It’s now nearing the end of the short life span that is the Sakura flower. Their fleeting beauty sure floods Facebook feeds and other social networks with a insane amount of white and pink, and of course, drunk people everywhere celebrating the yearly ritual of Hanami.
But, before all of that happened just, before they started to bloom, we, and you could probably say us “drifters” headed off to Fuji once again for the Panty Glimpse event hosted by Team Freees and Team Low Brain.
The event marked the last time my friend Ryohei was able to drive his Hachi Roku legally until he gets the car re-shakened. If you’re not familiar with the shaken, its a pretty gruelling test that decides if your car is road worthy. With that in mind, we left the house roaring down the streets. I guess since it’s a Hachi I could say buzzing, it makes it sound cuter and more “Japanese” quote on quote, but the thing is seriously loud.
The tires were rubbing a bit in the back and the beefed up diff was making all sorts of cool car noises that people from the real world might not understand. We loved it.
Ryohei and I did a rolling meet-up on the freeway out to Fuji. Passing Ebina and then all of a sudden popping sneakily up into the rear view mirror was another Ae86. A hatch.
Up until about the Gotenba exit both the cars weaved around the big, slower trucks with the classic ting ting ting ringing from the dash of the Carolla as we exceeded 105-ish kilometers an hour; peddling the throttle and just muckin’ about.
After exiting and arriving at a smaller PA on the low roads near Fuji we got out and jumped into another Freees member’s van to warm up and chit chat until the rest of them arrived.
What seemed to be an hour later or so took forever because I was bouncing off the walls of the car hyped up on a big monster and some coffee. I didn’t sleep that much the night before obviously.Finally Iishi and the rest of the guys arrived. Bang! Ryo’s car ground slowly to a stopped position. He got out, pulled his beanie down further over his head and whipped out his lighter and snapping it closed almost as fast. With a cigarette in his mouth he walked over to meet up with everyone else while the car let out a throaty idle as the turbo timer ticked down.Everyone stood around and chatted for a bit with a sense of disregard for the event that had pretty much already started. We caught up with each other and then left for the event.
Ryo’s car is so cool! The first time I saw it was in a cell phone message and I replied saying, “Nice RC car”, or something along those lines.
To which a response came, “No, that’s Ryo’s 180.”
“No way~”, I thought and zoomed into the picture to confirm.
On the way to the track I got really excited just watching what seemed like a sculpted brick floating a few millimetres off the ground wiz along the the countryside roads.
We arrived as a group at the entrance to the drift park or “Doripa” as it’s called and continued inside only to be brought to a halt as Ryo was having trouble getting over one of the grates. Quickly I jumped out to help and Iishi came from the car behind us with some blocks of wood. Ryo gently edged back up onto the angled block and then we set a few blocks in front of his wheels like a bridge and he rolled on over smoothly into the park. It felt like we were moving a huge heavy object with logs and by that time I could see heads turning over where the rest of the drift cars had been parked.
Finally parked, I unloaded my stuff and then ran over to check in with the Low Brain guys and provide any assistance that was needed. Of course, in the midst of everything I met up and said hi to my buddies from Chiba, in fact, most of Team Enjoy had come out to drift. The day pretty much started as I took this picture. Team Enjoy x Natural HighRight after polishing the rear end of Tomoya’s car with his butt and giving the camera the finger, Ryo went over to talk to Tomoya. I took this shot of Tomoya about to bust up laughing while Ryo offered him a light. It’s always fun to hang with “Enjoy.” A bunch of guys just getting to up to random shit!
The order of events really wasn’t set in stone and I don’t quite recall them exactly but a few test runs by Hiroshi and another young gun with an convertible 180 hit the track first. I picked up my skate board and shot down the paddock with the days schedule and a litre of wheat tea in a bag grapsed firmly in my hand.
From the centre of the paddock looking out to the left is where cars enter and exit the track and like last time I excitedly took to my job helping get the event underway by manning post as the “flag man”.Just as a side note (I was staff): Whether you are driving throughout the day or not, I highly recommend some form of small transportation. Last time I used an old 1970′s Acty that was part of the Low Brain family. This time around I anticipated the fact the Acty might not be in service, and brought my skateboard. It definitely was much easier to get around, faster, and gave me more time to rest. It also provided everyone with something entertainment or something mess with here and their during breaks. (If I let them, haha)
On a different note, I’ve noticed after rereading my past blog entries that they tend to fall out during the body. For those of you that care, I’ve been trying to work on getting better at not completely dropping my story by using my photos as a replacement for text. However, usually most of the driving happens during the middle of the post and therefore, I don’t have very much to say. It’s not always the easiest thing to do but bear with me.This Crown, a regular on a certain touge came all the way out to Fuji as well as a few other people that I have seen on the touge. You might recognize some of them from past blog or Facebook posts. It’s become somewhat of a tradition–a ritual if you may, to use blow up sex dolls or, in Japanese; Dutch Wives as cones or marker pillons at the Low Brain affiliated events. Above are the extras that didn’t make the cut, hah! But really, we took these and later strapped them to the inside wall separating the pits and the course to give everyone a target to aim at when whipping in and yanking the e-brake. It was pretty funny when Kentaro stuffed all them in the back of his KP with the trunk open and raced down the paddock access lane. Everyone was cracking up.The wind started picking up throughout mid day and I decided to take a break and let some of the other new guys have a go at waving the flag. Hopping on my skateboard I took the chance to snap away a few film shots. A little while later I ran into Yuu and Park getting ready to do a conbini run so I jumped in the Wagon R and we shot off to 7/11 to grab a bento. I wasn’t feeling the greatest, a lack of sleepless nights, hardly any food and nerves had put my stomach on edge but I ate what I could. I strolled around after eating, checking out the cars and snapping a few more photos. The quieter guy from Low Brain, Yasuda-san giving me some funny looks in a few of my photos.
