Here are reports from two events that were recently hosted at the Fuji Speedway!
The “2016 GRAN TURISMO D1 GRAND PRIX Series Rd. 2 FUJI DRIFT” was held on April 23, and the “Motor Fan FESTA Fuji Speedway” was held on the following day of April 24.
“50 Years of Automotive Industry History”
Looking back upon the automotive history of Japan, there are many topics involving 50th anniversaries this year. The “Toyota Corolla” and ”Nissan Sunny” are both 50 years old; these are two cars that had a major role in contributing to the economy and improving the lives of the people of Japan. The times have changed, and though Toyota still produces the “Corolla”, the share of new cars like the “Prius” and “Aqua” have grown rapidly in recent years, and Nissan has released a mass-production EV called “Leaf”.
The Fuji Speedway also is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year. The famed 30-degree bank that was built in 1966 was removed in 1974, but in 2005, the track received a major update, turning it into the current layout with greatly improved safety.
I’ve visited various circuits around Japan for race reports, but one thing I always notice about the Fuji Speedway is how clean it is compared to other places. And that’s not just due to its most recent updates, but also because its hospitality facilities, improved every year, are something you would expect to find usually in a theme park or hotel. It may be something trivial, but I think it’s an important factor when you want to enjoy motorsports with the whole family. I think it’s fantastic that even little kids can share the fun.
(On a side note, the toilets at the Fuji Speedway are really clean. Most of the toilets in the premises also have a washlet built-in. It might actually be the cleanest circuit in the world!)
“Motor Fan FESTA Fuji Speedway”
San-ei Shobo Publishing Co., Ltd has continued to produce specialist magazines relating to all forms of motorization, with magazines like ‘MotorFan‘ as well as lots of others covering domestic cars, import cars, tuned cars, dress-up cars, motorcycles and events such as F1, motorsports, drifting and more; they are the hosts of this event. People outside Japan might not recognize the publisher’s name, but maybe some petrol-heads would recognize the ‘Option‘ magazine, the bible of Japanese custom car tuning, and ‘Motorhead‘, which became famous more recently for the MH hill climb on YouTube.
In this year’s event, there were displays and demo runs using both domestic and import cars affiliated with its magazines, in addition to a gathering of owners clubs, drift teams and a parade of readers’ cars; pretty much everything covering all genres of cars.
From special cars like the Lotus 88 F1 with its ‘Twin Chassis’, to the Subaru Impreza WR driven by Colin McRay, to the newest “BMW M6 GT3”, everything from the historic greats to the latest GT3 were present at the event.
And the fantastic thing about this event, is that between those historic greats, there were mini vans with blazing LED lights and massive speakers, as well as restored classics right there with them. Japanese people tend to go all out when they make something, so even for custom cars, there are cars that are at the pinnacle of their genre; and they were here on the grid and in the pits. The event really reflected the variety of cars covered by the publisher, and it’s an event only they could host.
And it’s not just about race cars and custom cars. At the manufacturer booths from both domestic and oversea brands, there were exhibits describing the various new technologies now available. At the Mazda booth there were two bumpers from the previous generation NC roadster and the current generation ND roadster compared side-to-side, to show the visitor the difference and advancement of paint technology.
At the owner’s club space you could really see and feel the differences in owner’s tastes with each and every car, even if they were of the same model (Ooooh… this “R35 GT-R NISMO” has a nice livery on it! You can tell from the scratches on the hood that it’s taken to the circuit pretty often.) Around the Nürburgring, you often see owners with the Gran Turismo window banner, but even in Tokyo you sometimes see a car with a livery that’s from a modified racing version in Gran Turismo. You can really feel the love for Gran Turismo there.
I felt a strange sensation when I visited the booth of Liberty Walk bodykit owners… The riveted fenders, called the “Works Fenders”, used to be the identifying mark of the Fuji Grand Champion Race (Grachan for short) that was popular in the 70’s and 80’s, taking place right here at the Fuji Speedway. The circuit has since been modernized, and the cars with overfenders have gone from the “Hakosuka” and “Kenmary” Skyline GT-R’s, to R35’s and Huracán. But this blue “KenMary” Skyline seems to silently profess, “Hey, I am the grandfather of you all!”
The grid walk with over 100 cars on the home straight unfortunately took place in thick fog, with only a few meters of visibility. But even the rain and fog are traditional parts of the Fuji Speedway. Even with the bad weather, 21,712 people attended the event.
“2016 GRAN TURISMO D1 GRAND PRIX Series Rd. 2 FUJI DRIFT”
The D1GP is entering its 15th year in 2016. The layout utilized this time, brought back from 5 years ago, is a reverse hairpin section that has seen many great battles in the past. Using the international circuit in reverse is a fairly rare thing, with the design of the run-off area and the cant (bank) of the surface not being quite right for it, but for D1GP fans the Fuji in reverse may be a familiar sight. As a proof of that, you sometimes see an event labelled “Fuji D1 Reverse Section” in Gran Turismo 6 Online Lobbies. We would like to set the Drift Trial of the Seasonal Events in a reverse section like this, but there are various hurdles that prevent us from doing that. Definitely on the list of events to do though, since it would be an event with 100% guaranteed safety!
Daigo Saito dominated in both the single and twin drift runs in the ‘FUJI DRIFT’ tournament. He overcame his long time rival in the D1GP, Masato Kawabata, to take his second win since the opening of the season.
There were other highlights besides the final in this event. One match that excited the spectators was the match between these two;
in the last few years, we saw Ken Nomura in fewer and fewer twin drifting tournaments, and it seemed like “Nomuken” was in a rut. However, he was back for this event, challenging Kawabata, the star of the current drifting scene and the Guinness world record holder for “the Fastest vehicle drift”.
The 4 door ER34 Skyline (powered by a 2JZ engine) with its recognizable quad tail lights against the R35 GT-R that abandoned the “Skyline” name in favor of further evolution. It was a match of the century, of the old and the new in both man and machine, and the fans in the spectator area and live stream were going wild. In the end Nomuken succumbed to the R35 GT-R driven by Kawabata, but seeing the all-out run of Nomuken made us wish he’ll continue competing, despite announcing that last season would be his last.
This season, Yoichi Imamura (Toyota 86), who also participated in the “Gran Turismo 6” match between racing drivers at the Tokyo Auto Salon 2015, changed his car’s engine from the NASCAR Camry V8 to a V6 from a FJ cruiser, to reduce the frontal weight. He placed 4th just in their second competition with the new setup; there’s a lot of teams out there struggling with the development of “86” and ”BRZ” machines, so it will be great to see them do well hereon.
And talking about drifting in BRZ’s, you can’t forget this driver: Daijiro Yoshihara, who recently had a post of himself appearing in a racing suit at the GT Explore Studio (Los Angeles). I’d like to see him in the top ranks of the Formula Drift USA competitions again. Waiting for you to make a comeback Daijiro!