Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Official Guest Invite to 2017 NISMO Festival! (Part 2)

So after lunch, as I gazed out onto the pit below us, I saw the Nismo race team manually moving the R33 LeMans cars.  So, I sensed it might be a good idea to leave the warm, cozy Guest Room and back into the cold.

Ronnie Quintarelli walking past the blue car

Right when I got downstairs, I received a text message from my buddy Matt Rearick - he was coming back from lunch too so we arranged to meet up in one of the pits where some of HIS friends had fielded a race car.  As we were chatting we also got a text from Abe (visiting from Hawaii!) who had just finished the "pit walk" and so we had a mini ClubR33 meet right there! (Dino is a member actually...)

Ironically, in front of a (Z) 34 car...
As we all had places to go, we said our goodbyes and I went outside with Dino and Alessandro again.

Where I ran into this beauty!
It was about this time that Dino, good guy that he is, felt that Alessandro should be able to enjoy the machines a bit closer up - so he lent him his Press Pass, and the two started enjoying close up access to incredible machines.

Watching from a distance, I realized that for a member of the Press, Alessandro looked ridiculous taking photos only with his iPhone. So, I leant him my Nikon DSLR but asked him to focus on the 33 cars.

Here is Alessandro, practicing with the auto setting.

This was the best shot I could get, from afar with my iPhone
Here is the car close up, thanks Alessandro!

And the No 22 car, taken with my iPhone
And by Alessandro.
Alessandro and Dino, both exhausted by all the hard work.
But I have to say, Alessandro has a very good eye for photography. He knows how to get just the right angles.

Slightly different angle - which one do you prefer, this or the one above?

Probably my favorite photo by Alessandro that day.
Here are the machines from the other side (33s and 32s)
And before the cars were driven out, with their drivers for the day. Toshio Suzuki took this one.
And Masahiko "Match" Kondo, who started out first as a pop singer and then transitioned to race cars! He now runs his own team, but was one of the original drivers for this car at LeMans! 
nice closeup!

The Penzoil 23 from the side.
 Then, it was time for the LeMans cars to leave the pits and hit the race track!
Dino not really caring, but engaging in debate with Ronnie!

Although they weren't lapping at full speed (I'm guessing around 250kph?), it's hard to understand how fast these cars were going on photo, so here is a video I took from back up in the warm Guest Room.

It seemed too soon, but the cars started coming off the track.

Meanwhile Mr. GTR was busy getting his photo taken with two other greats - Hoshino-san and the Drift King! 
probably my favorite photo of the day. This car is just WOW
Match pulled the car in without issue. Not as pretty from above as the Clarion car IMO.
It was now about 4pm, and time to leave before the rest of the crowd also did. So, Dino and I gave Alessandro a ride to his rental car, and then we proceeded to try to beat traffic. We agreed to avoid the Tomei Expressway going home and have some fun doing so by taking the touge roads up in Hakone and going around the worst of the traffic on the Tomei.
But first, I had to get some gas, and for some reason the IS-F indicated it was low on oil, so we stopped off at a gas station to get that taken care of.
I guess even Toyota V-8s burn oil...
Unluckily, some genius decided to have an accident on the stretch of road right past where we would merge from the mountain road, which meant that our time back STILL took 6 hours! Mind you, in the morning we got to Fuji Speedway in about 90 minutes, so this was an all time worst. 
Here is the genius that caused the enormous traffic jam. Now how exactly does someone end up doing this?
Finally, the traffic cleared past Machida and we picked up enough speed for me to enjoy a fun drive home. Next year, I will think about getting a hotel room and staying the night, OR getting someone to drive ME out there...

I hope this two part chronology gave you a sense of what the Nismo Festival is like!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Official Guest Invite to 2017 NISMO Festival! (Part 1)

So taking a break from the Interior Modernization project - I have to publish my Speedhunters article first before continuing here - sorry everyone but thanks for understanding.  As a preview however, I will mention that, the Speedhunters  article will be about my visit to pick up my car from Worx Autoalarm after the leather dashboard had been installed, along with some optional extras! And my excuse for the delay is that I was waiting for Dino, who had come along with me, to share the photos he had taken because frankly, I am barely competent with a camera.

