A couple weeks ago Eric from Kunigan mentioned Akio Kanasaka (a.ka. Mellow) invited him to Tokushima Kart Land (TKL) for an open drift day. If you're not familiar with Mellow he's one of the coolest guys around and a very high-level driver who is known for the insane reverse entries he pulls off in his JZX90. Eric has been dedicated to visiting other tracks this year so he obviously said yes. I told him to take plenty of pictures and make sure they were in landscape orientation so I could use them on the blog!
As it turns out it wasn't actually a drift day, but a competition being put on by Garage Dangomushi, which is a regular occurrence in Japan. Each year a shop will rent a track out for a day and host a Soukoukai (basically a practice day) and most of them seem to include a competition. Track rental fees for private events in Japan are pretty reasonable and driver entry fees easily cover it.
TKL is located on the island of Shikoku, a good five hour drive from Iwakuni. Since the track isn't particularly dangerous Eric just drove his S15, while Mellow brought his JZX90 on his carrier. While trucks and pull behind trailers are the norm in the US, they're pretty rare setups in Japan. Most either drive their car to and from the track or have slide off carriers like Mellow's. Recently, I've noticed a few US style trailers being pulled by trucks. Hirota (owner of Make Hirota) actually has one and mentioned how expensive they are in Japan (think more than twice US pricing).
I've driven TKL myself a few times and it's a gorgeous setting. Like many of the popular tracks in Japan it's, as the name suggests, a kart track. While it's not particularly fast it's fun and technical with nice sweepers and more elevation change than you would expect.
Eric found himself parked next to a long line of Silvias. In Japan, many tracks have a very distinct style most of the cars adopt, which is a reflection of a major tuner or maker in the area. For example, the closer to you get Fukuoka the more Uras style setups you see (think Sekia Hills before they closed). Meihan outside of Osaka has tons of Origin and D-Max styled cars. TKL is sort of in "no man's land" so you get a melting pot of styling.
The S13 and Silvia still seem to be the most popular platform, but that isn't going to be true for long. It's getting harder and harder to find a good S13 Silvia these days. The dwindling numbers and rising prices are being perpetuated by the fact that they're legal for import into the US so everyone is trying to cash in. I remember buying solid S13s for a grand. Those days are long gone...
Mellow ready for some action. In addition to being a great driver, he's also a talented tattoo artist. He entered expert class in the competition of course.
Starting off the day with the driver's meeting. These are pretty straightforward affairs where the judges talk about how the competition will run and what they're looking for in terms of lines, etc.. The judges for this competition were D1 drivers Akira Hirajima and Seimi Tanaka. Because it was his first time driving TKL Eric was entered into beginner class.
This was Eric's first time meeting Tanaka (on the right), who apparently owns TKL in addition to being a pro driver. Hirajima is on the left and has been a big supporter of Eric's and has attended many of the events he has driven at. In addition to being a D1 driver as well, Hirajima also runs the company D-Max.
It turned out to be a fairly big competition with plenty of entries in each class. The two-door ER34 above definitely gets a big thumbs up. The years these came out (before the BNR34) I remember stopping by the Nissan dealer in Iwakuni and taking one for a test drive.
Despite having never driven TKL, Eric was leading beginner class by a large margin. Unfortunately during his initial runs his Silvia started losing power...
The culprit turned out to be the bolts holding the turbo to the manifold. They had backed off completely and were long gone. Unfortunately this killed Eric's final runs and dropped his score significantly.
Thankfully Mellow had some spare nuts and locking tabs so Eric was able to get the Silvia back on the track and finish out the day during the free runs.
From this angle you an really see just how much change in elevation there in coming to the judged corner. It's basically the opposite of Hadashi where you are coming downhill into the first corner.
A great shot of Mellow doing what he does. This is coming out of the first corner where it starts heading downhill. You can pick up a good deal of speed in this section.
Interesting S15. I'm pretty sure Eric's Silvia is going to end up this color. At first I thought that was an Origin Racing Line rear bumper, but I'm pretty sure it's Moze aero, which you don't see too often.
Closer shot of that ER34. While I like the 4-doors better, the 2-doors still look great. Prices have come down on them a bunch so they're becoming a pretty affordable choice. With the solid RB25DET Neo under the hood they make reliable power out of the box.
Despite the handicapped final runs, Eric's initial scores were still high enough to land him in third place. The judges told him next time he competes at TKL he can no longer enter Beginner class.
Hadashi GP is up next for Eric, who will be entering Intermediate class for the last time. After that Hayashi has forbidden him from entering anything other than Expert.