“The Legend Of Tuning Car”
Having just recently gotten my footing in Japan, I made my first trip to a circuit back in November for the Tuning Festa at Okayama Circuit. What nobody told me about Okayama International Circuit before making a trip there was how remote this circuit is; nestled in the mountains of Okayama prefecture (as its name implies), it’s quite a trek from my neck of the woods in Hyogo. I left the suburb of Nishinomiya in the morning, and a few train rides and two hours of time later wound up in a small town, caught what seemed to be the only taxi in the place, and finally arrived to Okayama Circuit.
I made my way to the paddock and was greeted by very convincing replicas of two of Nissan’s most celebrated racecars. As luck would have it, the circuit was hosting both the Tuning Festa and a Skyline owner’s club meeting on the same day, so I took advantage of this happy coincidence and got my fanboy fill of Skylines before getting to the main event.
This owner built a loving replica of what is possibly Nissan’s most important racecar of all time, the Group A Calsonic R32 GT-R – specifically the version from 1993.
Though the Group A car it’s based on sports ultra-wide 18-inch wheels and ‘balloon tires’ typical of the era, the owner opted for a more livable ride height and tire combination with the ultra rare Impul RS-5 wheels.
This replica of the Hasemi Sport DR30 Super Silhouette also caught my eye with it’s recreation of the insane bodywork found on the original car, with just enough personal touches to make it more than just a replica.
This simple but clean R31 was one of my favorite Skylines. Most would argue that cars of this generation should stick to small wheels, but it was nice to see a tastefully done car on larger wheels than the typical kyusha-themed build.
Itasha is somewhat common in Japan, such as this Skyline with a character from Kantai Collection on the hood.
Skyline after Skyline…
…after Skyline, there’s lots to look at for fans of Nissan’s storied halo car.
I arrived just as the Skylines were beginning their parade laps on the track, so I made my way track-side to watch. This was also a rare opportunity to see an Omori Factory-prepped Z-Tune R34, the rarest of the breed.
With only a handful made, the Z-Tune featured more power and an aggressive aero package; a fanboy’s wet dream.
With the Skyline Owner’s Club having cleared the track, the stars of the show came out to play once again.
Tuning Festa runs every year at Okayama Circuit. With the tagline of “The Legend Of Tuning Car”, the event featured many of the region’s best battling it out on the track.
One of the nicest thing’s about events like these is seeing track-prepped s-chassis. While I do love drifting, track cars like these are a common sight at circuits in Japan, a stark contrast to the states where the s-chassis tends to be viewed only as a drift car.
The functional GT Wing looks right at home on this kouki S14.
A Porsche that isn’t widebody, and what a beauty! A breath of fresh air in a world saturated with RWB builds. TE37’s really are the Frank’s Red Hot of wheels, you can put them on pretty much anything and it just works.
Porsche at the circuit, right where it belongs…
I soon met up with my friend Hirofumi Nishikawa of Radical from Shiga prefecture. Previously he piloted his k-powered EK Civic to a first-place finish in the FF class of 2017’s Tuning Festa, but with him currently building a new, more competitive EK3 chassis from the ground up, he was instead racing this black S2000 in the “S2000 vs Fairlady Z” competition.
Waving the FF flag and sharing the garage with Hirofumi was Nawagawa-san of Racing Team Spiral with his EK Civic.
This EK had a lot of character typical of track-prepped Civics in Japan.
Stage 21 front bumper, C West side skirts, TE37’s and and Type-C’s make for some good looks and function for the circuit.
Notice the heater ducting in the bumper – it’s common practice in Japan to use these ducts to direct air to crucial components of the car that need it.
Nearby were a couple more of Honda’s finest, such as this clean and simple EG…
…and this really cool DC5 from Fabulous.
Spare wheel/tire combo for the Fabulous DC5, a classic set of gold BBS’s with the ubiquitous (at least in Japan) Advan AD08 tires.