Anyway -  I was lucky enough to be offered a Guest Pass (and an A Paddock Parking pass - right up with the race drivers and Nissan execs) to attend this year's NISMO Festival which took place last Sunday, so naturally I decided to go.  While I took a lot of photos, what I'm posting here of course relate mainly to the Skyline R33.  Dino was there in his professional capacity (check out his Speedhunters article here for a more comprehensive look at the Festival), and my friend Alessandro, who owns but really doesn't drive his 34 GT-R, was also there and posted his impressions and some good photos on his blog.

Because there are so many photos, I've split this post into two parts, in chronological order following my day - Part 1 will be arrival until lunch, and then Part 2 from after lunch until the end. Which, if you read Dino's article, you know it took us 6 hours after leaving to get home...

Anyway we started the day early - I woke up at 0500 and picked up Dino, figuring he'd have a few tricks to share - I don't like crowds and I don't like traffic, so I was hoping by traveling with him I could avoid those. I also figured he could make some key introductions for future GT-R projects.
Note the A Paddock parking pass in the front windshield.
We arrived at Fuji Speedway at 0720, and were waived through by the security guards. We then made our way up to the parking lot closest to the main Pit Building (Pit Building A) and promptly parked in the front row. As I was parking, we saw pro racers Motoyama, Hoshino, Krumm, Matsuda, Quintarelli, and others all arrive in their personal cars.  All Nissans of course, with Krumm in his R35. Obviously, I was parking with the greats...

As we then made our way to the main pit area, we ran across many of the vendors setting up for the day - at Nismo Festival famous and not so famous vendors set up their wares, usually selling items at fairly hefty discounts.  Some of the items include cars! Dino and I killed some time chatting with Nakayama-san at Mine's, as well as a few other people at these shops.
This was not for sale, but it sure did attract attention.
These used BCNR33 parts WERE for sale...
90,000 yen for a beat up Nismo dual blade carbon spoiler. I passed.
For those of us into model cars...
Yokohama Tires, showing off their tire and wheel range. Next to HKS...
The Cockpit Wako cars, and in the back the main Pit Building
We started peeking into the various pits in the Pit Building and the drooling started...
Oh wow! The prototype KenMeri Racer that never got a chance to race!
And two legends right here! The original Hakosuka race cars!!
No crowds! Sneak peak of these awesome R33 machines...
No people! Sneak people of the inside of the Nismo Heritage Parts display tent (more on that later)
The gates opened to the public at 0800, so about 10 minutes before then we headed upstairs in the main pit building, where all of the conference and meeting rooms are located.
I have no idea why my iPhone reversed the photo, but this is what I was given to wear around all day. 
But even this Guest Pass didn't give me access to everything. The Press Room, for instance, was off limits to me...
So Dino and I went our separate ways.
But the Guest Room was open to me.
 I found my way to the Guest Room and walked in, unsure what to expect.  After checking my ID and signing in, I was lead to a very nice table.
Very cool. Reserved tables (for me) are always nice!
And the staff came running over, so naturally I asked for a coffee, black.
 Trackside seats!
Some diehard fans in the bleachers already. Too cold for me!
Just as I started sipping my coffee, I realized there was some activity on the track.  The first cars had starting warming up on the track.

After enjoying a few biscuits with my coffee, I heard a commotion outside on the parking lot side, so went to take a look.

Oh right. It's 0800. That means gates are open to the public, and those who have been waiting patiently (even some from the day before!) are now rushing in to try to grab bargains from the vendors!

It was just about then that Dino texted me that he was on the move; so we headed downstairs to check out the action.
The view from the second floor - you can just make out my Lexus.

Somehow Dino convinced me to hang outside the pits trackside - Bonus points for anyone who can spot me in his Speedhunters article photos.
R31 and Z goodness. Check out Dino trying to get the perfect shot.
 Dino kept making his way down the pit but we then turned around and wandered outside, first stopping by the GT-R Magazine booth.
All 5 generations on display here!
And then I spotted something to make any boy happy.

It's JDM Lightning McQueen!

