I am about to hurl.
Leaving Yokohama Station-a 20 minute train ride south of Tokyo-what was once a smooth drive on flat and relatively straight fields of Japanese pavement, turned into bumpy and very curvy, stomach wrenching asphalt. Now normally, I don't get car sick-far from it. The white noise and undulations from the road act like a hypnotic rocking chair, and I'm so relaxed that I usually have to fight falling asleep. But after eight days of working in Tokyo and the accompanying nights of drinking, I am exhausted, very hung over, and immensely regretting the fact that I volunteered to sit in the back of the TEIN STI.
My semi-mischievous plan was this: With our TEIN host not very comfortable with the Eng-rish language, I would have our translator, Tetsuya, keep him company (read: distracted) while I sat quietly in the back and caught up on some much needed Zs. The plan was working brilliantly too, until we started to get closer to our destination, Mount Fuji. Actually, not the geographically iconic shield volcano itself, but to the adjacent peak across the valley, the legendary Hakone Pass. A road trip that, much like volunteering to sit in the back, sounded like a great idea at the time.
Having only seen Mount Fuji in wood block prints and photographs, when Philip from TEIN offered up a pair of their new JDM AWD demo cars, the STI and EVO X, the offer was too sweet to refuse. A visit to the fabled mount, free guides and the opportunity to drive two tuned TEIN machines? Yes, please.
But when Luke and I stumbled out of the Yokohama station, dragging ass and looking like death warmed over, I was half disappointed and half relieved when our two TEIN hosts informed us that we would not be driving their vehicles. Something about the suspension still being in the prototype phase, but I have a feeling it was more to do with us smelling like two old sake bottles. They offered to reschedule but with our flight back to the States the next day, we had to take what we could get.
"Since we can't drive, Luke, hop in shotgun in the EVO. I'll ride in the back of the STI so Tetsuya can talk to our hosts."
Which is where I am sitting now, eyes half closed and desperately fighting back the chunks of last night's dinner. My goal went from seeing Mt Fuji, to praying that I won't find out what regurgitated sushi looks like.
As we make our way up the touge, the EVO X in front of us takes off. Kono, our TEIN host, accelerates to catch up. Flying into a series of esses, Kono says something in Japanese.
Tetsuya translates, "Kono said with the Bridgetone RE01R tires, Enkei RS05 wheels and TEIN Mono Flex coilovers, the STI feels much different. The tires have more grip and the mono-tube coilovers are fitted with higher spring rates for decreased body roll. He says that he is able to go much faster than stock."Great.
Insides churning, I plead, "Tetsu, can you ask him to pull over? I, uh... I need to pee."
"Whaaaat? Rearrie? Are you sure?"
We pull over at a rest stop and I sprint to the bathroom. To spare you the gory details, let's just say sushi does not look very appetizing after spending a night marinating in booze and stomach acids. It was like a feeding scene out of March of the Penguins-only not cute.
Knowing what the STI is capable of, Tetsuya and I trade rides with Luke, hoping the EVO would be a bit on the milder side. Buckling my Mitsubishi seat belt, I ask Tetsuya to find out what's been done to the EVO X.
"He said that the EVO has same RE01R tire but different Enkei rim. This one has RP05."
Like I couldn't tell that from the outside.
"Yeah, but what about the suspension? Is it built for street settings?" I ask.
"No, same as STI. Mono Flex coilovers. However, this car has more aggressive spring rate for testing. STI had 7kg front and 5kg rear. EVO has 9kg front and 7kg rear."
Shinya, the driver of the EVO, pulls out of the driveway and guns it. Kilos climb higher than a Tony Montana stash: 60, 80, 100... multiplying it times a hangover, and we were going like, Mach 3 with the TEIN-equipped EVO sticking to every curve. To prevent any further emperor penguin re-enactments, I tried meditating and controlling my breathing. Mind over matter... or so they say. Relaxing a bit, I noticed how compliant the ride actually was. The harsh shake-the-delicate-contents-of-my-stomach jarring was actually from the thick lines of paint on the road used to keep would be drifters from attempting Initial D action. Compared to the stock EVO Xs I've driven, the TEIN Mitsu felt firm, but not bouncy like some other aftermarket suspension.
Our EVO slows and Shinya turns into a huge turnout blanketed in a thin coat of snow. We park and the STI pulls up next to us. Relieved that I didn't embarrass myself in front of our hosts, I look for a bathroom, bush or outcropping to purge myself. None. Defeated, I walk up to the rest of the group admiring the view of Mt. Fuji. A piercing pain shoots up through my gut and I feel movement in my esophagus. I gasp and try to gulp it back down. My eyes start watering from the pressure.
Luke looks over and says, "Moving, isn't it?"
"Too bad we have to leave tomorrow. I wish we could drive back."
Drive back? Triple great.