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TAS2015 with NAPAC

Osaka Messe 2015

F D Japan Fuji Speedway

Super GT Round 4

D1GP Round 2: Fuji


As you leave Kaihim Makuhari Station, a smile creeps upon your face. The naked, rush of Adrenaline hits you! It hits hard enough that you get the feeling that your heart will beat out of your chest! Your stomach begins to turn into Jell-O as you inch closer towards what you know will be one of the greatest times of your life! It’s like dreaming of being stuck in a candy store trying to swallow an oversized, Jaw-Breaker whole because you don’t want anyone to take the prized, gem from you! These are my feelings every time I go to the Tokyo Auto Salon!

Seriously, it is nearly impossible to cover the entirety of this cyclopean spectacle in just three days! It’s held on the second weekend of January, each year! The rides displayed at the TAS are nothing less than spectacular! The devil is in the detail when it comes to building a car about the technology of cool! Our personal favorite was Kuhl Racing with its Diablock 3D R35. Every part, weld was pored over for every last drop of function and performance that can be wrenched from sweat, guile and solid engineering! And the paint, the paint...Oh my God, amazing!

As intoxicating as Tokyo Auto Salon is, it wouldn’t be complete without the accompanying D1 demo and sweet, aroma of melting tires. We were so close to the action that we were getting pelted with hot, tire shavings as the cars were sliding by in what I consider to be a parody of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Kawabata’s Greddy R35 was taking out everyone like Ali, in his prime! Masao Suenaga’s RE Amiya RX-8 retired early due a smoked transmission and Ueno blew his totally cool, drift Prius which was quite sexy while in motion.

When one thinks of amazing cars, beautiful women and total horsepower ecstasy, one only has to visit The Tokyo Auto Salon. Not only did TAS celebrate its 33rd birthday, but it also had a record breaking year with over three-hundred thousand people and four-thousand vendors, tuners and parts manufactures in attendance. With eleven halls filled to the brim with cars from the likes of Liberty Walk, Top Secret, RE Amiya, and Rocky’s Auto, the Tokyo Auto Salon never ceases to amaze even the most veteran of attendees. This event blows just about every other event, including SEMA out of the water.

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Osaka Messe 2015

Osaka Messe is held on the second weekend of February, every year. This event is much smaller in scale and provides a friendlier environment compared to the cyclopean, Tokyo Auto Salon. It offers an open air venue, outdoor entertainment areas and has less perverted, paparazzi; looking to get up skirt and breast shots of the models. There were still a few of them scoping out the models like Apex predators, though. The downside was the presentation of so many of same demo cars that were shown at the 2015 TAS and the lack of user cars on display. It’s not like Hot Import Nights or other shows that promote the individual rides.

It was a still quite an historical, journey! There was really no rest for the weary to get to this show! We left at 5:15am for Tokyo Station to catch an early morning Shinkasen train which is usually about a three-hour ride. After travelling thru heavy winds and snow packed mountains, we finally arrived an hour or so late! Man, it was colder than a rat’s ass out there, too! It was freezing! After arriving at Shin-Osaka station, we realized we were thirty minutes out and the stations in Osaka don’t seem to be very user-friendly. After negotiating Shin-Osaka, we finally connected to head to Intex-Osaka. We commuted for another 20 – 30 minutes then voila; we arrived with a sense of accomplishment! We usually don’t travel this far down south. We didn’t have a lot of time to research Osaka and discover what beauty it has to offer, so we were left in the dark in many ways. Lost would be a better way to describe it!

The architecture of Intex-Osaka is unassuming in nature. It actually has us feeling like, “Oh God, we just traveled all the way from Kanto (Tokyo) for this? What were we thinking?” We were soon to be surprised. When we walked into the venue, we found that it was open and inviting; with separated halls on both sides. The Tokyo Auto Salon was enclosed and the halls were connected; which made it less attractive. The entertainment areas were well defined and easy to access! It inspired us to join in the festivities and to let loose a little bit!

