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 Post subject: JCCA Classic Car Summer Festival, Tsukuba Circuit
PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:32 am 
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Once again, circumstances were fortunate enough that I'd be in Japan again for a couple of days, and so the entire might of the JNC editorial team put our heads together as to what cool things we could do.

Just by luck, it turned out that last Sunday the 11th July had two great racetrack events. There was the Skyline Festival at Fuji or the JCCA Summer races at Tsukuba. While the Skyline event was being put on by the BP Nostalgic folks (and they always put on an awesome show), it was decided that we'd be covering the JCCA event at Tsukuba on the basis that it was a bit easier to get to.

Ben and Dan were all for me renting a car and driving there, but since I've never driven in Japan before, I figured I'd probably get totally lost and instead of watching classic car racing at Tsukuba, I'd spend the day stuck at a truckstop, eating vending machine hot dogs and quietly crying :)

Also...we thought it would be a wheeze if I would get to Tsukuba by public transport, and then document the do's and don'ts so that any JNCer could make the journey. So here goes :)

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:40 am 
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Tsukuba Circuit is in Ibaraki, which is about a couple of hours north of Tokyo. There is a train called the "Tsukuba Express" which leaves from Akihabara station, and that's as good a place as any to start. Akihabara is one of the main tourist destinations in Tokyo, and one of the major stations, so getting there isn't going to be any problem at all.

From Akihabara, it'll be about almost 2hrs before you're standing on the hallowed ground that is Tsukuba, so start the day bright and early.
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You need to get out of Akihabara station (East exit), and make a beeline for the Tsukuba Express. Luckily the joint is plastered with signs, so you can't miss it.
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But just in case you do, this is what it looks like :) It's roughly 50m across from the big Yodobashi-Akiba store.
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The train fares are expensive though, about Y1600 each way, so I made sure I plunked plenty of dollars into my PASMO rail card. All the stations, even in the countryside will accept the PASMO, so it's the easiest way to go.
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The Tsukuba Express, goes, remarkably enough...to Tsukuba City (which is kinda like a college town). But...to go to Tsukuba Circuit, you don't go all the way to Tsukuba City, you need to get off at Moriya instead, where you will change lines. So don't go all the way to Tsukuba City...you have been warned :D
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After about 45mins, you're at Moriya, and it's already starting to look a bit more rural
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:44 am 
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Once you get to Moriya, you exit the station, and make a beeline for the Kanto Joso Line.
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...where you want to catch the train towards Shimodate (but you'll be getting off at Sodo station).
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The Joso Line is a real oldie, a true country train line that isn't actually electrified (no overhead wires). So in contrast to the uber-slick metro subway lines, the trains are tiny and are either one or two carriages only!
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So as the train pulls away from the station, you hear the familiar thrum of a diesel engine.
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In fact, it sounds very much like a bus, the mighty diesel labouring against the weight of the carriages, clanking noticeably thru its 3spd gearbox as it glacially accelerates towards its 75kmh cruising speed.
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We're definitely in the countryside now....
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And I'm starting to get a bit concerned. We're going to Sodo station, and then I need to catch a taxi to the circuit. But some of the stations we pass along the Joso Line are like this: just barely bigger than a bus shelter, with no staff and just a PASMO machine. In fact, not only are there no taxis outside some of the stations, there is often not even a road!
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But I didn't really have to worry. The Tsukuba Circuit website says you can get to the track by taxi, so obviously it's possible. And when we get to Sodo station, it's a little cottage :)
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And right opposite...is a Taxi depot! And one of those Cedrics has my name on it. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's a good tip to save that telephone number. We'll need it to get back to the station later: while it's within reason to expect that there would be taxis outside a train station, the opposite is in fact true when you're talking about a racetrack. So later we'll have to call the taxi to Tsukuba to come pick us up. More of which anon.
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Last edited by kev on Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:49 am 
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Sodo station is only maybe 10kms away from Tsukuba Circuit, so it's a $20 and 15min cabride to the track. With most racetracks, the track itself can be a long way away from the main road. But in Tsukuba's case, the actual main straight is only maybe 80m away from the main road. I've just stepped out of the taxi, and...there's the grandstand!
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Y4000 for a ticket, and I'm in!
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At this point, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I've been an avid watcher of Best Motoring videos for almost 20 years, and had to pinch myself that I was finally at Tsukuba Circuit! (It only took me 20 yrs to get here)!

