Saturday, December 2, 2017

Nismo Festival 2017 - Part 1

This past Sunday I attended my fourth Nismo Festival in a row and, while I’m far from being a veteran of the event, I must admit that I felt a slight sense of familiarity as I crossed the gates at Fuji Speedway. I didn’t know it yet, but things where going to get spiced up this year.

The event formula is a well known one: plenty of tuners showcasing their latest parts, gadgets and democars in the paddock area, while Nismo racers from all eras tear up the track in a day-long revival. 

As a GT-R owner in Tokyo who is lucky to have access all year around to shops and tuning events, watching these legendary machines run like in the old days has always been my favorite part of Nismo Festival over parts shopping. 

Call me nostalgic, but getting up and close with legendary machines that once were a simple, grainy block of pixels on the original Gran Turismo, always does the trick for me.

The only problem is that, while you can get reasonably close to the pits and the action, you won’t be able to get really close without a special pass. 

This is when I ran into my friend and professional motor journalist Dino, who was attending his 14th edition of the Nismo Festival.  “Here, get this” - he said, as he handed me an extra press pass while I was looking at him completely stunned. In a matter of seconds I was thrown into Nismo Festival in full blown high definition!

Nismo always does a superb job in keeping these cars in tip-top condition: no matter whether it’s an old Group A BNR32 or a more recent Super GT machine, all these cars are capable of running pretty much at full capacity.

The liveries, engines, original wheels and tires: everything is so well preserved and period-correct.

A series of passengers rides, revival races and parades means that cars and drivers move in and out of the pits pretty much all day long.

And this is when things started to get a bit cooler than usual, as Keiichi Tsuchiya and Masami Kageyama returned from a side by side revival run.

This photo makes it right next the definition of “cool” in my personal dictionary.

In between runs I took advantage of downtimes to get up close and personal with my absolute all time favorite JGTC machines.

Mind you, I’ve been fortunate enough to see these cars many, many times; nonetheless I remember standing right next to Dino, just staring at them like kids - they really are that special.

Not everybody knows that the 2003 R34 was actually powered by the VQ V6 engine; nonetheless, it helped Nissan celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary with an overall series win.

The Pennzoil livery is arguably the most iconic of them all, with both cars claiming the series title back to back in 1998 and 1999. 

Not only that, these are the very last two RB26-powered GT-Rs to ever win the title.

There is something about that yellow and black...

This year Nismo invited a special guest: more on this later, but can you guess who?

Technology development in racing advances faster than the cars accelerate.

The difference between the tubular-chassis based cars from the 90’s and the modern carbon-tub based GT machines is immense. The Le Mans BCNR33 was still fitted with an original OEM dashboard, including the glovebox!

On the other hand, the 2013 Super GT R35 might remotely resemble its road-going counterpart.

But a closer look at the internal structure of the chassis will reveal that these modern machines are in reality open wheel cars fitted with a paper-thin carbon fiber shell.

The Fairlady Z has probably some of the wildest aero of the group.

It was a pretty successful racer and it looks great in the red and silver Motul livery.

The day went by, with more cars and drivers coming and leaving the pits.

Eventually the staff lined up the cars outside for a last meet and greet and final demo runs before closing the event up.

This shot from the rooftop of the pits reminded me that I owe Dino a beer as this is what you’d have to go through to get close to the cars with the standard event pass.

And this is when I was lucky enough to take my favorite shot of the day: for a brief moment I had legend driver Erik Comas, Masami Kageyama and the former team staff all looking towards me while waiting behind the legendary number 23 Pennzoil BCNR33 - it just doesn’t get any better than this.

This was by far the best part of the day as we were literally meters away from the cars blasting down the main straight.

Those last few minutes felt a bit surreal: here I was walking around world-class drivers and some of the most iconic GT machines ever while the sun was setting over Mount Fuji.

One of the coolest thing was seeing the drivers and team staff taking pictures with their own phones despite being around these cars all year around.

It felt like time slowed down and everybody was there savoring these last moments.

Perhaps it was the location and the setting, or maybe the fact that we come to realize that it will be another year before we’ll get to see these machines on the track again, but it felt like nobody really wanted to leave. 

A huge thanks to Dino for making this edition of Nismo Festival a lot more special for me.

Stay tuned for part two!

Until next time.


  1. I love your posts. This one is far the best and all the pictures were just stunning! I read the article from Speedhunters and yours and I'm really jealous.
    Since I bought an bnr34 this year all of your stories went much closer to me and I can really feel what you are feeling.

    I'm a huge fan of the two GT r34 gtr and I hope that somedays I'm able to join the Fuji Speedway to see them live.

    Greetings from Switzerland :)

  2. Hi Patrick,

    Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the content!!
    Indeed, seeing these cars up and close is always special.

    Enjoy your GT-R!


  3. Really great post and superb pictures.
    Must have been a crazy day for you guys, really jealous :)