Sunday, August 12, 2018

Tokyo to Fuji in a Note

Obon season it’s finally here: Omori Factory is closed and I won’t be able to see my car for a while, and so will be Nismo Performance Center, which reminds me that I need to do an emergency run to order some extra parts before next week. Other than that, this is the season to enjoy Japan summer: matsuri (祭り - festival), fireworks and local food. And, of course, the main summer racing event: Round 5 of the Super GT series at Fuji Speedway.

This time I rented the little blue Note on the left, which I made sure to park next to this awesome Fairlady - a car I was absolutely in love with as a kid thanks to Gran Turismo. Although I don’t have the GT-R with me at the moment, truth is that I always use rentals to go to Fuji, a choice that’s proven to be an endless source of laughter for Aki and Dino. While I do recognize that driving to such an iconic circuit in a little 1.3 liter rental may seem a ridiculous choice when you have a R34 parked in your driveway, hear me out first: the choice is backed up by science. Call it a curse if you want, but every single time, either due to a massive accident or traffic, the measly 80km ride back on the Tomei Expressway turns into a 5 hours bumper-to-bumper affair. That’s how long it took us to return last time from Nismo Festival: now, who in his right mind would want to do that in a Skyline GT-R? I’ll stick to my CVT rental, thanks.

With the Suzuka 1,000 km race no longer in the calendar, the organizers decided to modify the formula for Round 5, extending the length of the race from the usual 300 kilometers to 500 miles, which amounts to 177 laps! This time I didn’t take as many photos and just focused on enjoying the race, mostly also due to the massive heat and humidity. This summer is absolutely brutal in Japan, with temperatures that feel like 45 degrees Celsius and 70% humidity: several people (mostly elders) have died due to heath strokes in the past weeks. The whole circuit, which sits inside a small valley, was completely immersed in mist, making the iconic Fuji-san impossible to spot.

As always, the race was great: Super GT 500 machines are absolutely mental and on a completely different level compared to the GT3 class when it comes to cornering and braking. The circuit wasn’t as packed as during the Golden Week race, which made it a little easier to get around. The Audi stand, with the fully working e-tron Vision Gran Turismo car on display was easily my favorite.

Next to this Lexus LFA, a car that looks unmistakably made in Japan and oozes an incredible hand-built vibe.

This reminds me of the older days, when Japanese car makers would come out with super limited edition runs like the Z tune or the NSX-R; I wonder if the status of the modern automotive industry will allow us to see similar projects ever again.

The new NSX, on the other hand, is slowly growing on me, but its computer-sculpted lines are a far cry from the beautiful, organic curves and shapes of the original one.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Until next time.


  1. Just curious, what is your current best pick for a secondary car?

    1. That’s a great question and one I’m struggling with at the moment. As I live in Tokyo there is no need for a daily driver, so a second car is something that I would need either as an extra or to avoid using the GT-R for heavy-duty drives (like the one to Fuji). To answer your question: hard to ignore the sweet price of early R35 GT-Rs, it’s an incredible bang for your bucks. Other little sporty options at very reasonable prices would be S2000, Miata and Fairlady Z33. Then again, would you want something to just use and drive into the ground, or are you looking for something that can hold value over the years? Mmmh...

    2. Wow, those are some very nice options. I was thinking along the lines of a sedan, or a crossover as a daily driver. Although I must say, having a Nismo CRS R34 as a weekend car, and an R35 for everything else is just spot on. A Miata is also a very good choice, very modifiable and I think more easy to live with than an R35.

    3. Yes, a daily would be awesome, but just not practical in Tokyo: between traffic and super outrageously expensive parking spaces, trains and taxis are the best way to get from A to B within Tokyo downtown. So, if I’ll ever buy a second car it will be as a second sports car to pair up with the R34. I’d love a daily to trash around, but I am also adverse to depreciating assets... Let’s see what happens!