First and foremost I would like to thank @86fighters for helping making this trip possible. Thank you Kez for not only showing me around but all your enthusiasm and time. It means the world brotha.
If you’ve never been to Japan in August, allow to paint a picture for you. It’s typically high 90’s or even 100 Fahrenheit. Humidity is right up there as well and there are mosquitos everywhere..and to be honest they had me at my wits end a few times. If i may make a recommendation based on things I learned on this trip…
Do bare in mind that certain cloth types and colors show sweat! Wear clothes darker colors or a material that hides moisture, especially for pants. It’s easy to overlook and even easier to notice, but not until it’s too late. I didn’t let this ruin my day. Still sent it. Bug spray goes a long way here. You could convince yourself it’s not worth the trouble of spraying.. until you get mauled and are passively itching yourself raw. Now to the fun part.
Seeing drifting at Meihan is something else. The drivers come around the last corner, finding the balance between gripping and drifting to get the most amount of speed possible for the straight.
From there it’s usually a quick tug of the wheel towards the wall then a sharp jab away from it. The speed of the rotation and the angle of the entry seems unnatural. As if it’s too cool to be possible. But that’s the standard here. Sometimes you get lucky enough to feel the air as they blow by you. Surreal...
To take the right line involves a great deal of risk. There is a huge level of commitment you have to make as a driver. The car relies on the grip from the rear tires to ‘push’ the car away from the wall. Gauging the grip level at that speed and angle… geez.
Mistakes do happen. The smallest hiccup could result in a crash. Here’s Naoki’s run that ended the day for his coupe. Yes, the coupe that he JUST got fixed. It happens. Glad he was able to continue driving in other cars undeterred.
I overheard that his e-brake got stuck up when he initiated. That caused a slight over rotation and also increased the amount of time until he was able to get back on throttle to slow down before he reached the wall. Honestly, I’m impressed he drove the car off the track. He didn’t even come to a stop after he crashed.. So casual, nothing to see here.
Straight away the team was figuring out how to tackle the rest of the day. It was decided that Naoki and Miki would share a car. Unfortunately that didn’t work out too well as it ended up in the wall when the rain came. Naoki ended up retrieving his S14 from the shop.
I can’t remember experiencing heavier rain that what I saw at Meihan that day. The water made the track incredibly slick and a good portion of the competitors ended up in the wall.
Like many cars before, this s13 meet it’s fate on the wall and ended rolling over. He was quickly assisted out of the car and it was flipped back over within a few moments.
There lives a theme here in the kansai. The ride height is considered high. Those in the know will call it functional; and that’s resonates into every aspect of the style.
One idea that stuck with me after the event was the difference in what some drivers commit to. On one hand you have people who commit themselves, their energy, their identity to a car. They take the mended metal and fiberglass as a form of expression. These are people that love their cars. They care for their cars and don’t want to ruin them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the drivers who are committed to pushing themselves as far as they can go. They are there for the feeling. More so, addicted.
The cars WILL get battered. They will be broken, then repaired. They will be totaled, rolled, flipped and smashed. But you won’t see anything other than a smile.
The cars are amazing. The level of driving is beyond what I am used to, but the attitude is what gets me the most. It’s the fearlessness and acceptance that nothing lasts forever. It’s knowing that what you’re building is more than a car, but something immeasurable.
I’m happy to have experienced this day as a photographer and spectator. But I left unsatisfied. As great as everything was I’m still hungry for a bit more. It’s now a goal of mine to drive this event someday. Life’s a trip.