Saturday, September 15, 2018

R’s Meeting 2018 Part 1 - The Owners

Exactly one year ago I found myself stuck in Dubai due to a missed connection courtesy of Emirates. To my (extreme) disappointment, this resulted in me spending that Sunday in a low budget hotel room instead of enjoying the largest GT-R meeting in the world. That day I promised myself that 2018 would be a completely different story and, as you can guess by the photo below, I am happy to report that I succeeded.

But let’s make a step back, as I spent the week leading to R’s Meeting 2018 in the beautiful Kerama Islands in southern Japan. Well, it turns out that I have a knack for booking my holidays super close to this event as, without realization, I had booked my flight back to Tokyo just one day before Sunday 9th.

But no surprises this time, as our Japan Airlines flight landed at Narita as scheduled, just in time for catching a good night of sleep and then hop on my rental the next day, destination Fuji International Speedway.

The week leading to the event Typhoon Jebi (the strongest typhoon to strike Japan since 1993) passed over Japan causing severe damage in certain areas, but also leaving an incredibly clear sky for the next few days. The view of Mount Fuji from the parking area was absolutely stunning.

R’s Meeting: usually held in the first weekend of September and organized by the editors of GT-R Magazine is the largest GT-R dedicated event in the world. With thousands of cars and owners attending from all over Japan, dozens of tuners and speciality shops exhibiting the latest products and demo cars, as well as some light support from Nissan and Nismo, this is the event to visit if you are a GT-R fan.

You won’t find anything close to this anywhere in the world, and the amount of foreign attendees seems to be increasing each year.

The event is so vast and diverse that, as I was going through the photos, I quickly found myself in a dilemma: how to showcase so much diversity in a coherent way?

And so I thought that it would be cool to take you through a virtual tour from two different prospectives: the owners and the tuners. Personally, I found that walking through the parking areas to discover hidden unique cars is as enjoyable, if not more, as visiting the exhibition part itself. You can tell how each machine has its own story and play around looking for cues and hints of what the owner might have done to the car.

For example: who would have thought that Millenium Jade could suit the smooth lines of the BCNR33 so well?

At the risk of enraging the purists, I must say that it looks much better on this car than the one it was originally designed for.

This is probably the only event where you will find every single Skyline GT-R model in every color shade ever produced: definitely helpful if you are on the hunt for you car and still undecided about which color you should go for. 

Curious to know how White (QM1) and Pearl White (QX1) differ next to each other? The photo below should answer the question.

The right angle and the right light can make a world of difference.

After wandering around I eventually ran into a group of owners from Fukushima, who had been driving since 4AM to make it to the event on time.

The owner of the BNR34 on the left had his car repainted in BNR32 Gunmetal Gray (KH2) and, besides owning a Nissan dealership, also owns the car wrapping shop behind the pretty crazy transformation of the BNR32 on the left.

But, as always, the best surprises come from the most understated cars, as confirmed once the owner of the Gunmetal Gray BNR32 on the far right in the group photo allowed me to pop the hood: the only F-spec engine in the world with a dry-carbon cover, handbuilt at Omori Factory.

The parking areas at Fuji Speedway are everything but small, and I quickly got on a quest, looking for other interesting cars.

Like this Titanium (KAC) R35 GT-R; certainly a color you don’t see a lot of in the streets.

I even got on a mission to find a completely stock car, but quickly gave up.

I then moved back towards the main stand area, where owners who had signed up for the official photoshoot session were patiently awaiting their turn.

All photos are published in a commemorative “Owner’s File” edition of GT-R Magazine and, while the wait and preparatives for the shoot will likely take most of the morning, lots of owners find it well worth it.

Tired of seeing boring, garage-queen looking Nür-spec BNR34s?

Here’s an owner who’s certainly not afraid of modifying his car.

V-cam setup? Check. 2.8 liters upgrade? Check. Big single turbo? Double check.

Not to mention the titanium piping.

Overlooked for years, Active Red (AR2) has recently gained new popularity, with cars finished in this hue commanding a solid premium.

This specific model had some really tasty modifications, including a set of massive 380mm R35 brake rotors and calipers.

As well as being one of the 61 V-spec models sold on the Japanese market.

Just behind the photoshoot area the editors of GT-R Magazine had parked their own personal rides. Don’t let the pristine look fool you: these cars are daily driven and have a combined mileage of around one million kilometers!

