Last month, GSS visited Japan for the Ebisu G1GP and Autumn Matsuri for the trip of a lifetime.
I set off in the early hours of the morning for Melbourne Airport, and off we went.
After being awake for over 36 hours, two flights, a lot of waiting, and catching trains, we headed straight for our hotel rooms and called it a day.
The next morning saw some sneaky shopping opportunities, then yet another train ride, which took me way up north into the small town of Nihonmatsu. This was to be our central hub for the next week at Ebisu circuit…
The following morning, we finally made it to the circuit complex. My first impression of Ebisu Circuit is that the photos do not do it justice. This place is huge.
We met up with PowerVehicles, who took us down to the ‘graveyard’ where we collected the cars that we would be thrashing on the various courses over the next week.
My friend Evan was more than a little excited to pick up his C35 Laurel with an R34 RB25DET conversion. Unfortunately, this car was to be plagued with issues after the first couple of days, which saw Evan spending most of his time off track trying to get it running right again.
After a quick tune-up of the cars, we headed straight for the ‘school course’. This was a large rectangular circuit with several roundabouts in the centre, some NASTY ripple-strip drops and two concrete walls at 90 degrees to each other for good measure. Don’t let the name deceive you though, this course laid claim to more cars than any other in the entire complex.
Another popular course was the Togue course. consisting of a short and long loop, this is a faithful recreation of the mountain-pass type roads that the local street drifters adore so much.
Proceeding to the North Course – the uppermost course in the complex. This is an absolute power-circuit, with wide, sweeping turns, and a technical S-bend and hairpin section. Of course, there’s also a hefty pit-wall for those classic Ebisu wall-tap moments.
After a few days practicing and working on the cars, by Friday it was time for G1GP. This was the last round in the series, and included a “Super Class” demonstration from some of the country’s best drivers. Naoki Nakamura and his S13 were a crowd favourite.
Moving in for a closer look, I was amazed by the sheer detail in his bonnet artwork.
Heading down the Nishi Course pitlane towards the G1 event, I bumped into this beautiful JZX90 Mark II. I’m often surprised at how few of these we see in Australia either on the road or on track, since they’re such a capable chassis. Needless to say, they were EVERYWHERE at Ebisu Circuit.
The JZX100 chassis were also very popular here. This was my favourite, with it’s low-mount wing and huge widebody conversion.
Love it or Hate it, the JZX110 Verossa is an absolute powerhouse after a little modification. I tried to capture it’s best angle, then remembered it doesn’t have one.
They say you’ll never forget the moment you met your true love. Readers, what you see here is that precise moment in time for me. While standing mesmerised, watching what has to be the world’s most beautiful Mark II being drifted perfectly around every bend at full noise, I realised I had to have one. As soon as I returned home, I started putting plans into action to acquire one.
As part of the G1GP festivities, the Super Class demonstration was mind-blowing. Seeing in person drivers such as Andy Gray, Nakamura-San, and Suenaga-San that I’d read about in blogs for years, was a surreal experience.
All of these drivers have skill and speed in abundance. How’s that for proximity.
At the end of the Super Class battles, Suenaga-San of Team Orange was declared the winner. From there, it was time to head back to the other courses and start preparing for matsuri.
While I’m sure you’re all familiar with the matsuri concept, they do things a little differently in Japan. Where your local circuit will turn the lights off at 9 or 10pm due to noise regulations, Ebisu stays open, under lights, for a full 36 hours. The night before, there was a line at the gate of Japanese drivers, sleeping in their cars to ensure they got the best pit garages when gates opened in the morning.
By this time, the cars were starting to look a little worse for wear. Battle scars (or trophies as the drivers saw it) showed perfectly executed wall-taps, scrapes and bumps with other cars.
I found that one of the best things about Ebisu, was also very reflective of the Japanese psyche. Anything goes and everyone is accepted exactly the way they, cars included. This little Kei car was kicking it around the togue course with all the big-bad JZX, S, and R chassis, and nobody had a problem with it.
Did I mention Ebisu Circuit is also home to a Safari Park? Only in Japan.
The end of Matsuri concluded our stint in Nihonmatsu. With the cars beaten, bruised, and covered in tyre marks from super-close tandems, ( Check out Taylor Wright’s awesome Matsuri video to see just how close – Click here.) it was time to pack up the tools, hop in the vans and head for Tokyo. On the drive back south, we wanted to stop by Nikko circuit, just to check it out. We had no idea if it would even be open, and we weren’t even sure if we were in the right place.
That was until we found this S15, a tell-tale sign that we were going in the right direction.
There just so happened to be a great little monday-afternoon drift meet, with close to 30 of the cleanest, straightest drift cars you’ve ever seen. This C34 Laurel might look to be more stance or VIP than drift, but it’s driver was pushing it as hard as any of the other cars on track that day.
Walking the pit lane, I spotted this cool little Toyota Starlet…
And this Battleship grey S15.
Speaking of S15s, As soon as I saw that two-tone paint, I knew I’d seen this car before, but I couldn’t quite place it. Walking around to the front, I immediately clicked.
That’s not two different cars you’re looking at. You may remember this S15 with E46 front end doing the rounds on the interweb a few months back. Again, while it looks like a mint condition show-car, the driver was not holding back at all out on track.
I was blown away by the sheer entry speed all the drivers were carrying into the turns.
Walking back through the pits to head off, I had to have a quick snap of this S15. The little details were what made this car. Like the green ring around the projectors and the air-horns tucked into the bumper.
Once back in tokyo, it was time to relax, shop, and start preparing for our flights home in the coming days. That said, we made time for the Toyota-sponsored Motoring History museum, complete with vintage Toyotas, this Ferrari Dino, and…
This immaculate KPGC10 GT-R. Seeing this iconic car in person, in such great condition, was a surreal experience.
On my last night, I met up with a local friend for some drinks at an Irish pub. Heading back to the hotel to start getting ready to go home, there was no mistaking that I was still in Japan. Only there would you see an original H1 Hummer towing two I-don’t-even-know-what’s behind it.
This concludes my coverage for GSS of what was for me, the trip of a lifetime.
In the coming weeks I’ll have some additional images over on my personal page – http://www.facebook.com/leighkellyphoto.
Thanks for reading,