AMATEUR ENDURANCE: IDLERS 12H IN MOTEGI
UDino Dalle Carbonare
PAugust 1, 2012
Racing is all about the experience. In a perfect world we would all have the necessary skills and financial support to make it as pro drivers, but 99.9% of the time that’s just not the case. But who’s to tell us that we can’t enjoy time on track, it might not be competitive at the level the pros do it, but participating alone gives us all the satisfaction we would ever want.
That’s where the idlers Club comes in. Aimed at amateur racers it has quickly become an unmissable series, a few races a year that help those with a passion for driving, get out on track in a race-like environment.
Seike-san, on the mic above, is the creator of idlers and the driving force behind the success of the series. A racer himself he knows that a little competition is necessary to intensify the experience of any amateur driver, something that one just can’t get from random soukoukai events.
The sheer number of participants at this past weekend’s race in Motegi is testament to how well this whole concept has gone down, and it was equally exciting for yours truly as after covering countless idlers events at Tsukuba, it was my first time at the 12 hour race. So after hanging out with the RWB crew at Nakai-san’s shop and then traveling to the track in the middle of the night it was time to check out some action, starting off with the driver’s meeting at 6 am.
After a couple of hours of sleep in the car I awoke to a buzzing paddock as most teams had set up their tents and were well and truly ready for some racing. Kumho Japan was at the event too, offering support and tire changing services to those running their rubber. It’s great to see events like these receive support from established brands.
As Seike-san continued his briefing, explaining all the rules and flags to participating drivers I took a quick walk through the pits to see what other cars had turned up. I noticed an instant difference to the usual idlers events I had previously seen at Tsukuba. The usual cars were not present, only a handful of vintage European and Japanese rides and a whole lot of newer cars, at least to me. The reason behind this is simple; being an endurance race the strain on cars is quite obvious so what participants do is create teams of 4 to 6 drivers (sometimes more, sometimes less) and chip in to build up a car capable of taking the abuse of 12 hours’ worth of hard driving.
Most tend to pick cheap and reliable cars like this E36 318is of Team Alzu & Trantian…
…or various generations of the Eunos Roadster.
It was cool seeing Italian cars like this Alfa Romeo 147 GTA…
…and the Nissan March! I spent a month driving a March in Italy (called Micra in Europe) one summer and it was a surprisingly fun car! Thin tires and slippery roads means plenty of lift-off oversteer practice around roundabouts!
One of the newest cars in the line up was this NC from Asayake Racing entered in the GT-S2 class.
Team Bond in the Euro-4A class had a nice 318is sporting a M3 front bumper. Everyone was ready with plenty of tires and jerry cans for the continuous fueling that would be going on throughout the race. The little gas station in the Motegi paddock was busy pumping hi-oku gas all day!
What sort of race event would it be if there weren’t at least a few JDM race queens to snap pictures of! Some teams brought their own girls who as usual were attracting more attention than the cars themselves!
Meanwhile back in the Team RWB pits Nakai-san was giving a speech in English to all of the guys from the US and Thailand that had come over for the event. It was important that everyone knew the rules and the appropriate racing etiquette in Japan, which at times is slightly different from other countries.
A driver list for each of the five 911 that Nakai-san had prepared was hung on the wall of the pits so that everyone knew who was driving what, and when.
About forty minutes before the 8 am race start the gates to the home straight were opened and teams were allowed to push the cars onto their respective starting positions.
This was the perfect time to grab those team group shots…
…and a great way to take a closer look at the cars away form the cramped pits. This orange AE86 of Team T-Style was made up of a lot of RWB customers and strangely enough was one of only three hachiroku participating.
Another was one of Nojima’s many AE86s, Nakai-san’s painter and the guy behind Nojireal, a shop that sooner or later I will have to feature!
While reliability is important so is lightness, because a lighter car will not only drink less fuel but be far easier on things like tires and brake pads. In turn this means less pit stops and in a 12 hour race that makes a lot of difference. So it was cool to see so many little Peugeot 106s…
…this little KP61 Starlet…
…and this EG4 Civic which was sporting a curious wood-like vinyl wrap!
Further down the massive 95-car grid I came across another 147 GTA, this time part of Team FKR which was running two of them.
No this isn’t one of Shelby’s legendary creations, but rather a miniature version of it, the cute little Baby Cobra!
And this was a very welcome surprise. Power House Amuse teamed up with pro drive Takeshi Ooi and put together this Toyota 86 endurance racer running a few new parts like their R1 Titan Extra exhaust system and Hi Tech dampers. This is a superb way to test out these new parts and great to see some cool new Amuse cars.
More Alfa Romeo goodness with this 155 Twin Spark from Scuderia Destino.
The S2000 proved to be a popular choice for some teams like the guys from Team Gulf who were also running a Porsche 911.
And so at 8 am the race kicked off.
With the sheer number of cars participating the first twenty or so laps were quite interesting, seeing the typical idlers-like mix of cars tackle the challenging corners of Motegi. I mean where else can you see a Kei car going head to head against a RWB 911!
This event is all about having fun so even if it is a competitive race, most drivers are taking care of their cars, driving conservatively and not attempting crazy overtaking maneuvers. The Citroën 2CV Special of Club Alph Plus was using all its 602 cc to attempt to keep ahead of the RWB Tunerhaus. This car was hilarious around the track, the soft suspension making it lean over at crazy angles!
As the race proceeded, the cars began getting more and more mixed up…
…with refueling stops and driver changes every 30 or so minutes.
Nakai-san had asked drivers to limit themselves to 5,500 rpm for the first half of the race, not stressing the engine and transmission with unnecessary heroic moves.
Endurance racing is all about pacing oneself, conserving the car and being strategic with pit stop timing.
Motegi is a superb track, mixing in tight hairpin bends with third to fourth gear sweeping turns as well as plenty of elevation and camber changes.
It’s a track that I don’t really head to much these days; I used to cover Super Taikyu and Porsche Cup events there often as well as the Moto GP and Indy but it isn’t as popular with tuners and the tuning scene as Tsukuba and Fuji are.
Perfect car to see at Motegi, a DC2 Integra Type-R! There are a few racing versions of this car on display at the Honda Collection Hall about a 5-min drive from the track, still within Motegi’s premises.
After risking heat stroke a few times, I decided to head back to the pits after lunchtime. I wouldn’t be able to cover the race until the end this time so I wanted to check out some more behind the scenes stuff…
…as more RWB cars pitted in.
Mark Arcenal of Fatlace had just finished his stint and was very impressed with the circuit and the race itself. Everyone out there seemed to be having a great time, which is what these events are all about.
Further down the pits the number 46 Starlet pitted for a quick tank-full of gas, before shooting off again with another driver at the wheel.
I may not have gotten to see the race until the end but what I witnessed at Motegi on Sunday was a great insight to the world of amateur endurance racing.
I came away impressed with the organization of such a huge event, with the friendly atmosphere and the true brotherhood that ties each team together. This is definitely something that I will have to experience first hand, at least once in my life.
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
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