This pair of S2000’s represented RS Factor in the S2000 VS Z class.
Also common in Japan in addition to the heater ducting is home-brew methods of adding ventilation, such as this headlight-turned-vent and the swiss-cheesed front bumper. All in the pursuit of increasing air flow.
I had missed the opportunity to see this EG from RS Factor hit the circuit, but it looked great with its monochrome color scheme and AME Tracer wheels.
Technical Auto brought their Pandem K-powered EG6 known as “Pinky”; we’ll get to see more of this car in a future Exciting Hero post, but for now this car lay dormant in the garage as I missed some of the earlier sessions of the day.
Local tuners Hazard Racing were in full force at Tuning Festa, with several s-chassis and Honda CL7’s on hand for the event, an interesting combination.
Hazard specializes in custom paints. To show off their specialty, their cars feature flashy, intricate paint jobs, loaded with gloss and plenty of metal flake. Their cars also tended to be the loudest cars on the track; crazy paint work, combined with aggressive aero and loud exhausts make sure all of your senses are assaulted by the presence of their machines at the circuit. This is the kind of style unique to this region of Japan, though it may not be for everyone.
Hazard has an affinity for CL7 Accords as well, an often forgotten tuning base with lots of racing potential. It more than held its own on the track.
I unfortunately arrived a little late to the circuit thanks to being so far, so I didn’t get to see some of the cars race. This 911 was being loaded up not long after I arrived to the circuit.
K1 Laboratory was out with an EF Civic and their super-aggressive S2000. One of my favorite cars of the event, which led to some of my best photos of the day!
I may not be a fan of RPF1’s, but they do manage to look good on time-attack cars here in Japan. Food for thought, perhaps…
Good sticker on the trunk of this S2000!
K1 Lab’s S2000 on track, looking right at home.
Both of Factor’s S2000’s were holding it down, battling against the heavier and more powerful Z’s on the field.
Three wheel motion or optical illusion? You decide.
Auto Produce Prince had raced to a podium finish in their yellow S2000, and had one of the most lavish booths of the event to boot, complete with branded easy-ups and even a few race queens.
Sharing the circuit with the S2000 and Z class were these nicely built ZN6’s.
I’m normally pretty ambivalent towards these, but Japanese tuners keep impressing me with the amazing execution of their builds. I definitely wouldn’t mind one if it looked and drove like this!
This narrow-body 911 even got in on the fun, proving you don’t need a widebody to race a 911.
Shortly after the S2000’s and Z’s vacated the circuit, the GT-R’s went on track, and were extremely quick – so quick, my lack of experience behind the lens got the best of me and I had to relearn on the spot how to shoot these beasts as they flew by me. Learn by doing I guess!
I covered local GT-R legends Auto Select in my Option Super Fest coverage, and they too had a few GT-R’s on hand at Tuning Festa.
This flat black GT-R tuned by Trial looked tame enough, but on track it was terrifyingly quick!
This EK was a perfect example of current Honda tuning trends in Japan.
Running a reverse stagger setup with 16 inch CE28’s in the rear…
…and 17 inch NT03’s in the front.
Topped off with a mildly aggressive aero package including a rare Arios front bumper, this car represented the typical street-tuned Civic in Japan. As more and more tuners in Japan are opting for k series power, its good to know that there are still plenty of cars sticking to Honda’s Golden Era B series power-plant.
This race-prepped Nismo RS takes Nismo’s ultimate Z33 and turns it up to 11 with the addition of parts from Amuse, the tuner best known for their S2000 builds; Amuse Superleggera front bumper, wide fenders, side skirts and hood totally transform the look of the Z. Bonus points for the ‘Ossan‘ badge on the trunk, a tongue-in-cheek (i.e. rude) way of calling someone an old man in Japanese. Most of the people in this hobby tend to be a little older than what we’re used to.
My favorite car of the event, hands down, was this pink FD RX-7.
