Monday, March 20, 2017

Back on the Road - Shaken and Refresh

After a few weeks of wait I have finally got my BNR34 back with shaken passed! It's been a while so, let's make a step back...

For those of you who don't live in Japan, shaken is the Japanese roadworthiness test that every car must undertake every two years in order to circulate on public roads. Step one: I had to bring the car to Nismo, where I left it in good company (as always).

The checklist includes bodywork, tire alignment, emission, speedometer, brakes, headlights and an undercarriage/suspension check. 
Given that my car is completely stock I had full confidence that it would pass the tests with flying colors, but this is a bit of a nightmare if your car is tuned as many mods are considered not compliant. The inspectors are pretty strict and many owners have to revert their cars to factory standards in order to pass the test, and then re-fit their suspension or muffler set-ups once they are done.
Shaken workflow
This is a neat way for the government to avoid accidents due to poor maintenance, keep illegal mods in check and stash quite a bit of money in their pockets, given the hefty pricetag they charge for what is nothing more than a basic check. However, if you are looking to buy a used Japanese car, the presence of a valid, non expired shaken is a good signal that the car has been on the road and well cared for.

Since I had to leave the car at Nismo for a few weeks, I also thought I'd use the opportunity to refresh a few bits.

From previous inspections, Yamada-san recommended replacing the air filter with a new one - my choice went for a Nismo Sports one.

The other part that needed replacing was the battery: my trusted OEM Pitwork battery was 2 years old and clearly at the end of its life. Given the increasing value of the car I only drive it on specific occasions, which means that, so far, I had to take it for a little spin just to prevent the battery from dying.
My old OEM battery
Following my friend Aki and Yamazaki-san's recommendation I went for an Optima "Yellow Top" battery: much bigger than the standard one, the difference is night and day and the car starts right away with no hesitation. Key features of the Optima include higher cranking power, longer life, stronger vibration resistance, faster recharging and much higher number of discharge/recharge cycles.
Copyright: Optima Batteries
I also had Yamada-san installing a killer switch that allows to easily disconnect it and avoid useless battery drainage when I'm not using the car for prolonged time. A brake fluid change completed the menu and, as always, I had Yamada-san looking at the car, just in case. So, after a few weeks of wait, here it is!

Shaken valid until February 2019.

And a very interesting BNR32, custom painted in Lightning Yellow sitting closeby.

Just before I was about to leave a BNR32 with a Fine Spec Engine Final Edition pulled over.

Very clean.

I couldn't resist...

Followed by a Pearl White BNR34 M-spec Nür!

I finally jumped in the car and happily drove back home through Tokyo traffic: not what the GT-R was designed for, but driving through the city at night is always special.

I promised myself I'll get the car checked every 6 months at Nismo and, so far, I am on track; having the car looked after by experts is a great feeling and gives me peace of mind that is in great shape.

Until next time.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Attack - Tsukuba 2017

Tsukuba Circuit: hours spent watching Best Motoring battles and even more hours spent lapping it on Gran Turismo, memorizing the simple yet tricky layout of one of Japan's most famous racetracks.

I can't believe that, despite this being my 10th year in Japan, l managed to make my first visit just last week, but better late than never. With the time attack season coming to an end, Attack 2017 took stage at Tsukuba on a pretty spectacular Saturday morning; not bad for a first visit.

My first impression of the circuit is that it's actually smaller than I imagined; I guess proportions looked different on low-res videos back in the mid 2000's, but you can literally walk from the main stands to the back straight in a matter of minutes.

The second thing that hit me right away is how the event was completely open to the public. I love being trackside, but in larger events like Super GT the Japanese obsession for order and control make it impossible to get really close to the action and the cars. Not this time.

Attack is an event purely dedicated to amateurs with no factory-backed cars. Some of the bigger teams managed to recruit pro drivers like Nobuteru "Nob" Taniguchi, but everything else is far from being professional level. 

But don't let the amateur spirit of the event fool you: some of the cars in the top class are able to clock times in the 53 seconds mark, not too far from the record that Keiichi Tsuchiya set in the JGTC ARTA NSX many years ago.

As much as budget allow, teams try their best to leave no stones unturned when it comes to extracting the last bit of performances.

The pit area is literally open for everybody to walk around and, as long as you pay attention and are mindful of not getting in the mechanics and drivers way, you can literally come as close as it gets to the cars.

The formula of the event is pretty simple: four different classes (Turbo, NA, Radial and Second Class) and very loose regulations. Each class had two 30-minutes sessions on the track, one in the morning and one in the early afternoon.
Spring is approaching and temperatures are rising, which means that the event was one of the last chances to challenge records and personal bests this year.

The variety of the cars fielded is simply fantastic and included all kind of goodness, from Japan classics to more expensive European brands.

The FD3S is an extremely popular platform thanks to its fine chassis balance and lightweight construction.

Several models across the different classes were present, including stock-ish looking models like the Advan Racing RGN RX-7.

Or extreme aero monsters like the Carshop Dream KJM7.

This particular car produces 800ps and entered the World Time Attack in 2016.

The FD3S was by far the most popular platform of the event and the screaming sound of rotary was just fantastic.

But what about GT-Rs? Well, they are definitely becoming an expensive platform and the Kyushu Danji BNR34 was the only model of its kind present at the event.

This car also develops 800ps and was capable to stop the clock around the 54 seconds mark!

While, still in the Nissan family, there were a few BNR32.

And even a Fairlady Z 380RS.

Quite a few Porsches also took their chance at attacking Tsukuba, like this very clean Cayman.



Speaking of surprises, I definitely didn't expect to see a Lotus, but this Exige proved to be extremely fast!

The morning went by really fast and by lunchtime the teams started to gear up for their final attempts as temperature started to rise.

I took some time to wonder around a bit.

Everything looked so familiar thanks to Gran Turismo and getting around for the first time in real life was quite a strange feeling.

Overall a great day filled with passion for cars and motorsport; will definitely be back.

Until next time.