The cars! The cars! The cars! Most of them I had already seen at the Tokyo Auto Salon, so a bit of boredom set in but then came the cool stuff! We were impressed by the stuff we hadn’t seen, yet. Some of the end-user, daily rides were out-of-sight and simple but still some serious eye candy! Personally, I like those types of cars! They’re simple and put together very well! You know, those cars where the owner has poured over every nook and cranny, every plug hidden, no visible wiring? A car where everything looks like it was factory built and every part was seriously considered; not because it’s the latest “coolest” craze to create the ultimate driver experience.

Honestly, smaller venues are the coolest places and shows to visit in our opinion because there are much less people there than at the bigger shows. One can actually chat with Tuners like Smoky Nagata and D1 Drivers,like Testuka Tsuyoshi which is usually inundated by everyone and their grandmothers. Larger events just don’t allow people to relax, take in the camaraderie and just enjoy talking shop.

Japan is such a beautiful place! We recommend that you always plan ahead and enjoy what each city has to offer! Osaka with its rich history and kind people have a lot to offer! Time wasn’t on our side this year, but we were able to catch up and share a few beers with Mike and Megan Perry, whom we had met at the TAS! They are absolutely, cool and very thoughtful people whose passion for the car life just makes you enjoy being in the scene! Osaka is a kick-ass place for sure and the food was amazingly delicious! While the Osaka Messe is much more “grassroots”; it is a damn cool show!

In the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back!"

Formula D Japan Fuji Speedway

Recently we got the chance to cover Formula Drift Japan at Fuji Speedway. All we can say is, “It was one spectacular event!” Formula D and Motor Sport Games went all out for the event. It was like a Universal Theme Park experience! There were so many unbelievable attractions at one event! In the Qualifiers, Kawabata took first place with an overall score of 93. Kenji Takayama and Shinji Minowa tied for second place with an overall score of 87. The amazing driving skills each driver displayed made our blood boil.

Kawabata pleased the crowd in the only way he could. He handled his 1000 HP GTR with maniacal skills and his intense driving style. The man eats through tires! It was almost like he was at an “All-You-Can-Eat” buffet and starving! We saw Kawabata compete at the inaugural D1GP Irwindale, in 2003. Witnessing his progression as a driver over the years; there’s no wonder why he’s such a fan favorite. He is dynamic and full throttle! When Kawabata is in the car, it is all work and play for him. He is truly an amazing, driver. One match we’d love to see would be a Kawabata versus Vaughn Gittin Jr. Final for the gold! We me be gifted with it this month at the D1 Tokyo Drift event. Congratulations Kawabata! That was a win well worth your talents!

International Drivers on-hand to participate in the fun were Saito Daigo, Dean Kearney, Odi Bakchis, “Mad” Mike Whiddett, Fredric Aasbo, Masashi Yokoi, Robbie Nishida, Charles Ng, Matt Field, and Adam Gray. These guys are all accomplished and experienced, drivers. The comradery and friendship between the drivers at this event was truly an awesome, experience! It exemplifies why Formula D is fast becoming the stage for the best around to showcase their skills. No politics! Just pure passion!

“Mad” Mike Whiddett took to the field like King Arthur suited up in his armor; ready to slay the enemy. Unfortunately, mechanical issues kept him from completing his mission. Those mechanical failures meant an early day for him and his beautifully, crafted FD RX-7. However, it didn’t dampen his spirits. He’s cheerful and friendly with the fans, regardless. If you’re ever at an event with “Mad” Mike in attendance, do talk to him. He is very cool and down to earth. He loves the sport of drifting! Guys like him and Matt Field make Formula D what it is!

Matt Field is also an amazing driver. What he is able to accomplish behind the wheel is beyond words. He took the Toyota Chaser he borrowed from Saito Daigo and qualified Top 16 despite having very little time to adapt and get used to the car. Just being able to get into a car that you’ve never driven before and accomplish something is astonishing, feat. What is special about Matt is that he always goes the extra mile for his fans. We don’t know many drivers who would take time out of their busy schedule between rounds to record inspirational, messages. Well, he did that for one of our readers! He even personalized a signature card for this gentleman despite being halfway across the globe. We can’t express enough gratitude for his kindness. His heartfelt appreciation for his fans is beyond profound!

