Japanaholik’s Journal | Spoon Sports’ TYPE-ONE

The morning after our first day in Tokyo, we awoke early welcomed by the scorching sun at around 8:00am, and it was only going to get warmer. A lot of people dislike the muggy climate, but it really doesn’t bother me. Anything above 20 degrees should be bliss for us Brits.

A combination of bus and train travel landed us drop dead centre in Shinjuku Station: the world’s busiest with about a billion commuters and travellers passing through annually. Managing the maze the train stopped at, then finding out Type-One was not open yet, I figured we might aswell hang around near the station and check out the shops in the vicinity.

I found a camera equipment store – a few were dotted about the area outside the station, actually – but it wasn’t open for an hour, so I killed a bit of time in an arcade. (Some of the following photos were taken with my new Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8 – 4 lens I bought for a steal of a price).

These places are nuts, you will see full-blown RPG-adventure game stations being button-bashed to death by teens and salarymen alike. I suppose its an escape from bitter reality for some people, thats why gaming is so addictive. I clocked one race on Wangan Midnight and saved the rest of my change for the countless train tickets I’d have to buy during the rest of the trip.

After strolling through the hustle and bustle of central Tokyo at peak-hours (which is pretty much all day and night) we hopped back on a train to Suginami, heading west out of the capital.

Spoon Sports, for those who may not know, is the holy grail when it comes to tuned and modified Hondas. If I were to give my ranking of the Japanese automakers, Honda would easily occupy one of top three positions. I used to own one, albeit a very lukewarm, slow model of the FN / 8th generation Civic (Type-S).

Here is a photo of it pre engine failure due to me driving through a “puddle” (flooded waste water drain) with a cold-feed air intake kit that sounded the dogs bollocks, up until it snorted the sewer system up, bent a rod and then proceeded to spit it out through the block.

Okay, it wasn’t from the glory days of Hondas such as the DC2 or EK9 Integra and Civic, but the chassis was very sharp and made you work that 1.8L engine; a proper momentum car. It was decent and for a decade year-old model, it still looks modern today.

Anyway, as we all know, the aftermarket sector of the automotive industry is huge when it comes to anything with a ‘H’ badge. But Spoon Sports springs to mind, often when a VTEC addict wants to get a move on. Spoon is known for the highest in precision and durability when it comes to their performance parts. Tatsuru Ichishima, the founder of the company, started up racing Civics and testing out his bespoke suspension and engine components live on the battlefield, so you can be guaranteed said parts will take plenty of use and abuse.

Spoon Sports Type-One isn’t just a typical tuning centre with over the counter parts available to the public, but they also offer their customers education on how specific components will affect the overall feel of the car. I don’t know if they still do, but the company did deliver ‘Engine Lectures’ to those who wanted to brush up on their skills and understanding of engine and suspension tuning.

The S2000 you see above was Team Spoon’s weapon of choice when entering the Super Taikyu endurance race series in Japan during the year 2000’s campaign. Fast forward from then, the No. 95 car has progressed and now sits as shown. It features an assortment of visible parts, including the fastback hardtop made by Mugen (if I am not mistaken), Spoon aero-mirrors, Spoon V2 front bumper, and Spoon S-Tai(kyu) bonnet and rear bumper, Spoon Monoblock brake calipers, and wheels by Prodrive (which suit the car well, maybe its coated in bronze) just to name a few.

There were two technicians tending to a customer’s EK9 Civic Type-R, I didn’t want to distract them as they were working so I just snapped away and they seemed fine with it. They are probably used to seeing a lot of visitors, particularly foreigners, so its just another day in the office for them.

Honda’s new sportscar, that is not the mental NSX, is the S660. These things are so sick, I regret not hiring one out when I was there. Mid-engine kei cars are the shit for real, and I can imagine them being a bit lairy at first when set up with track-ready suspension and tyres due to its short wheelbase, but I would 100% daily drive one.

The ground floor is the where the clean room is situated and can be very blatantly seen through the front glass screen as you approach the shopfront. Technicians are busy working away meticulously with the world passing by in front of them. Interesting how this area of the garage isn’t tucked away in a corner in the back, I could imagine this would really test your fokus and concentration skills.

