a closer look.

SEED Race Car Engineering, is a do-it-all garage, catering towards highly-modified domestic models ranging from MX5 Roadsters to GTRs. The place was jam packed, but unfortunately most of the photos I took had either bad light or a lot of ISO noise, so I won’t embarrass myself by uploading them.

A short entry, but this is just a taste of whats to come once I get my ass into gear and sift through the GiGs of material I have stacked on my desktop.

Scroll for the bonus gallery…

Modified Live 2019 | Showstoppers

The idea of a dual-purpose automotive event makes complete sense to me. On-track action and off-track works-of-art (for the most part) go hand in hand, and where better to put on this kind of event than Cadwell Park during UK Time Attack’s season opener. Seeing cars in motion induces a different kind of feeling that is difficult to describe. When you encounter a car parked up, a machine of your dreams for example, if you’re like me you whip the phone out for some quick pics before someone spots you and looks at you awkwardly. Then, there are some moments when you are out and about, either on foot or driving, and you hear or catch a glimpse of ‘x’ car passing you by going the opposite direction. You just gawp, or if its moving slow enough you try video it and share it on social media because the internet is the world nowadays. I usually do the former if I see something special, ‘cos the cars I am into are fast, and that’s why I HAD to make it out to this year’s Modified Live when its a 2-for-1 deal as good as this.

The small-scale show is a mix-up, with car clubs of all types putting their pride and joy on display. This post is more of a gallery, so skim through and thanks for viewing.

Nissan’s S13 chassis was out in full force with a few here and there which was pleasant, since the S14 was more prevalent since they sold better to the UK market.

Who do you think wins this “Silvia face-off”? Both are well put together examples, but I am going to have to side with the deep-grey model sporting the polished and purple SSR Professor SP1 rollers. Could be the Japanese number plate that did it for me aswell if I am honest.

This Red Pearl Metallic R32 GTR didn’t have trouble standing out from the crowd, sometimes I need to do a double-take when I find one at an event especially if its near enough factory-spec. These cars are the ultimate sleeper coupe, and I remain loyal to this iteration of Nissan’s AWD supercar destroyer lineup.

Its rare you find one in this gorgeous colour, and then the owner went a step further and enhanced the looks with a set of Mag Blue Volk Racing TE37s.

Everyone’s favourite made an appearance: the Gran Turismo/Fast and Furious hero. Wherever you witnessed this machine for the first time, the Bayside Blue R34 GTR will be the icon for centuries. Not many words are needed for this one wearing the holy grail of multi-spoke split-rim wheels.

The rest of the Nissan selection. That dreamy Sileighty was amazing. Only in Japan during the 1990’s would Nissan be bonkers enough to merge two cars together, and damn me if you think I’m wrong but the result is perfection. This automotive synergy wasn’t even the manufacturer’s idea; Kid’s Heart (a tuning company who specialise in slidey cars e.g. Silvias, Chasers etc) put this style together since a lot of street runners found it cheaper to swap the pop-up headlight front end for the fixed headlight face found on PS13 models. The cars went on sale in official Nissan dealerships, with approximately 400 sold in the year 1998. The industry will probably never be the same…

Evos and Imprezas were plentiful at the show, here I some of the highlights I managed to catch whilst zipping about the field in the rain.

Mazda mania. Not as much as I would have liked but quality comes before quantity, and these few were pretty nice. The Rocket Bunny FD3S RX7 was well executed, sporting those Work L1 three-piece wheels, the first set I have ever seen on this chassis in person.

Hope you liked what you saw, I try to get as much detailed shots as I can, but its difficult to stay fokused on one car long enough to soak it in, especially when there are enticing builds all over the show.

Next in store for this site is going to be something you do not want to miss…

Follow the Instagram @soulfokus if you aren’t already.

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.

Donington Park – Caters to the Believers in Motoring Sport

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.