We also enjoyed watching Kenji Yamanaka (not to be confused Kenji Takayama) getting sideways. He drives with serious intent and purpose. We can’t wait to see more good things come to him! Not only is he a Formula D driver but he is also the owner of Bunny Café. If you are ever in Japan, please visit Kenji Takayama at Bunny Café in Yokohama for some great food and drink. Trust us! His culinary skill rivals his driving.

Although watching the professional drivers go at it was breath-taking, for us the true fun came at the Drift Tribe event. It was refreshing to experience because it was truly “Grass Roots” and people were just enjoying themselves! They seemed to enjoy just hashing it out with their machines, instead of just sitting on the sidelines. Nomuken also partook in the festivities but he had serious car troubles. He spent hours deep into the night and well into the next morning getting his car back to operational order.

The cars in attendance at Drift Tribe, were just what the Doctor ordered. The vehicles are tuned with amazing, execution and on par with many of the cars that grace the Tokyo Auto Salon, every year. The great thing about these cars is they actually achieve the balance of looks and performance that is enjoyed on a daily basis.

With vendors like 326 Power on hand to showcase their products, it truly was a show of epic proportions. Thank you for all the fun in sun Formula D!

For more pictures from this event and more, please visit www.facebook.com/tunedinjapan. Next stop Super GT Round 4 at Fuji Speedway.

Super GT Round 4 – Fuji Speedway – August 7-9 2015

Fuji International Speedway is a 4.563 km o(2.835 mi) track that is nestled in the mountains of Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan and if there ever was a truer epitome of a kid in a candy store, our photographer Cisco would easily be the poster boy of Willy Wonka. Super GT is the crème de la crème of awesomeness when it comes to car building, exact details, and hundreds if not thousands of hours of beautiful engineering. There were many, many classifications of cars running from Super GT 300/500; Formula 4, PCCJ Porsche Cup and the GR Netz Cup Vitz Race. Here is the Super GT 300km Race thru lenses of our camera.

Day 1 – Getting Pit Road ready is no easy task. The hustle and bustle of the pit crews and their support teams is truly a veritable proof of finely tuned timing with each knowing their jobs and getting them done at warp speeds. The teams check everything from tire pressures to ground temperature and even have time to wrap their cars in a new color. Time is really of the essence in this game of man VS speed and time. Seriously, a pit can be set up precisely within just a few hours.

Day 1 – Getting Pit Road ready is no easy task. The hustle and bustle of the pit crews and their support teams is truly a veritable proof of finely tuned timing with each knowing their jobs and getting them done at warp speeds. The teams check everything from tire pressures to ground temperature and even have time to wrap their cars in a new color. Time is really of the essence in this game of man VS speed and time. Seriously, a pit can be set up precisely within just a few hours.

Day 2 – First round of qualifiers began with another hot and humid day with a brewing storm on the horizon, possibly threatening the fun at hand. The ARTA team was on fire. We seriously doubt that hell could get any hotter than hell this team over the weekend; with their pole position of 1’37.797.In the GT 500 group Team Zent Cerumo took pole position in the first round in their Lexus RC F with a 1’28.929. After all the qualifying was done, spectators were allowed to enter the paddock area. This part of Super GT is a favorite with the crowd, allowing them to see the Super GT cars up close, speak with the drivers, and collect autographs and pictures. Following the public paddock access was the Fuji Speedway Safari. We didn’t get a chance to participate in the event, but this is where people ride on the bus slowly going around the track while the GT cars speed by, startling and thrilling the unsuspecting bus riders.

Day 3 – Race Day! If one has never seen Super GT in person, man what an adrenaline rush! Day 3 was the day everyone was waiting for and it was well worth the wait. In the GT 300 Class, the ARTA Honda CRZ GT piloted by drivers Shinichi Takagi and Takahashi Kobayashi, took the lead once the green flag dropped, and they never looked back. They claimed first place with a best lap of day at 1’40.197. Impressive nonetheless, but we were secretly hoping that our favorite driver Manabu Orido (Team JLOC; Lamborghini Gallardo GT 3) who didn’t finish in the Top 20, would be in the winner’s circle. He and Taniguchi Nobuteru (GSP and Team Ukyo; Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3) are two of our favorite drivers since their early days in D1 GP. Both teams were plagued with problems and were never able to catch up.