Classic bronze TE37’s are a perfect contrast to the vibrant pink paint draped over the body of the car.
Center exit exhaust ensures a path of least resistance for the exhaust gasses, while a turn-down tip adds a unique look.
I loved every bit of this car, even more so that it sees track use.
This Levin prepared by Garage Yamane was another of my favorites, with it’s N2 widebody, side exit exhaust and lots of orange.
The chassis-mount wing and diffusers looked right at home with the wider bodywork.
Did I mention it was orange? So orange it got first place in the NA class! Sure, there might not be any scientific proof that cool paint makes you faster, but it certainly doesn’t hurt…
This R34 was prepped for some serious track use, and red has always been my favorite color for R34’s thanks to MCR’s R34 back in the day.
Another of Auto Select’s creations, this R34 was built using lots of carbon kevlar composites.
This GT-R from Quarter Mile and Run-Up takes the red-headed step-child of the GT-R family and turns it into a high-powered beast with a liberal dash of carbon fiber. Though the car was being loaded up as we were approaching the end of the day, its definitely a car to watch out for at future events!
Auto Produce Prince, pulling out all the stops with personal race queens at their paddock.
This S15 from Hiroshima Prefecture had some of the wildest aero of the day.
The sticker roll call on the door tells of the car’s history, with stickers of past events dating back almost a decade.
This car was pure function from top to bottom, the ultra wide fenders filled by just-as-wide TE37V’s. It’s hard to believe cars like these could come out of small Japanese shops; the aero setups look like something from a factory-backed JGTC team back in the day, yet these are cars built by enthusiasts like any one of us. As the sport continues to grow and evolve both in Japan and overseas and competition keeps ramping up, these builds are starting to become more prevalent.
More from the Hazard Racing camp, their unique cars make for an interesting and aggressive line-up. The pink S15 actually runs an SR20DE – that’s right, no T. It’s a non-turbo Spec S built to run in the NA class, and it’s no slouch either, having gotten 3rd in its class at last year’s Tuning Festa.
Interesting to note that the Origin Labo canards on the rear of this Silvia appear to be front bumper canards, mounted backwards. Works for me!
This incredible Varis kitted Evo caught my attention as I was walking the paddock. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to shoot it from the front, hopefully soon I’ll get a second chance at it!
As the final heat of the day approached, cars made their way from the paddock to the track.
The final run was a mix of everything at the track that day. The Hazard S15 looked particularly menacing as it passed an RX-7.
The FF’s were holding their own in their class while they shared the track with a few of the turbocharged heavy hitters.
The pink RX-7 had an incident where part of its bodywork had come off and landed on the front straight, so the heat was temporarily aborted to clean the track.
The cars made their way back on track, finished their heat, and the day was officially done. I took another walk around the paddock before heading to the awards ceremony with Hirofumi, in case I missed anything.
In the event of an emergency, your wing could double as a leaning post.
I only got to see this beautiful FC run on track only briefly, and my photo didn’t come out right so I scrapped it. My apologies!
Most drivers were giving their cars final once-over to make sure all was good before packing up and leaving for the day. Some drivers, like Nawagawa-san, drove their car to the circuit and intended to drive them home. It’s one thing to see a car like this at the circuit, but knowing that they are street cars that are driven on public roads makes them that much cooler.
Other, more extreme cars were loaded up on flatbeds for the journey home, creating a scene that could only exist in Japan with its unique car culture.
Not to mention the fact that Japan has some of the coolest tow rigs on Earth.
As my first experience visiting a circuit in Japan, I was inspired. It might look like a daunting task and almost like another world coming from my experiences with circuits in California, it’s surprisingly not as tall an order as most think. Vantage points for shooting seemed much better than back home, and for the most part you could walk just about anywhere as long as you’ve got some common sense. If you go to Japan and find yourself with the opportunity to go to the circuit, take it! Get out there and talk to people, even if your language skills aren’t the best.