Tremendous Touring On The Streets Of Saitama






It’s very simple to fly the ‘every thing appears higher in Japan’ flag once you’re out right here.

And that could possibly be right down to the inflated notion by web sites like Speedhunters, or it may merely be right down to the perspective (and aesthetics) the Japanese share in direction of automotive tradition in comparison with these in different elements of the world.


One factor’s for certain, it’s very simple to take a look at sure vehicles and kinds right here with rose-tinted glasses. Automobiles you’d in any other case think about to be a bit cringe or downright bizarre the second they’ve crossed the Pacific. Wikipedia even calls it Japanophilia; the obsession and fixed reward given to something even remotely related to Japan. Simply be very cautious when Googling that time period so to not alert the authorities.


Take the micro world of kei vehicles. Sooner or later, you’ve seemingly seen an Autozam AZ-1 and declared it to be one of many maddest and coolest little vehicles in existence. As a result of that’s precisely what it’s, assuming it’s parked up on the neon-lit streets of Shinjuku.


However on the Argos multi-story close to Buckinghamshire – with a barely tubby proprietor attempting to contort themselves out – it does taint the cool a part of that picture. And I say that as somebody giant who has tried to get out and in of an AZ-1 earlier than shortly realising they’d appear like a licensed canine botherer if I had been to truly drive one.


Automobiles are extensions of our personalities in any case. You’re unlikely to stumble throughout one thing like an AZ-1 by probability or take a fast punt on one, particularly with costs now creeping north of US$25,000. Your native automotive vendor is unlikely to take one in as half trade both, so if you happen to actually need an AZ-1 it’ll require a little bit of digging round simply to unearth one on the market.


And the extra particular a automotive is, the extra particular the proprietor it appeals to. When you attain this stage of automotive shopping for, hardly ever will you discover somebody whose purchased it by chance or simply as a result of they fancied one thing totally different.


Yup, there’s going to be a narrative behind it. And that’s the harmful bit which will get you hooked, be that kei vehicles, JDM tradition or some other automotive area of interest. And whereas I’m not about to recommend that Japanese automotive tradition hasn’t resulted in some actually terrifying creations through the years, most of the time you get suckered in by the proprietor’s ardour, dedication and obsession which immediately elevates no matter they’ve constructed as being downright cool.


I’m a sucker for an excellent story. I’ll overlook most shortcomings if there’s an excellent one to inform, and I’ll disregard most purple flags when shopping for a automotive if it’s obtained a bonkers historical past. ‘Cus on this age of social media and prompt content material, issues are shortly forgotten. We see vehicles being teased, purchased, after which bought the second they now not deliver hype and site visitors to an web character.


Modifications turn into intentionally controversial, and anybody who doesn’t think about it ‘wild’ or ‘cool’ is shortly labelled a hater somewhat than being allowed to name a automotive for what it truly is. Like a Lamborghini Huracán with a pink exoskeleton.


That additionally brings us again to Japan. Automotive tradition right here – for probably the most half – doesn’t really feel prefer it’s been poisoned by this perspective simply but. It’s removed from exempt of pushing issues to the intense; we’ve seen Liberty Stroll reduce up a Ferrari F40 and stance tradition produce GS300s with wheels fairly actually mounted horizontally.


However as an entire the tradition right here feels extra real. I’ve misplaced depend of what number of homeowners I’ve photographed who’ve owned their vehicles for years – normally off the again of 1 vital second that occurred earlier of their lives – who then proceed to reside by the mantra of doing one thing ‘as a result of I prefer it’ somewhat than chasing hype.


The most effective examples of this occurred simply after Tokyo Auto Salon 2023; one thing which was triggered by a picture noticed on-line of a B5 Audi A4 decked out in ’90s Tremendous Touring livery whereas (inevitably) sporting a Japanese numberplate.


Similar to seeing a kei automotive on UK roads, seeing a ’90s British Touring Automotive – full with Auto Dealer stickers – appeared fairly area of interest even by Japan’s requirements. What weird sequence of occasions has led to this automotive patrolling the streets greater than 30 years later?


Nicely, it seems the proprietor isn’t alone of their obsession for the Tremendous Touring period of the BTCC, and everyone knows the second a number of buddies get entangled you flip right into a WhatsApp group of enablers. So, what higher solution to unravel this than with a daytime cruise across the streets of Saitama… twinned with Donnington Park.


Launched in 1990, the Tremendous Touring formulation was speculated to quash the wild spending incurred by the Group A period earlier than it. And that’s precisely what occurred… for a yr or two. However with main producers like Toyota on board – adopted by the likes of Williams Engineering bringing F1 tech into Renault’s Laguna – it was by no means going to remain low cost for lengthy.


Due to this perspective, it did deliver us among the best-looking race vehicles of all time. Automobiles which truly resembled their road-going counterparts – from the surface no less than – simply slammed to the bottom on magnesium wheels with now iconic liveries. It captured our hearts right here in Blighty, and after a slight delay in transmission it’s achieved the very same for Takeshi Akiyama, Niikura Kousuke and Masahiko Yamazaki in Japan.