The GT 500 Race was just as exciting with the D Station Skyline R35 ADVAN GTR taking the win with an overall best lap of 1’31.360 despite qualifying 6th at 1’29.124. Once the D Station Team took the lead, they seemed like Olympians looking to take the gold, which is exactly what they did. Team Zent Cerumo with their Lexus RC F finished up in second place with drivers Yuji Tachikawa and Hiroaki Ishiurawa; both drivers doing their very best despite cranking out their best lap with a smoking 1’30.800 and having the advantage of pole position. In closing, if a hardcore fan ever gets the chance to experience Super GT live, it is truly exciting beyond words. Super GT is A MUST EXPERIENCE EVENT!

D1GP Round 2: Fuji

Welcome to Tuned Japan's coverage of D1GP 2016 Round 2 Finals from the picturesque Fuji Speedway. The day was filled with some epic showdowns but only one man can come out on top and here's how it happened.

The first battle of the Best 8 between Saito Daigo and Yakoi set up what was to be a common theme of the rest of the finals; one man's tenacity holding out against fierce competition.

Daigo proved to be too tough for his first opponent. His clean runs prevented Yakoi from recovering from errors and making this an even matchup.

Following that bout, Teramachi and Imamura faced off in a battle that proved to be of little consequence to the overall result. The first run was marred by Teramachi's s15 getting some dreadful understeer on the first corner, allowing Imamura to overtake and gain an insurmountable points advantage. Game set and match.

Next round had the indomitable Kawabata and his GTR facing off against Kazuya Bai.

Kawabata managed to get some great angle in the first battle, with the power of his GTR literally leaving poor Bai in his smoke, forcing him to play catch-up in the second battle. Kawabata moved on with relative ease.

The final battle of the Best 8 had Shinji Minowa in his JZX90 versus Utsumi and his SR20 powered s15.

Some big understeer from Utsumi in the first battle and a great following run from Minowa in the second, sewed this match up in favor of Minowa who moved on.

The first semi was a monster between two multiple time D1GP champions, Saito Daigo and Imamura.

Saito and Imamura made contact in the first battle on the final corner, with Imamura nudging the rear of Saito-san's Chaser and losing control. From the apex of the hairpin, Imamura disappeared into Saito's smoke-trail as he spun out.

The next drift was just as eventful, with Imamura losing a door coming out of the first turn. Saito was able to hold his nerve and maintain the advantage, moving through to the finals.

The second semi took place between Kawabata and Minowa. The first round was a close affair, with the speed of the GTR allowing Kawabata to swing some extra angle. Minowa did well to follow, ceding only half a point advantage.

The second round wasn't so close. Minowa's rear wheels ate dirt coming into the final bend, costing him speed which Kawabata's beast of a machine had no problem devouring for the overtake. An unfortunate end for Minowa, but the stage was set for another final showdown between Saito and Kawabata. But before that, two men were looking for a little consolation.

The third place scramble between Minowa and Imamura again started out evenly. Minowa almost came off the track again coming out of the hairpin, but held on to keep the scores even.

Round 2 was fairly poor from both drivers, but Minowa was able to redeem himself for his semi final error and take the bronze spot.

The final round was as eventful as any of the top 8 races, for better or for worse.

Saito Daigo was able to get some beautiful angle from his 1000+BHP machine, and whether it was out of awe or frustration at seeing such a beautiful piece of driving or Saito's shallow line forcing him to avoid contact, Kawabata was not able to avoid leaving the track coming out of the hairpin.
Kawabata's luck didn't change in the second battle. An early flick coming into the hairpin meant Kawabata had to come wide to maintain the correct line. Seizing on this, Saito Daigo tucked his car into the corner and was able to overtake, ensuring that there would be no comeback from first round disaster by his rival.

That wraps up our coverage from the track at Fuji Speedway. Congrats to Saito Daigo from all of us at Tuned Japan!




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