First a quick tour of the parking lot.
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The chap who owns the Kenmeri above also owns this Hako sedan.
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The track map shows how compact Tsukuba really is. It folds back on itself a few times, and so it's a very spectator-friendly track, where you can see most of it from many vantage points.
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Right next to the entry gate is the grandstand overlooking the main straight, across from the pits.
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But there are a couple of tunnels which take you under the straight, and into the pit area.
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...where a vision of heaven awaits :)
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Some of the cars in the 1968~75 race are waiting on the dummy grid. Very nice Gordini Renault 8, on massively dished Gotti wheels.
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240ZG in classic maroon.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:54 am 
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Savanna RX3..
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Sounds bloody wicked:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIfTzzxuwps

Open wheelers had their own class.
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This one was unusual, 4cyl engine, non crossflow, and breathing thru only one throat of a downdraught carb (the other throat was blanked off). The manifolds and cam cover had "LUCAS" cast onto them.
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Toyota Sports 800s.
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The view from the roof of the pit building. It's a good vantage point, you can see maybe 2/3s of the track from there
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By far the most popular class in terms of number of entrants was the TS Cup, which were the premier touring car category in the late 70s. Dominated then (and now) by Nissan Sunny. In the early 70s, the big-capacity touring car class that the Hako and RX3 raced in was canned. In response to the oil crisis, racing shifted focus to economical, small cars. And hence in the mid to late 70s the headline touring car category was TS-b, which were for small cars. They may be 1300cc, but the budgets and development never stopped, and so these were developed way past their natural potential back in the day, and are a well-liked and popular class in historic racing today.
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Ginettas had their own class too. Ginettas are an English marque, which goes way back to the 60s. But they have a small but very dedicated following in Japan, and when the Ginetta company folded in the 90s, Japanese enthusiasts bought the company, and kept making the G4 under a new brandname called Dare.
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There's front engined and mid engined Ginettas
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This one was well powered by a twin carbed Sierra Cosworth motor
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Gorgeous Lotus Europa TwinCam from local specialist Body Shop Happy.
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Lancia Monte Carlo.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:55 am 
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I was expecting lots of trade stands, like they have at the Nostagic Car Shows, but today there were only a few stands. One sold vintage knick knacks
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Vintage model kits
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Diecasts....(I got to be careful not to get carried away here)
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Oooh...Tomica DR30 Group A cars...must....resist
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Not much in the way of mechanical parts were on sale though
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But there was one stand with some sexy headers on display...this one for 2000GTR Hako
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Their offering for L-series was good looking, too
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The Tsukuba pitlane is actually pretty small, so many classes had designated parking areas scattered around the track
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Nice 280ZX in the non-competitive Japan Run category
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:57 am 
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230-series Cedric on TE37s was an unusual find.
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Very clean and sanitary all over
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But under the bonnet....'bet you weren't expecting that! :)
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Hot looking slammed 510 Coupe
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Umm....might want to take a look at that before it gets away from you, bud :)
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2000GT-R Hako. The real thing.
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You can tell because the rain rail doesn't have a cut out at the bend, which the non-GTR models have to have to accept fitment of the chrome trim (which the GT-R models did without).
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Sheetmetal flares at the front. Nicely made tho.
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Last edited by kev on Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:59 am 
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Very nice Civic RS
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There were quite a few 510s on the day, mostly running in the "Japan Run" class, which were like open-practice sessions, rather than proper races.
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That white Zed ran pretty well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQIHKncibLc

All hail the L-series (this from the white 510 above) :)
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Here's the Japan Run group heading out on its formation lap:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBV5-TDd9-c

And during the session, the Zeds were clearly the fastest in the field:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EJZz54FbT0

