Considering how many people are crammed into what is a relatively small amount of real estate, there seems to be almost as many car enthusiasts in Japan per capita as there are in America. In that fellowship we find a fair amount of racing fans just like Stateside, but while we by and large relish going (or watching others go) in circles or straight lines, our JDM brothers and sisters tend to lean toward the winding, and the sideways.
Many of those kinds of athletic Japanese machines were on exhibit on the 2019 Tokyo Auto Salon, the country's biggest car show (aka informally as the Japanese SEMA), mostly decked out in carbon fiber and many still rocking battle scars from a season just completed. We had Super GT touring cars, and their JGTC antecedents; Formula DRIFT Japan and D1 GP sliders; Super Formula open wheelers; and sprinklings of time attack, gymkhana, rally, and more. Scroll forth to see some of the race car highlights from the 2019 edition of TAS.
Touring cars aficionados know Super GT emerged from JGTC, and now the Japanese series is heading into a historic partnership with the European Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) to hold races together, starting with a pair of joint events later this year. Super GT's marquee GT500 Class has always seemingly (but logically) been a stronghold of J OEM brands in the past, but its GT300 category for some time has been featuring European platforms—like the Goodmile Racing AMG GT3 driven by a foursome of hot shoes that includes legendary driver NOB Taniguchi.
The series showed off several entries from its 2018 season, like the Autech Motul and Forum Engineering Nissan GT-Rs, Autobacs and CarGuy Honda NSXs, WedsSport Lexus RC and KeePer Red Bull LC 500, and others. From the past, it's no coincidence we had plenty of Supras flexin', and as if to cement its future in the championship, Toyota rolled out its Gazoo Racing Concept A90.
Probably the biggest news out of the drifting world from TAS was the unveiling of the KinoKumi Audi A5 to be driven by Kazuya Iizuka for Formula D Japan. As far as we can tell, this is the first Audi in FD, and like so many cars in the American iteration of the drifting series, this one will sport a GM LS V8 engine swap.
Similar to the way Super GT grew out of JGTC, Super Formula (apparently everything is "super" in Japan) picks up where Formula Nippon left off, becoming the top level of open wheel, single seater racing in the country. These purpose-built cars start off as Dallara SF14 chassis and are outfitted in Yokohama tires and a turbocharged inline-4 cylinder mill from either Honda (employing its HR-417E race motor) or Toyota (using its RI4A power unit).
Other grip giants in Chiba City for TAS included the HKS 4G63-powered TRB-004 Suzuki Swift, just off recently breaking the FWD track record at Tsukuba in the able hands NOB Taniguchi. Exedy's All Japan Gymkhana Championship-winning Fiat 124 Spider was in its booth, while over in Toyo's corner of the show they had the Flying Lizard McLaren 12C GT3 which did the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2018 with a 9:52.748, finishing second in Time Attack 1 class and eighth overall.
As sort of already alluded to, Toyota had a big presence at Auto Salon, precipitated by the marketing push for the upcoming release of the 2020 Supra. It was a little weird—or rather, we should probably say even weirder—to see the NASCAR Xfinity Supra demo car in Japan, but decidedly less weird to see the LC F that challenged the 24 Hours of Nurburgring over in the Gazoo racing booth. Plenty of other outfits repped Toyota, too, like Cusco, which featured its AWD Yaris RC built for the 2019 Asia Pacific Rally Championship.