I had a bad feeling when I woke up at 4am to head out to Tsukuba Circuit. My premonition was right. Last year it snowed at this event and this year it rained. Keiichi Tsuchiya must be haunted by the Gods of Tsukuba. It could be bad karma for all of the innocent funky-toothed race queens he shagged back in the day. But thewonderful thing about true fans is that they will travel miles and sit in the ice cold rain for hours to see their favorite stars eat it on a wet track. Now that's what I call love.
Rain never stopped the Drift King and his posse. Famous aftermarket tuners and makers like Spoon, Ogura Clutch, Mine's and Amuse all had booths for the fans to enjoy, and big Super GT players like Naoki Hattori, Daisuke Ito, Juichi Wakisaka, and Masataka Yanagida showed up for the fiasco. D1 stars Yasuyuki Kazama, Nobushige Kumakubo, Kazuhiro Tanaka, and Yoichi Imamura were also there to show off their sideways skills.
The day started off with the 350Z Hot Version Cup. Eight super tuned Zs and a single Skyline Coupe entered the race to see which tuned Nissan really rules. Participants in this raceincluded Amuse, Autech, Boss, Central, Espirit, I&D, MCR, Nismo, and Yashio Factory. Nismo will be organizing this race throughout the year and the championship will take place at the Nismo festival at the end of this year. Despite the terrible weather, it was surprising to see how fast the Amuse Z and Autech Z could go around Tsukuba. Yashio, usually known for its Silvias, came with a Z to be proud of. I couldn't get close enough to M.C.R's scary Kobayashi to ask him why on earth he was in a tuned Z race with a heavier Skyline Coupe. Legendary Z tuner Central20, run by Yanagida's father, also was present with a fine car. Yanagida Jr. took the wheel for the battle.
After the 350Z race, 2005 D1 champion Kazama and friends dominated the track. I don't care what anyone says about D1 and their BS politics, one thing I know for sure is that these drivers kick some serious ass. You know who's got it when four drivers can chokuso (straightaway) drift while trading positions on a narrow course. After that, they pulled off a "jump rope" trick, where three guys do donuts and another car jumps inside the three cars. I heard rumors that Hollywood is going to hire these guys to make a Speed Racer movie. OK, you may have been dumb enough to believe that for a second but you gotta agree they need to hire someone to help them name their tricks. "Jump rope"? Come on!
These guys may lack copywriting skills, but who else could drift and pull these crazy stunts on a tight track like Tsukuba? Kazama can drift and come within a few inches of an egg without cracking it. He may act like a clown on camera and drives crazier than a mad cow but the guy is really down to earth and cool. In my mind he's the best drifter out there.
The Best Motoring/Hot Version event always has a time attack. Last year Keiichi Tsuchiya broke the GT car lap record with his ARTA NSX. This year they brought Hattori's Formula Nippon car so he could break the Formula car record he set himself. Unfortunately the rain was too heavy for a full-out time attack.
So what do you do when you have a Formula Nippon machine all revved up ready to go and a dozen tuned cars from the top tuners in Japan? You drag race them! Talk about pulling something out of your ass at the last minute, but the adaptation proved to be a good one. They pitted the Mine's R34 Skyline GT-R against the Formula Nippon race car for a 300-meter drag race on the straightaway. This is something you don't see everyday. The all-wheel-drive Mine's R34 is one heck of a fast car to start with and even more so with Dorikin behind the wheel. Keiichi smoked Hattori in the Formula car for the first 200 meters but at the top Hattori gained like wildfire. At the time the race looked too close to call. They had to go again. After we reviewed the video we could see the result of both races. If you want to find out who won this outrageous race as well as the rest of the event it will all be available on an upcoming Best Motoring International DVD. You can visit www.bestmotoringvideo.com to get the release dates.