“Once I was little, I watched motorsports at my grandma’s home as a result of she had a overseas TV satellite tv for pc,” explains Alfa 155 proprietor, Akiyama-san. “WRC, Le Mans and BTCC. To see vehicles that regarded my father’s being raced gave me a dream to in the future do the identical.”


“Within the late-’80s and early-’90s, motorsport turned extremely popular in Japan. Not solely did you’ve got Honda and Nakajima in Formulation 1, however Toyota, Subaru and Mitsubishi in rally too. Britain gave the impression to be an important place for racing, nevertheless. Many F1 groups got here from there, and consultants like Prodrive would develop vehicles too. So, after I found the British Touring Automotive Championship on TV – and noticed vehicles which weren’t Japanese racing – I turned obsessive about the look and velocity.”


Lack of assets meant that Akiyama-san would by no means have the ability to go precise racing – regardless of dabbling with the world of hill climb in a Subaru Legacy briefly – however the subsequent neatest thing could be to have the appear and feel of a “preventing” machine on the highway as an alternative.


“I realised when doing hill climb that, as a lot as I benefit from the quick driving, I get pleasure from the appear and feel of the vehicles much more,” Akiyama-san provides. “I all the time thought the BTCC Alfa Romeo was a good looking machine, so six years in the past I purchased my first Alfa 155 with the thought of customising it into my favorite racing automotive of the period.”


“Mockingly, I’ve by no means seen the precise race automotive in actual life – solely footage and movies. So, that is the most effective I can do with my assets. Whereas it’s a highway automotive beneath, it’s not comfy or quiet as a result of I run it so low with no inside. However it appears like a particular preventing machine, and on a winding highway you’ll all the time smile. I get to really feel like a racing driver at any velocity, any day of the week!”


For Niikura Kousuke, who has the unenviable activity of saying ‘Rydell’ each time he tries to explain his Volvo S40, he too shared a dream of turning into a racing driver from a younger age.


“Once I was younger, my father truly took me to an abroad race which was the British Touring Automotive Championship,” Kousuke-san explains.


“I used to be so shocked! I couldn’t imagine there was such an attention-grabbing race with road-looking vehicles. The velocity, sound and scent is addictive, and when rising up I wished to turn into a racing driver. However it’s not simple to do with out some huge cash, even if you happen to drive very quick. The urge to race by no means goes away, and I nonetheless wished to journey in a racing automotive.”


“After a while, I obtained my driving license and shortly determined to make a racing machine that I may additionally get pleasure from on the highway. The Volvo S40 was my favorite from the Tremendous Touring period of BTCC, and each drive appears like a tremendous expertise.”


Whereas Akiyama-san and Kousuke-san shared an analogous path rising up, Mashahiko Yamazaki – and his B5 Audi A4 – wasn’t initially impressed by the world of motorsport. However as an alternative, the world of console racing video games.


“My mother and father owned an Audi within the ’90s, and after I noticed the Tremendous Touring A4 on the PlayStation recreation I didn’t imagine they had been the identical automotive beneath,” Yamazaki-san recollects. “Many individuals love Japanese racing video games due to the bizarre Japanese vehicles. However it’s true that right here, we get pleasure from them due to the bizarre European vehicles that function. Particularly when there are racing machines included.”


“Race vehicles will all the time be the most effective in my view. They exist to be pushed very quick by the bravest drivers. And to create a automotive which has the identical type and feeling of the ’90s may be very nostalgic. I’ve a protracted solution to go till I’m full – I need the efficiency to match the visible. So, improvement will proceed into a correct racing machine.”


All three vehicles could have prioritised type over velocity initially, however what unites these buddies is the sensation they get when leaping behind the wheel – be that cruising the streets of Saitama or just commuting to work each morning. Requested whether or not any of the newer BTCC vehicles curiosity them, all three shortly agree that fashionable race vehicles (and fashionable vehicles usually) battle to seize their creativeness in the identical approach these constructed within the ’90s and ’00s did.


“After all, I benefit from the velocity of latest racing vehicles, however they’re additionally very totally different visually to the highway vehicles they’re primarily based on,” Akiyama-san provides. “We now have misplaced many iconic drivers, sponsors and liveries. However perhaps they’ll turn into iconic once more in years to come back? The ’90s will all the time be my period as a result of it’s what I grew up with. Newer race vehicles begin to all look the identical as a result of the foundations are so tight and improvement so comparable. They’re quicker, however not as emotional.”


Akiyama-san’s final level is a crucial one. New vehicles are arguably the most effective they’ve ever been, however that doesn’t all the time seize somebody’s creativeness both. On the planet of music, you may take heed to any track, anyplace on the planet by way of noise-cancelling headphones for an uncompromised expertise. But vinyl gross sales are at an all-time excessive; a format with imperfections which degrades over time and requires effort to search out.

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It’s human nature to gather and type attachments with belongings. And as we get nearer to full autonomous driving, the need for an unfiltered driving expertise solely will get larger, too. As a rustic which nonetheless embraces the fax machine as an appropriate communication format, don’t anticipate the Japanese to surrender their inside combustion race vehicles simply but.

Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter: markriccioni

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