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TOKYO AUTO SALON 2016 – Event Summary
Posted by | January 30, 2016

More and more people are asking “When is there going to be new info on Gran Turismo SPORT?” We’ll let you know when we’ll be ready to share more information… In 2016, the Pit Stop blog will continue to follow the world’s car culture in relation to Gran Turismo. First up, is a report of the Tokyo Auto Salon 2016, the first annual event of the year.

This year, the Tokyo Auto Salon has seen its biggest act with 447 companies, 4265 booths and 880 rooms/cars on display. There were 325,501 visitors in 3 days, which was an all-time record for the show. Even amongst the people in the automotive industry, the feeling is that the Tokyo Auto Salon is becoming more popular than the Tokyo Motor Show. From its beginning 30 years ago, many efforts have been made to establish a place for tuned cars in the world to be properly displayed. Looking back, without the various Japanese sportscars born during the bubble economy of Japan and the rich variety of tuning parts which came from fierce competition, the tuning culture that is now a global movement probably wouldn’t exist as it does today.

In recent years, auto makers have also started to participate in the event: visitors checking the Mazda booth for example were welcomed by a fantastic area recreating the “Goodwood Festival of Speed” with the “Mazda LM55 Vision Gran Turismo” in display, surprising guests with the ultra low profile of the real thing.

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At the Toyota booth, the “TOYOTA FT-1” glamorously designed with American tastes was shown for the first time in Japan. I heard visitors voicing out their dreams; with many of them saying “Isn’t that the future Supra?” Let’s look forward to the return of high performance sports cars from the Toyota brand.

Being the first show of the year, the Tokyo Auto Salon has also been the choice location for manufacturers to announce their race cars for the season. At the Subaru booth, the “WRX STI”, which will be aiming for a consecutive win at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hour race, was on stage; last year they set lap times equal to SP9 (GT3) Class cars, raising the bar for the entire SP3T Class. That probably also had an effect on the major regulation change to the SP3T Class: racing tires have been prohibited, making commercially sold tires mandatory, and the restrictor has been made smaller to limit engine power. But Team Director Tatsumi showed great confidence, saying “We’re going all out again, so that they may even have to make performance adjustments again next year”.

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Toyota’s racing division TRD has shown their “New Prius GT”, which will be participating in the Super GT300 this year; the unique front mask looks good even as a race car. The layout has been changed to mid-engine, and the car will be fighting against GT3 cars based on various super sports cars of the world. I can’t wait to see the fastest racing Prius in the world take to the tracks.

And the race car is not the only thing to see for the new Prius: it’s only been released recently, but many customized cars have appeared. While some brands went for a simple makeover, 326POWER who have fans overseas as well, showed the ultra-low down form they’re famous for.

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The 4th generation “Mazda Roadster” (Miata/MX-5) is an important car for tuning brands for the future of their industry. With the 1.5 liter model becoming the mainstream in Japan, there were owners who felt it to be a bit underpowered, and that is why a turbo engine will be added soon to the model.

Rocket Bunny and Liberty Walk both are hugely popular all over the world, from the street to the rich and wealthy. Their presence is increasing every year, and actually they are more well known overseas than in Japan. The body kits by the 3 companies who ignited the overfender trend of today shows they are a step ahead of the game. The world’s media flocked around the body kit for the ND Roadster which had its world premiere at the Trust/GReddy booth.

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There are many current tuned models such as the R35 and 86, but one of the frontrunners of Japan’s tuning industry, RE Amemiya, has brought back the “Amemiya Chantez 12A” using today’s technology, as the “Super Chantez 13B NA”. This retro look has something in common with Ken Block’s modified “Ford Escort Mk2 RS”. Bringing back old cars into the spotlight thanks to the progress made by today’s technology is another interesting part of the custom car culture.

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Of the “era defining” tuning cars models such as the “Toyota Supra (JZA80)”, “Mazda RX-7 (FD3S)” and “Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)”, the R32 GT-R was the one never exported and never had a left hand drive version. But in 2014, with the GT-R passing the “25 year” mark where cars are freed of American automotive regulations, the car was allowed to be imported from Japan to the US and be registered for public roads as a classic car. Until now it was only allowed to drive in certain states, and I have a feeling that this means we’ll see more R32 GT-R in America, marking the beginning of a second life for the car.

Next is the outside area:

“Drifting in supercars and luxury cars? That’s just in the world of Gran Turismo, right?”

Not quite. In Japan, where drifting as a competition was born, the Lamborghini Mucierlago, Lexus LFA and the Nissan GT-R (R35) are participating in the D1GP, where the series title for 2015 went to the GReddy 35RX. The D1GP had started to fade in popularity for a while, but with unique drivers bringing in new cars into the game and setting records, it has made a comeback.

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The Tokyo Auto Salon has a “chaotic” image, but the culture transmitted from Japan affects the whole world. And that effect has the greatest impact in the US, where custom cars are widely accepted.

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The trend of VIP cars based on luxury 4 door sedans and custom mini vans have travelled abroad, and with some additional American spices, it’s spreading slowly. Even if a trend is hardcore and incomprehensible to the general public, it’s the car fans around the world who decide whether something is good or not. Things defined as being “cool” in their individual niches are praised beyond their boundaries. It’ll be fun to see the further spread of Japanese domestic car customizations in the world, where it has made its own unique evolution beyond the sight of the Japanese guys.

Super Gran Turismo Championship at the Auto Salon

The virtual battle of real racing drivers has become a standard drill at the Tokyo Auto Salon, and this year has seen racing drivers Juichi Wakisaka, Satoshi Motoyama, Kazuya Oshima, Naoki Yamamoto competed against each other, with Chiyo Katsumasa (who was also the mentor for the GT Academy Japan representatives) joining in as the commentator. As a special guest, Takuya Takahashi, the GT Academy 2015 Japan finalist who honed his mental and physical skills against world top challengers at Silverstone, joined in on the action.

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With Wakisaka and Ooshima of Toyota/Lexus in the “TOYOTA FT-1 Vision Gran Turismo”, Motoyama from Nissan in the “Infiniti Concept Vision Gran Turismo” and Yamamoto in the “Honda NSX Concept 2013”, the competition was hot on the Suzuka Circuit. In qualifying, Satoshi Motoyama surprisingly dropped out, and Takuya Takahashi jumped in as backup to drive the Infinity. However in the end, Naoki Yamamoto, who said “I have absolutely no confidence in this” before the final race, exhibited stable driving skills all the way through, and took the race victory.

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While Gran Turismo SPORT is being developed as an e-Sport title (much like how this event was held), real racing drivers participate together with other Gran Turismo online athletes, racing against players from around the world to reach the top of the FIA Online Championships. It looks likes dreams are coming true soon.

*Please also check out the report on the PlayStation®.Blog! (In Japanese).

 

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