Upon hearing that the biggest name in the tuning world, HKS, was not to make a showing at this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS), widespread panic hit. People were anticipating this year’s show was going to be a total disappointment due to the current global economic crisis, but in the end it turned out to be as great a show as ever. HKS had its reasons for not participating at TAS, which were revealed once we turned up the following week at Fuji Speedway. The HKS Premium Day event was such a great success last year, put on to celebrate the company’s 35th anniversary, that a second installment for 2009 was organized. Even more tuning shops were invited to participate and the day was so action-packed we found ourselves running all over the circuit and drift course to bring you as much coverage as possible. We’ll let you decide if highly tuned machines running around a track at full blast are more or less interesting than what a show stand has to offer!
Hosting an event like this at Fuji is always a gamble during this time of the year, as the weather around this area of Shizuoka prefecture is best described as “changeable.” However, we were pleasantly surprised as we arrived to the track to find sunny blue skies, crispy winter air and a breathtaking view of the snowcapped Mt. Fuji. As we began to walk through the paddock and pit area, the HKS Hyper Challenge was already in action. Amateur track racers were invited to participate in a series of timed sessions on the road course, a kind of country-wide championship organized to create a friendly yet competitive approach to the track day thing. The assortment of cars that participate in this event is vast, and all sport levels of tuning and overall preparation that indicate how serious their owners are about going fast on track. As we moved closer to the main pit area, we spotted a rather special car, a ride that got our jaws dropping straight to the carpeted floor at TAS the previous week. We are talking about the chameleon blue/green Ridox JZS161 Aristo, built in collaboration with Varis. This is Orido’s latest daily driver sporting a body-kit designed to give the right balance between elegance and aggression.
On the subject of Time Attack, HKS is still very proud of its CT230R Lancer, which seems to hold a record at every track it has ever competed in. For the HKS Premium Day at Fuji Speedway, Taniguchi had to go head to head with Manabu Orido and his Super GT GT300 Wed’s Sports Lexus IS race car as well as the new V-8-powered Studie Glad BMW Z4. In an attempt to show how close high-end tuned cars can get to full-on racers, Taniguchi had his work cut out for him. As all three cars went out for a warm-up session there was no telling which one would be faster, but as their 30 minutes on track ended, the HKS Lancer had to retire due to some engine trouble. A real pity, as exactly the same thing happened last year.
As menacing clouds quickly covered the sky, it was off to the other side of the grounds to see the drift exhibition at the drift track. Taniguchi quickly swapped over to his new HKS drift car, the JZS161 Aristo which for 2009 had been subjected to a new Lexus GS front-end conversion. He was joined by Ueo and his now-retired Soarer as well as Okachan, who was probably glad to get back to drifting after trying to manhandle his overpowered S15 on the main track. When we arrived back in the main pits, all of the HKS demo cars were lined up on the pits ready to go out for a few parade laps. We spotted two new cars HKS has built recently, the Time Attack Evo X which has gone under the 1-minute barrier at Tsukuba, as well as the new Hyundai Genesis which was still wearing its Korean number plates. It was interesting to see that HKS has taken an interest in the Genesis, probably due to the fact that Japanese manufacturers have all but given up producing affordable FR models
The second session of the Super Lap got into its stride, but it wasn’t long before snow began to fall. Remember we said weather at Fuji is unpredictable. The final event of the day was the R35 GT-R battle, which we were glad was not canceled due to the weather. Heading the assault was the black HKS GT-R, which is running close to 600 hp. Despite the wet and snowy conditions, the GT-Rs were putting all their power down with only a few cars like the white Esprit and red Auto Select exiting corners with a smidgen of opposite lock. Nobody was really shooting for any times, concentrating more on entertaining the brave few who, like us, had stayed to see the event until its end! With so many people enjoying the action-packed day, we hope HKS continues to put on the Premium Day well into the future. Sure beats a couple of cars on a showroom stand!