TS-Cup spec Sunny, with uber-dished Advan Onis
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This Kenmeri had a lot of work done
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The fuel system is probably worth more than my whole engine :)
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Oh, and it didn't disappoint under the bonnet either
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The famous "Potenza S30". He's got a Youtube channel by the same name, and it's been featured in quite a few nostalgic magazines in Japan. I think he's down to a 1'03 around Tsukuba, which is plenty fast. Runs a traditional carbed L-series.
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And what the front looks like:)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a45rzf0dvw

The 1968-75 (stock) race underway, it was led by an Alfa Giulietta, with Lotus Cortina and Triumph TR4 close behind
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The Toyota Sports 800s sounded a lot lower-revving than I'd expected. But the loud exhausts that these guys were running meant that you could certainly hear that in a Sports 800...you don't lift. Ever :)
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Here's a vid, the 800s were doing laps around the 1'19 mark:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ9wnVQ10mc

In the middle of the pits is a restaurant, called Driver's Saloon. Very popular, there was a queue to get in all day.
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Last edited by kev on Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:03 am 
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But as with any racetrack around the world, there will be deep-fried foods on offer :)
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I went for the yakisoba noodles though, instead of the corndogs. Not too bad for Y250!
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The TS Cup cars were allocated parking right in the middle of the pits
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I believe there's a very active historic racing series for these things, certainly they were all beautifully prepared, and all looked like they got a lot of action
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Parked next to the TS Cup cars, were the F Cup cars, which were the big banger, fully-bonkers class
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Here's the F-Cup cars heading out for their formation lap:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkw2WVWT3QA

The only KPGC10 on the day, very nicely prepared
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No, that's not a typo, I checked. This....is the Team PNIS Skyline. No, really, it is.
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Very well known Z racer, the City Auto Akira-style S30. Yankee Mate? :)
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:11 am 
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Actually, between the two, the Zed is considerably faster, lapping at 1'03s vs the Hako's 1'06. The Hako seemed well prepared and the guy driving it was certainly giving it a really good go, but it just seemed to lack some hump compared to the big cube Zed, which ate up the straights like nobody's business. The Hako's S20 sounded bloody fab of course.
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Hot looking Celica TA22, doing 1'08s, not bad considering it looks more like a road car than race car
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Mazda Familia and Levin TE27 were in the same class. The Familia is faster...by lots, it looked like the Levin was more of a daily than a prepped racer.
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The narrow tracked little rotary would lose some ground in the corners to say a Mini Cooper, but on the straights it would really cut loose:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SEGKmcMwwg

Very fast, but rough looking Circuit-Wolf replica Europa. There were also a few early 911s in the "Overseas Run" class
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The car in the background ran in the modified 1968-75 class, it's a Carrera 3.0
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One of many Isuzu Bellett 1600GTRs on the day. I've always been interested in these things. They were very successful in the 67/68 tourign car season, and there were many Alfa Romeo GTVs in the same class, so I was very curious as to how they'd go. They are surprisingly quick, the Alfa GTVs were all hounding each other doign 1'10 laps, but the fastest of these Isuzus were lapping in the 1'07 range, and even the slower Belletts were trading punches with their Italian counterparts at the 1'10 lap range.
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The Isuzus were all, without exception, really, really...really slammed.
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The rear suspension is swing axle, and even though it has a transverse leaf spring to act as a compensator, obviously you still need to dial in lots of neg camber to keep the back end nailed. Even so, they look kinda twitchy anyway with most corners exited in a neat little flourish of the tail
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Ford Anglia team, looking in character wearing flat caps :)
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There's a fountain with a statue of a bike rider in one of the car parks. Didn't say who he was
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Tsukuba = WIN. This is proof.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:14 am 
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Tsukuba is very much a "clubman" circuit, with relatively few frills. The scrutineering bay
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Complete with inspection pit and weighing platform
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Right next to that is a petrol station where competitors can get gas, and also a little gift shop
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That sells, among other things, t-shirts and stickers
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Bought a few shirts, cheap at Y1500ea
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And some stickers. "I see your Nurburgring sticker, and I raise you a....." :) One will go on Hako, and the rest will be up for grabs in a competition to be announced on our blog soon. It's been a while since we had a Fiendishly Difficult Reader Quiz :D
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:19 am 
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Tsukuba. Where even the garbage bins have cool (if somewhat random) stickers on them
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The blue Sunny is the fastest of the early-shape TS cars. It can easily keep up with the big Zed, clawing back in corners what it lost on the straight.
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Lots of crazing on that white Lotus Europa from before, it was like this all over. I think this means that at some point it was repainted without reapplying the gelcoat or something
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Rough looking it may be, but it was FAST, leading the 1968-75 (modified) class for most of the race until it was caught and passed by the brown 240ZG, and it eventually finished second: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GG3FPSqrSSs