You will see this wheel frequently throughout this post
With the Caterham race series nearing, some of the entrants were getting as much valuable seat time as possible; and where else is better than the 2.487 mile-long GP Course at Donington.
I have always respected the Caterham marque. This was the first time I was exposed to the ‘scene’ and I now realise how sharp these cars can handle the asphalt.
That day was not the warmest, as you would expect in England during the winter season, but the onslaught of 50+ mph winds didn’t make it easy for us bystanding spectators.
The basic yet bold look of this deep-blue example caught my eye as it pulled back into the pits. I also thought the clean look of the side panelling, with the roll cage outboard of the body, suited the car much better.
Caterhams forcing much higher powered machinery to fall to the side is a common sight.
Lucky Number Seven
Luke sold his MNR Vortx last year, and shocked us with this new investment. Specifically, a 310R model, equipped with a 1.6l inline-four Sigma engine produced by Ford, power output close to 150bhp. But lets not forget, this thing weighs around 600kg, so it gets about if you tune in to its very sensitive chassis.
Avon ZZ-S tyres did for the time being, but Luke has now wrapped the wheels in Yokohama Advan A048s instead. Trust the Japanese to make it right I guess…
Thankfully, we had our own pit garage all to ourselves since our neighbour was a no-show. As soon as we stepped outside though, we get slapped by the cold breeze.
Later in the day as the track surface dried up, adjustments were made to the anti-roll bars for additional stiffness in the rear, which allowed for more rotation in corners, especially the two extra hairpins you run on the GP layout of the circuit.
As you would expect, the “interior” of this car is not that of a normal road-going vehicle. The fixed-back bucket seats and four-point harnesses secure both the driver and passenger in as safety is critical.
Here is what is known as ‘craner curves’, a right then left down a fairly long decline, where speed can be gained in dangerous measures before ‘old hairpin’ right-turn.
Not an engine I have ever come across, maybe because they are originally made for and found in Ford Fiestas (yawn), but with a short-ram intake and opened up exhaust, the straight-four does make a healthy buzz when you stomp on the gas.
That MX-5 in the distance seems like it ran a bit wide from this angle.
Very interesting colour combination here
Similar to Cadwell Park, this track has some great views as the elevation difference adds a dynamic element to both the course and trackside.
I wish I got a closer look at this – what seems to be – E46 M3 CSL (‘CoupeSportLightweight’ for those wondering).
Amazing design and still sharp-looking to this day. This was the BMW M3’s more athletic version, with only approximately 15bhp more than the standard car, this machine makes up for through the extensive use of carbon and fibreglass on the bodywork and windows, and shed a whopping 110kg in kerbweight!
This E92 M3 was spotted doing plenty of rounds which was nice to see, as they are usually rolling slow on public roads, with some smug-faced driver behind the wheel. The pilot of this white-on-black example seemed to be having a laugh throwing into every corner, as you should do in a car with this level of capability.
A serious track weapon E46 stormed by a few times. The straight-six note is one you cannot hate, to be honest.
Another top BMW, this E82 1 Series was modified tastefully and with an obvious functional focus.
Here is a shot I took trying to depict the dramatic dip in altitude, but it is only when you experience it for yourself that proves how intimidating this section of the track in particular is.
The many ‘offs’ drivers have should they push too early on corner exit
Apparently so…
Me and Luke saw the behind of this car quite frequently when out on track. It is astonishing how capable the GT-R is when you put into perspective the weight difference between both cars. But it is equally, if not more astonishing, how much pace a Caterham can keep with a lacking power & torque spec. The chassis is impressive and extremely well balanced, and there is still more room for improvement.
Must be nice running errands in this. Belonged out on the field!
I have no clue what this was. A Volkwagen of some sort. The engine/exhaust sounded phenomenal.
Here is the trusty chariot. All I will say about the Benz is that it is comfortable, but I cannot get over the mundanity of it.
Thats a wrap. Hopefully you enjoyed the read and the photos, log on next time and you might see the Caterham in a more competitive environment. Thanks to Luke for trusting me to drive his new machine a few laps around the exciting circuit. It was eventful, but I learnt a lot in the limited seat time I had. The car isn’t so much twitchy, but the controls take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, the satisfaction of tracing clean lines on a racetrack is unmatchable. More car fun!

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…