I headed back to the course entrance and once again picked up the flags. We run the course in a rotation so people can have a different taste of the track. Like how people need to work on their backhand in tennis because they are naturally better with one hand, when drifting I think this can be said for the direction that you prefer to drift in, as well as the seat you sit in. Left, right, right hand drive, left hand drive, its good to get a feel for everything. I stepped out onto the course and directed the first group onto the course, cars left the pit with their back tires spinning and the screams of the motor shooting out the exhaust. Everyone was out on course and drifting within minutes. An absolutely clear blue sky with only a few huge fluffy clouds lofting over the track provided a nice backdrop for about 30 or 40 minutes until one of the Frees cars that had been having trouble since the morning dropped a bunch of oil on course. Everyone was red flagged off course and the focus shifted down onto the pavement as the clean up party began. Regarding oil spills, it wasn’t the first or the last of the day and everyone stood around while the staff, (Frees, Low Brain and friends) got to work cleaning up.
Not nearly 20 minutes later the Maccomons JZX100 Chaser came in pretty hot entering along the straight against the birm near the paddock and hit a patch of slippery asphalt. As I watched it happen I reached for the red flag and quickly jumped out onto the field. I yelled at the other guys near me to go quickly check on him and help. He had lost traction, locked up in a funky spin, and came sliding straight into the concrete barrier nailing it on the corner.Probably the worst place to hit causing maximum damage to his car. Everyone stopped quickly after seeing the red flag and the crash. Instead of exiting the course they all parked in relatively neat rows and came over to help and watch.The car was pretty much totalled. Yuu and a few other guys brought down jacks and lifted the front end of the car while a member of Freees used his Tacoma pull the car around. Then, with the support of a bunch of guys from the trunk of the car, we guided it into the pit while still rolling roughly along the ground on the floor jacks.That was by far the biggest crash of the day but we did have a few guys blow turbos and cause some other damage. It’s just expected. Everyone knows it and while there isn’t much time to be sad about it. You can always sense the slight pain that they feel. But, give it some time and those guys will be back in full swing with rebuilt machines ready to fight again. The damage to his wheel after the crash–well, not much of a wheel now I guess.
I kept on going as the flag man after the crash and then took a small rest to easy my wrist from battling against the gusting wind all day. I returned just in time to start the “Free” session. Basically, after all the heats finish the remaining time is split up into blocks of time where anyone can enter the track. It gives people who have more tires to run longer, teams to drift with each other, and people from different heats to meet up on track and drift with each other. It usually is the most exciting time to watch, well, at least in my opinion. The sessions are split for a few reasons, one being that if you drive an AE86 for example, (like this one)you can probably outlast many other cars on tire wear. The track is also limited to about 10-12 cars (depends on event I think) during “Free” session. So, to keep things a little more fair, we take everyone off and then let the first in line out on track almost immediately. This forces a cycle and provides everyone with a chance to drive during free session. I had asked a few people for rides while I was waiting and doing my job. You know, its only natural to want to ride along. I only recently bought a car and I still can’t drive it so at least getting one ride along in during the day would satisfy me. My luck wasn’t to great trying match up who and when was going to be driving but, if possible I just wanted to ride along with at least one person before the event ended. I had brought my helmet down to the pit just incase anyone had a free seat available and just as the last free session was about to start my luck hit a sweet spot. I ran over and asked the first guy in line, in a red S15 slammed to the ground, if it was okay if I ride with him.
“Sure” he quickly replied,
Excited at the opportunity, I raced over and grabbed my helmet, handed off the flags to the nearest guy, ran back and jumped in the car. I straightened my helmet and pulled the strap tight, and we were off. We did one or two laps to warm up the tires and just to check the vitals to make sure everything was cool. Then flat out down the straight and double fainting into the corner. I look back and there are three more cars in right behind us riding in tandem close to the door. The girl in the passenger seat in the car behind me was filming and I threw a peace sign for the camera, or to embrace my Japanese side. I can’t think of which. (Haha) It just went on and on, run after run. Extremely exciting to be in and amongst the last runs of the day. I’m sure people spectating were just as stoked to be watching them from outside.I pushed open the door, jumped out of the car and said my thanks. Walking over to the pit area all jittery with excitement and began cleaning up. It all takes time and while people had already started to leave, after the small awards ceremony the staff continued to work until it was almost dark, all of us alone in the twilight shadowed by Mt. Fuji looming in the background.
Unfortunately one of my rolls of film came out bad. It’s just something you have to deal with when you shoot on film. Sometimes shit just happens you know. There’s always a risk that something goes wrong when taking a picture and this isn’t limited to just film. However, that roll was shot around the end of the day and so I have nothing to show for that section of time aside from my words. Hopefully you can suffice with two pictures of some travellers from down south. Again, I want to thank everyone for coming out from such a variety of places. People came from as far as Hiroshima and it brings about a great atmosphere to the event. Hopefully sometime soon we can prepare a little bit better and have a real proper event. Or maybe, repay the favour and travel south as many of you have traveled north to participate in one of your events.
☆All photos were taken with film☆
PS. I plan on following this up with some more special posts on a few cars and other things from this event.