I think it was about this point where I realized it wasn't a GT-R...
But who cares! Well done!
 I think it was about this time Alessandro met up with us, having patiently waited outside with the other paying ticket folks. Because I wanted to check out the 33 machines, we headed back to the pits and found them being checked before their track runs later in the day.

While this isn't a video of the 33 machines, this is the kind of noise (music?) we experienced when checking out the pits.

Without Dino, Alessandro and I then wandered over to the exit gate to the track, curious to see what kind of machines were being driven back in.
You can just make out the lead R35 GTR Pace car
Holy smokes! Two beautiful 400Rs!!! 
And just like that, off they go back to their special parking lot...
 As Alessandro and I walked back towards the Pit Building, he found something familiar...
This BCNR33 with NISMO striping.
Readers of his blog will recall this post from his visit to last year's NISMO Festival where he spotted the same car. To be honest though, the car wasn't in good shape. Sure, it may have the NISMO R1 crate engine, but without looking under the bonnet it's hard to tell. But the carbon bonnet itself did not look well taken care of, and I'm not a fan of those LED lights in the front bumper...maybe some day I'll meet the owner and we can swap notes. In any case, he seems to be more addicted to NISMO parts than even me.

Speaking of NISMO, we then walked over to the tent which was showcasing NISMO's new Heritage Parts Collection.
The intercooler isn't new, but those brake lines and period correct R32 GTR brake calipers are!
New fuel tank too. 
NISMO also had several parts on the walls of the tent "being considered." I guess we will see whether or not NISMO makes them.  NISMO also had all of their Clubman Sports cars on display, as well as a new package they are now offering early model R35 owners, to bring their cars up to the latest specs.

We found Dino and then followed him back to the pits where we also found these cars again.
Ready to go!
Almost forgot about this one!
Finally, it was time to meet up with my hosts who had invited me to the event, so I parted with Dino and Alessandro and made my way back to the Guest Room, where I had a free lunch and drinks waiting for me.
Of course, Japanese bento lunches
After a quick meet and greet, we decided to hold off on lunch and walk over to the other side of the track to the Event Area to check out what NISMO was offering for sale to the public. This meant crossing UNDER the main track, but it was a nice 10 minute walk.
This tent grabbed my attention first.
Inside they were selling various NISMO parts at a small (10-15%) discount. 
Discounted and tempted but my wallet and bank say otherwise
I have one of these somewhere... gotta find it.
Interesting - I forgot to ask why Nismo was selling Tomei Powered parts... (likely used in one of their engines)
 But this wasn't what I was expecting, so I walked outside looking for where all the other parts might be sold. And across the way, I saw:
But I was likely too late. All the good stuff gone. Here is the line for the BNR32/BCNR33/BNR34 related parts.
 Disappointed but secretly relieved I would not torture my finances, my host and I continued to wander around.

Very cool - the 390 Race car!

My host however was trying to find some Nismo Festival limited edition model cars, and so I lost him, but I did see that some model cars were on sale.
Hey I just saw the real thing in the pits!
This one too!

Ok that's expensive.... 30,000 yen for a model? I have parts I want for my actual car...
 This being a Nissan/NISMO event, Nissan was also taking advantage to show off some of their cars.

New Nissan LEAF. Uh, no gas engine there sir.
Red Nissan Serena with their ProPilot technology (I wonder if it could be retrofitted to my GT-R...)
NISMO Note. I'm actually curious about this - would it be significantly better to drive versus the regular Nissan Note?
That's more like it. Although the design getting a bit old...
Finally, my host reappeared with his hard won limited edition model cars, and we walked back to the Guest Room for a bento lunch.

Quite beautiful bottom layer, with assortment of chicken, vegetables and fish
Top layer had two different kinds of rice dishes and some tempura
And right as I finished lunch and was checking to the schedule to see what was happening in the afternoon, I run into THIS guy:
Tamura-san, or Mr. GTR!
It was only after I took this selfie did I realize I forgot to ask for his autograph! Darn! Well I guess I'll just have to hunt him down at Tokyo Auto Salon...

In any case, an eventful morning.  The afternoon would prove to be just as excited, stay tuned for Part  2 coming soon...