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Posts Tagged ‘events’

Suzuka-bound

October 5, 2010 1 comment

Call it a sabbatical. Or a hiatus. A long vacation. But from now, I’m back in business, with some really good stuff coming up:

First off, the Japanese Grand Prix is less than a week away, and things have already started coming together at the circuit. In a marvel of planning, the company which operates the area’s major expressways has decided that now is the time to shut down half of the only highway which connects Tokyo to Nagoya for repairs, so it’s going to be a long tedious drive, but come Thursday night (just 60 hours away) I’ll be loading up my minuscule transporter with camping goods a’plenty and heading to Suzuka. Armed with a gaggle of cameras and a solar iPhone charger (no lie!) I should be able to do a decent job of updating things from the scene.

In a way, this is the perfect convergence of my interests on this site: A cross-country driving adventure, a world class motor sports event and a chance to be in commune with the automotive public at large.

Also forthcoming: this month will provide the opportunity to do a one week extended test drive of the Honda Insight hybrid, and we’ll see what kind of replacement it makes for my tiny little Life (and whether it can actually better its real world mileage). Regrettably, this comes because my life will be a week(!) in the shop having its first major repair. I managed to correctly diagnose my air conditioner compressor as faulty, but thankfully it will be covered under warranty.

That’s all for now, but look out for a brief flurry of activity in the next weeks.

Oh, and one more bonus – it seems child seat reviews will be coming under the purview of this blog, so expect a roundup to be coming sometime before March of next year.

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Categories: Updates Tags: , , , ,

Motorsport Japan 2009

October 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Tokyo is not the best place to be if you’re a fan if motorsports. Japan’s great circuits are hundreds of kilometers away, and none have any public transit access. Roads are narrow and clogged, expressways astronomically priced, and parking a scarcity. Even the famed midnight club was limited to a single stretch of highway.

Just don’t tell any of this to the people of Tokyo.

The Nismo Super GT GT-R abusing its tires

The Nismo Super GT GT-R abusing its tires

What can be found here is the Motorsport Japan festival in Odaiba. An aborted future metropolis in the center of Tokyo bay, Odaiba alternates between high rise condominiums, sprawling malls, broad car parks and vacant lots left fallow. It’s a surreal place, and a testimate to how hard it is to accomplish anything in Japan, even when the conditions are perfect.

But with all its open space, it makes the perfect venue for a festival of motorsports – easy to access, easy to park, central, and with plenty of space for exotic race machinery to spin donuts and shred very expensive rubber.

The event is sponsored and supported by all the manufacturers, but was typically a service to Honda’s (many) and Toyota’s (few) F1 fans. The vacancy of the former for 2009 – along with a truncated lineup of demos – greatly reduced this year’s turnout. But with plenty left to see, and fewer people getting in the way of seeing it, 2009 made for a solid showing.

Demonstrations included EVs and fuel cell vehicles doing their best impression of speed, along with Japan F3, Formula Nippon, Super GT cars and a TF107 piloted by Kamui Kobayashi.

Particularly noteworthy was the LF-A of Gazoo Racing, which failed to complete the 24 hours of the Nurburgring. Shortly to be unveiled in production at the Tokyo Motor Show, the long in gestation LF-A screamed with one of the finest exhaust notes I’ve ever heard from a production car, and looked as nervous at the limit as an unsettled chihuahua  – one twitch away from casting itself sideways into the crowd. Should be a monster to drive, but I won’t be finding out – we’ll see how many Arab sheiks bury theirs in the sand.

The Gazoo Racing LF-A

The Gazoo Racing LF-A

More noteworthy for me was the appearance of the MP4/5: its engine alight but stripped of its bodywork, the throttle being operated by hand, a team of engineers in attendance. It was akin to seeing your your childhood hero in a wheelchair – still filled with life, but helpless to use it. I believe the purpose of keeping old cars is to have them run from time to time, but apparently Honda disagrees.

The event is a reminder of just how much motorsport activity there is in Japan, at all levels – children darting about in karts, flyers advertising turnkey packages for spec series, rally bred Subarus and Mitsubishis, fire-breathing Super GT monsters. For everyday people, the opportunities abound.

It’s the people who sit atop the pinnacle of Japanese motor sport – and here, I speak of Kazuki Nakajima and now Kamui Kobayashi – who leave me uninspired. Beneficiaries of nepotism and corporate benevolence, I find it hard to believe that the pair have really earned their place in F1 from amongst all those who struggle through the ranks in Japan’s various series. When Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina strolled onto the stage to announce Kamui’s forthcoming grand prix debut, there was hardly a reaction – even polite applause was scarce. The only audible gasp was mine, and more for the consequences for poor Timo Glock, whose future in F1 swings in the balance. I trust other more competitive teams will be rushing to give him a drive, but it just reminds me that for Toyota, their aim is less to win and more to be present, regardless of what they say.

Kazuki Nakajima and Kamui Kobayashi speak to the crowd

Kazuki Nakajima and Kamui Kobayashi speak to the crowd

All that aside, the access at this year’s event was exceptional. I’ve never been so close to the drivers, the cars, the engineers – I felt like a kid in a candy store, everything within reach. So who says we don’t have good motor sport in Tokyo?

Categories: events Tags: , , ,

Just a preview of future delights!

September 27, 2009 Leave a comment

A new beginning, and a return to blogging – with what could hopefully be described as altruistic motives. There is a lot of content forthcoming, and I’m anxious to get cracking!

There are three central aims to the first phase of this blog:

Firstly, to document the process of 外免切替 (gaimen kirikae) or foreign license exchange. This remains for me a work in progress, and your results will vary (greatly). But while I scoured the web and the blogosphere for resources (and found a very few helpful) I’m looking to document the process extensively, with lessons learned and as many insights as I’ve managed to glean.

Secondly, I’m looking to share the ins and outs of buying, owning and maintaining a car in Japan. Having just begun the process, I hope to capture it with all the triumphs and tears, and hopefully share a few insights along the way.

Lastly, expect to begin to see features on what this blog was created for – documenting automotive life and culture in Japan. There will be motorsports coverage, new car reviews, events, recommended drives, motor shows – all the things I’ve been doing for years, but have selfishly kept to myself. Coming soon, expect to see a retrospective on the Japan Grand Prix (and how watching it on TV this year compares to seeing it in person) along with coverage of the Motorsport Festival Odaiba, the Tokyo Motor Show and the opening of Nissan’s swanky new global headquarters.

So watch this space! And if you like what I have to say (or not), want to have your say or have something you’d like to hear about, I’ll see you in the comments.

Categories: Previews Tags: ,