This year's running of Motorsport Japan featured something rather interesting. On the Saturday there was a display of around 15 rally cars and, somewhat oddly, a brace of four Skyline R32s (though there's an obvious thread, they're all Group A machines). The thing that makes these cars so interesting is the incredibly well executed attention to detail. This is typical of Japan.
A good example is this Mitsubishi Evo mimicking Tommi Makinen's car from the 1999 season (where the Finn scored his fourth title on the trot). Take a look at the scrutineering sticker in the upper left hand corner, it's spot on. The level of detail on these cars is just insane!
Here's an excellent example of the late, great Colin McRae's Subaru Legacy from the Manx Rally (part of the British Rally Championship). I'm guessing this must have been 1991.
A close-up of one of the three Hasemi Motor Sport Skyline R32 tributes.
Unbelievably rare in Japan, I'd imagine this might be the only Ford Sierra Sapphire in the country. It is of course, a replica of Francois Delecour's Group A car from 1991. This is a later version of the car that replaced the RS200 in world championship rallying after Group B was outlawed. The Sapphire never won a world championship event and was pretty quickly succeeded by the Escort RS Cosworth in 1993, a car that chalked up a good number of wins before its successor, the ultra-successful Focus came on the scene in 1999…
The styling of the Sapphire is a vast improvement over early Sierras, and the front grille on this particular model (earlier image) shows where its successor's styling came from.
This is about the weakest example of a replicar among the bunch, drastically incorrect wheels taking away from an otherwise perfect cosmetic job. That GT-style rear wing doesn't help either.
The detailing was so good that there were actually examples of the same car from different seasons – proving there are a lot of die-hard Tommi Makinen (and Evo) fans in Japan.
Isn't this the 1998 Evo 4 that had the Shell livery only for the 1000 Lakes? Again, another Makinen mount.
Evo 3 – surely one of the best car designs I've ever seen. Absolutely love 'em.
There were also a few non-Japanese machines, mostly Peugeots (apart from that Sapphire). This looks to be a Rally Finland copy – I forget who the competitors were - but it was an all-Italian crew.
Here's another Grifone (Peugeot 'base team' from Italy) copy – and it's of Valentino Rossi's 206 the first time he competed on the Network Q Rally (Wales Rally GB).
Off in the distance I see a Group A R32….looking forward to checking that out in more detail.
This Impreza mimics an Arai Motorsport example that competed on Rally Japan.
Another view of that very impressive Evo 4 from the 1000 Lakes.
Here's a perfect Evo 3 example from the Rally De Espana.
And a flashback to someone who holds the accolade as the only entrant to win a World Rally Championship event for Spanish make SEAT, Toni Gardemeister. That win came on the 1999 WRC Monte Carlo Rally in an Ibiza kit car.
Here's another Evo 4, this one all decked out with lightpod for nighttime stages – remember those?
Ahhh yes, what collection of rallying machines would be complete without a Celica GT-Four WRC ST205, and particularly, a Didier Auriol-piloted example? Ironically, this one mimics his 1995 Rally de Espana machine, the only WRC event from which he was ever disqualified.
This was the only 'classic' rally car in the bunch, a Datsun 240Z, the car that saw such success on the Safari Rally in the early seventies. Interestingly, it had a 23e Monte Carlo Historique plaque on the bonnet (which was run in May this year). Wonder if that was authentic and the car actually contested the event.
And over to the JTC Group A touring cars from the early nineties.
There's something about those two pairs of round rear lights that I just can't get enough of. And of course the fact that these machines (the real ones), whilst looking almost identical to their road car cousins, were potent racing beasts.
Here's a perfect rendition of the Hasemi Motor Sport GT-R from 1991. Interestingly, this one is a re-make of the car that contested the Macau Grand Prix support race that year.
This is a well-executed replica of the 1993 FET Sports GT-R that raced in Group A's Division 1. Though the real car had gold BBS rims if memory serves…
This is a copy of the Hasemi Motor Sport-run UNISIA JECS GT-R from the same season. Wheels are incorrect as real car's were black.
Despite the minor inconsistencies, they all look great.
A shot from the rear of that 1991 Hasemi Motor Sport car of racing icon Masahiro Hasemi.
Apart from the colour of the wheels, this is perfect.
How's this for getting the details freakishly right? It's a replica participant sticker from the 1993 granddaddy of Group A meets, the late-season Inter Tec event at Fuji Speedway.
I just can't get enough of the rear of these BNR 32s…
For that matter, I feel the same way about the front of these cars too.
I'll end this post with one of the less famous liveries from that era, the Kyoseki machine of Toshio Suzuki and Akira Iida.
In conclusion, I'd have to say the enthusiasts who 'build' these cars are obviously fanatical, and cost doesn't seem to be an obstacle. I don't think I've come across the same type of thing in any other country – can anybody enlighten me? Is this popular in your part of the world, or is it a uniquely Japanese thing?
- Len Clarke