The R35 had recently undergone some serious restoration after being hit on track by another car; it is now in brand new condition and fitted with the newly released Nismo aero package.

But my favorite of them all has to be the BCNR33: I ran into this car at Nismo Performance Center multiple times and it always looks gorgeous. I really think that this is one of the very best colors for this specific model.

Around lunch time I decided to head back track side.

Unlike Super GT races you are really free to roam around the pits, albeit you won’t be able to take your drone with you.

Personally I’m just happy to be close to the circuit: Fuji Speedway in a day like this is really something else.

Parade runs and photoshoots take place throughout the day, but the schedule also allows some slots to owners who are rather interested in carving the best lap time rather than the perfect photo.

This is definitely a different world from the shiny, showroom ready cars that populate the dealers websites: these cars are driven hard.

How refreshing to see a rare Silica Breath BNR34 driven in anger, blasting down the main straight.

And the same could be said for this rare pre-production V-spec.

A quick walk-around would reveal hints that the car had seen some serious upgrades courtesy of the Omori guys.

And a look under the bonnet would confirm just that: a compete R2 engine and carbon piping set, which the owner was clearly enjoying, driving in full time attack mode.

Other owners were also prepping their cars, emptying the trunks and masking headlights.

And some very special cars from Woking were lurking in the background, patiently waiting for the R’s Meeting track session to finish.

That’s it for this part one: these were the best and most interesting owners cars that I could find and, if you couldn’t attend, I hope you enjoyed this selection and virtual tour. Tune in next week for part two, dedicated to the best that tuner shops and dealers had to offer on display.

Thank you for stopping by today.

Until next time.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Out of Office

Just a quick update to wish everybody a safe summer holiday break. I will spend the next few days somewhere warm in the Ryukyu islands, in southern Japan.

No internet, no e-mails and no work: this is one of my favorite places on Earth. One that triggered my interest for Japan over a decade ago, and the perfect escape from Tokyo madness.

No posts for a while, but I will be back soon, live from R’s Meeting 2018.

Happy holidays!

Until next time.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Summer Break at Nismo Performance Center Tokyo

With Omori Factory closed during obon I took the opportunity to pay a long overdue visit to Nismo Performance Center Tokyo.

First of all, Yamazaki-san has been kind enough to keep some large boxes in storage for me, since I wouldn’t have where to fit them at home (Tokyo living issues). Additionally, buying Nissan genuine OEM parts is way more effective at NPTC than Omori, for reasons that I’ll get to in a second. Meanwhile I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful tip of the Mine’s titanium exhaust on a customer BNR34 parked just outside the shop.

Visiting NPTC never disappoints: it may not have the same state of the art design that you’ll find at Omori Factory, but exudes a real “artisanal workshop” vibe that is hard to beat. This is where real mechanics get their hands dirty.

Sugimoto-san was busy working on replacing pads on very clean V-spec II Nür fitted with a red-colored Brembo F50 calipers set-up. Interestingly, the very first car I inspected back when I was sourcing my own was in the same hue.

And I loved the super boxy look of the RS Turbo Skyline parked next to it: could it get any more 80’s than this?

The Nismo Fairlady Z is another model that I’ve been seriously considering as a good contender for a second car.

With this specific model being a Type 380RS: one of 300 produced, this version features extra Yamaha damping and chassis stiffening treatment courtesy of Autech and was fitted with a 3.8L version of the VQ engine.

The RS variation was only sold on Japanese market and, by looking at the massive Endless rotors that its owner fitted, looks like this one is regularly enjoyed on track as well.

This time I had to order just a few final bits, mostly for the interior, but also a couple for the chassis. Both Omori Factory and NPTC order parts through the same FAST system, but NPTC is also connected to the rest of the Nissan Prince network. This means that if a part is not in stock in the inventory, they can still check locally if it’s available at other dealerships.

Years ago I actually used to live around this area: Setagaya is a great place, very residential. For those not familiar with Tokyo it would be hard to tell that is located so close to the metropolis center.

Believe it or not, but this is literally 5 minutes away from Shibuya.

This summer is incredibly hot and humid and I’m actually happy that my car gets to spend it inside Omori Factory air cooled facility.

After leaving NPTC I joined a friend in Shimokitazawa to check out the local matsuri over a couple of beers. This is a great little town, definitely worth visiting for its local restaurants and hidden bars.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.