Not much was occurring downstairs. A couple of S2000s and a demo FK7 Civic resided on the shopfloor not being worked on, so we decided to dip out of there and quit being a nuisance haha. I reckon I took enough decent photos whilst there, but Spoon Type-One is definitely a shop I would return to, on the off-chance they would have the NA2 NSX there for me to shoot!

I’m done here, so keep an eye out for the next entry in this Japan series. Hope you enjoyed, as always, I appreciate your time.

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.

Newby Hall & Gardens – Sportscars in the Park ’19

Being in the northern part of England, major automotive events are few and far between, so I make do with what we get in the Yorkshire locale. Throughout the UK, an abundance of country estates exist that were build hundreds of years ago but still remain intact and well maintained. These places make for perfect venues for car gatherings, due to the wealth of land surrounding the house grounds.

I made a first-time escape from the cramped city of Bradford and ventured to Ripon, North Yorkshire, to check out an array of both classic and modern metal. Take a look through and see if any of your poster heroes make an appearance…

The Shelby/AC Cobra is an eternally iconic muscle car. I admire its unorthodox persona. When you think ‘American muscle’, Camaro or Mustang probably springs to mind, but without a doubt an open-top ‘roadster’ is the last association the average person would make. I am unsure about this white on blue car in particular, in terms of its genuinity, but its a classic eye-catcher whatever the case.

Across the Ford pond, some Euro-centric models made an appearance in the hundreds, mostly consisting of hot Fiestas and Focuses, but I spotted this F.R.P. parked up isolating itself from the cookie-cutter hatchbacks. It is easy to see these become cult classic in the near future, a very rare one at that with only 500 produced and God knows how many still intact due to the chassis being prone to corrosion. This Melina Blue car was in pretty decent nick though.

I am certain this was the first time I witnessed pretty much all models of TVR in once place at the same time. These were the cars that actually made me proud to be a British citizen when I initially encountered them in the virtual showroom on Gran Turismo 3, available in a spectrum of extraterrestrial colour options. All that was missing to complete the set was the monstrous Cerbera Speed Twelve.

We all want to see some domestic competition for the Mclaren and Aston Martin artillery. Jaguar are pretty stale now with only the F-Type offering thats more GT than ‘supercar’, which leaves Lotus with the duty of proving there’s more than tea and crumpets over here, and the new Project 130 on the horizon does look to be something special indeed.

Of course, my heart yearns for the Japanese automobile wherever I am, if you know me you know this is a fact. At the show, a Japanese display stand was set up, but it seemed to be swamped with S2000s and Subarus (which is not a bad thing) but most of them were stock apart from a A80 Supra and a couple of Prodrive P1 GC8 WRX STis. Most of these following shots were to be found mingling in the mix of vehicles in the area where allsorts could be found, which was cool because too much floorplan structure can be boring at times.

All in all, it was a well put together event with all types of vehicles on show including some surprises here and there (see Countach?!). Hope you enjoyed the read, I find it hard to talk about any car that doesn’t hail from Japan so bare with me. I am someone who can appreciate cars from any region on this globe and I would say my taste is eclectic to be honest, but maybe a bit too much, I need to fokus on machines that talk to me. The next post will definitely lead in the direction that I want this site to go in, so stay tuned and share the word if some of what you saw in this post, or any of them for that matter, tickled your fancy.

Head over to my Instagram & Facebook pages give them a follow/like for more content! Thanks for coming through.

Oulton Park – British GT Championship Rd.1 2019

A couple of weeks back I attended the starting round of the British GT, taking place at Oulton Park, Cheshire. It is not too dissimilar from Cadwell Park, in that it is scenic and every corner you stand at will be unique, both the track and the surrounding woods.

I actually signed up for a photography workshop run by Jessops Academy, after the salesman at the Leeds branch strongly suggested I do so. The format of the all-day session was well-planned but not too regimented if that makes sense. The lead photographer, Pete (@pete.jessopsacademy), co-ordinated the group and gave us pointers here and there, but for the most part we were creatively free behind the lens. Not only did Pete gives us some insider advice on how to compose photos of cars on track, he got us behind-the-pitwall access to Academy Motorsport’s garage on the day, getting the opportunity to meet the driver and crew which was cool.

Anyway, not much yabber from this point onwards, enjoy the snaps.

Thanks for coming through.

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!