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Starting grid for the 1968-75 (modified) race
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Here's the race start:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB1vSIfvaiM

The 911 gets off to an early lead, then seems to fall off a bit into the clutches of the freakishly quick yellow 510
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t46uSCmxfTg

Who finally gets the 911 a few laps later:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYafPLY9E3E

In the end it's 510, RX3, and 911 in 3rd placeImage

The 510 was super-fast, putting down 1'05 laps
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I didn't get to see what was under the bonnet, but if it was a Auto Service Watanabe motor (well the sticker does appear twice!) then it could be quite special. AS Watanabe is the joint that built the most powerful all-motor L-series in Japan, which is a 392ps L6 that cuts 10s quarters in an S30.
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That yellow 510 again: geez, if that red telltale is a sign of what this thing revs to....
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TS Cup under way. The fastest of these guys are doing 1'03s.
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Super tight racing in this class, it was a nose to tail ding dong battle the whole way
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Here's a vid of the first lap of their second race of the day:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb6ZAAx5JE8

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Interesting looking S30...then I notice the racing number and look a bit closer...
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Aha! It's an S20 engine...
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....running FCR bike carbs. It's a Z432, no ordinary Zed then, it was putting down 1'07 laps, which is pretty damn okay for a 2L.
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Lovely Alfa twins. There were quite a few Alfa Romeos in the event, the foreground car is a Sebring Giulietta (so sez the program) which won the 1968-75 (stock) race, and the white car was one of maybe 5 Alfa 105 GTVs running in the event, they were all stacked quite close together at the 1'10 mark.
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The Alfa may have won its race, but there was a quick Lotus Cortina and Triumph TR4 close behind it all the way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Hg8jjjy3qE

There were quite a few Alfa 105 GTVs on the day:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uG3lKHiAWI

Very tidy S800 Honda
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Are those 1980s vintage Mugen wheels?
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And here it is. blasting down the front straight, in the later race, it was having a hell of a dice with the Corolla 1200, they were nose to tail the whole race:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNGtzm2CmYU

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:22 am 
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Crazy looking TA22 in the F-Cup class, was running very strongly in contention for 4th place. Lapped in the 1'05s
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Very nicely prepared, the rear floor has been cut out for relocated top trailing arms, which is a mod done in the most extreme AE86 racers to lengthen the top radius arms for better geometry. It's a shame about the reflection, the fabrication was really quite droolworthy
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Spirit Garage Zed ran in the F-Cup class too, was always in contention for second place in its class, until it retired. But it was putting down 1'03s until then
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F-Cup race was won by a super hot Caterham/Lotus 7 thing, but the battle for second place was fierce!
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It was a seesawing battle between the fiesty little TS-Cup Sunnies and the Spirit Garage and City Auto Zeds. The Zeds would pull a few car lengths on every straight, but under brakes the nimble little TS Cup cars would catch right up. Fascinating to watch, and it was this close all day
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The Hako ran in F-Cup too, but quickly lost touch with the fast group
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Here's the first lap of the race, you can see the Caterham pull a lead already:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KodIIrpoEdE

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:26 am 
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The famous yellow Tomei Sunny
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It revs to...what? These things are only 1300cc and have pushrods...but rev to the heavens and the best ones make about 170hp. The little bodies weigh next to nothing too.
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Later-model TS Cup Sunny
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With gorgeous Tomei A-series, running oldschool flatslide ITBs
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Everywhere you point the camera...there's eye candy. I'm the worlds worst photographer but even I can't fail :)
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Hako sedan ran in the non-race Japan Run class. Didn't sound like it was running quite right, and was only doing 1'11s
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N2 Starlet!!
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And here's the Starlet in action:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjnY9mBzPks

And with that...we're done! It was a great day, with a great atmosphere. You could wander anywhere you wanted in the pits and the marshalls and all the competitors were super friendly and accommodating. Some of the racing was deadly serious, but back in the pits, they all seem to be good mates. Walking up to a driver and asking some questions about his car was no problem at all.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:37 am 
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But now it's time to go home :( And there are no taxis in sight at the track gates.

But we had a plan. A Japanese friend was kind enough to write out a few things for me, which I printed out.
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So here's what you do. Remember that number you wrote down earlier at the taxi depot? Punch it into your phone, and look for a person who looks friendly, and show them:

お手数お掛けしてすみませんが、宗道駅までのタクシーを呼んでいただけますか?
("If it's not too much trouble, would you mind calling me a taxi to Sodo station please?")

Then hand them your phone, and with as much sign language as you can muster, ask them to please speak to the taxi driver and request a pickup at the circuit. Then thank the person as profusely as possible, because they just saved your ass :D

Edit: A Japanophile has informed me that it's customary to offer to buy someone a Y100 drink from the nearest vending machine, when they have helped you out (sounds like a great idea)

BTW, other phrases you will need are:
宗道駅までお願いできますか?
("Can you take me to Sodo station please?")

筑波サーキットまでお願いできますか?
("Can you take me to Tsukuba Circuit (〒304-0824 茨城県下妻市村岡乙159 Tel:0296-44-3146~7 ) please?")

15mins later, we're back at Sodo station :)
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It's a real country train station, but the timetable says that the train should come about twice every hour. Luckily it's only a 15min wait, but that leaves plenty of time to contemplate the rustic environment. I showed these pics to a friend, who commented that it looks like we just walked into a Studio Ghibli movie...
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...and you do admit...he's got a point!
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And oh, we have to cross to the other side :)
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And getting back to Tokyo is the reversal of getting here :) In terms of costs, it wasn't a cheap day. The 1.5hr train rides were about Y1600 each way, the entry ticket was Y4000, and the cab rides were Y4500. So call it Y11700 or $110, before food and any souvenirs you're going to buy at the track. But it's probably cheaper and less hassle than a rental car, and pretty foolproof and if you're travelling with mates, then the taxi costs can be shared.

Edit: I've since been told that driving to Tsukuba ain't cheap either. There will be Y3600 in tolls if you are coming from Tokyo, and the circuit will charge you Y1000 for parking. Add that to the cost of renting a car for the day, and taking the train is about half the cost.

But to be honest, if you have as much as a shred of petrol in your veins, an event like this will be like heaven from the moment you get there, until the moment you leave. Keep an eye on the JCCA site and the Tsukuba Circuit site for future events.

So there you go. It's perfectly doable to get to Tsukuba and back by public transport and it's relatively foolproof. Get to it, JNCers :)

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No Kev, you are eating a duck fetus.


Last edited by kev on Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:14 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:42 am 
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what a great post to start the day with :)

did you get any other vids of the blue kb110?

that yellow 510 #16 was built by shimada racing. not sure if they're still in business, but it looks as if they sold the the car, or at least it changed sponsors. in any case, it's been on the pole for decade

Image


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:12 am 
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A few cars had the Shimada Racing sticker on them, so I figure they must still be around
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But that's all the vids I got, I do have more pics of the blue car tho
Image

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:59 am 

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hey nice pic on the honda s800, how do get these nice trips to japan so often, gahhh, so jealous, invite me to work in your company, id migrate to australia too! haha

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:45 am 
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My god this thread gets the W

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:29 pm 
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Awesome thread!


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