The fact that RAYS has been a Speedhunters supplier for such a long time is something I’ve always been so happy about.
Even before I got my start as an automotive journalist, RAYS wheels were the ones I lusted over. They’ve always been synonymous with motorsport and the JDM tuning scene, a crossover that I’m sure everyone loves seeing and being able to tap into. The crazy thing is, this hasn’t changed one single bit over the years.
I regularly catch up with the team from RAYS at events and shows around Japan, and I’ve previously also visited their HQ in Osaka to see the company’s vast history firsthand. Aside from the fact that most of the RAYS folk are enthusiasts themselves, knowing that they simply ‘get it’ makes our community happy.
But what does ‘get it’ mean? Simple, it’s about knowing where you came from and what made you great, and understanding what your customers want. RAYS have always stayed true to this. They continue to relentlessly invest in R&D while applying their technology to various motorsport disciplines, from grassroots to the pinnacle, and then allow it to trickle down to their regular production.
RAYS also know not to meddle with the designs that have made them what they are, which is why we see iconic wheels like the TE37 still in production. They’ve found a balance that works, something not easy to achieve.
So where am I going with all of this? Well, I’m attempting to set the tone for a visit to Fuji Speedway I made earlier this week.
The RAYS World Tour is an event for the media and RAYS’ distributors around the world. Except we are now in 2020 and RAYS aren’t able to do such activations for obvious reasons. The solution? Hold one in their domestic market and stream it online.
Call it a celebration of what RAYS and their products stand for, and a thank you to the industry and motorsport partners for their continuous work and support. In the end it was just a cool get-together, where I was able to spend a few hours checking out cool demo cars, race cars, and of course the entire RAYS 2020 wheel lineup.
So I’ll walk you through what this pretty epic day was all about, starting off with this super-clean Z10 Soarer belonging to one of RAYS’ sales representatives. It sits so perfectly on a set of Volk Racing TE37Vs.
One corner of the paddock was dedicated to a variety of Japanese automotive tuning and customization shops, all of whom are involved with the distribution and/or sales of RAYS wheels. A car that instantly stood out was this Golf GTI from RacingLine. It sits on the G025, the latest addition to the single-piece forged Volk Racing wheel range.
I’m naturally drawn to any TE37 variation.
The variety I mentioned also included a pair of drift cars, one of which was the new A90 Supra that Ito-san and his team at Do-Luck have put together for Kawabata’s 2020 D1 Grand Prix programme. The D1GP season kicked off the other weekend, but will only have four or so rounds this year.
I’ve been following the build of this car in the digital realm via all the updates that Ito-san puts up on social media, but seeing it up close was something else.
Forget your 2JZ swaps, this is the mother of all engine transplants based upon a Toyota/Lexus 3UZ 4.3L V8 equipped with a pair of rather large turbos. And then there’s the sound… As the exhaust manifolds cross up under the engine to play around with the pulses, the result is more Italian flat-plane crank V8 than a traditional American V8.
The build has so many cool features, from the thick-gauge roll cage to the way the radiators are mounted in a vee configuration at the rear. Do-Luck even fitted Lexus ES rear-view camera mirrors that feed an LCD display in the cabin. The switch panel is a touch-screen LCD too.
The other drift car was also a Do-Luck A90, this time for another Team Toyo driver, and again with a 3UZ swap.
However, instead of twin turbos, there’s a big single providing the boost.
JDM classics meet some German metal.
I spent some time checking out the 3D Design BMW 8 Series, mostly due to its wheels.
This is the new GT090, which is forged, 21-inches in diameter, and quickly becoming a popular choice for owners of European sports cars that require large wheels. Check out how each spoke has been carved out and the three oval openings created to shave off precious weight. It’s pretty incredible what you can do with forged wheels these days without impacting their structural integrity and rigidity.
The RAYS Versus Mode Forged (VMF) C-01 wheels fitted to this Audi RS5 (and the McLaren you would have a seen a bit earlier) were created with origami as the inspiration. They seem like a good fit for higher end performance cars where design is always an important factor.
This is a very cool BMW M2 Convertible, which of course shouldn’t really exist. It was built by Studie AG and is based on a M235i drop-top, but with pretty much the entire driveline and blistered body panels carried over from the M2. It’s so wild that it really does deserve a proper feature…
EVs deserve cool rims too.
Given its popularity in Japan (there’s still an 18-month waiting list to buy one!), I wasn’t at all surprised to see a modified Suzuki Jimny in attendance. As more orders are placed, the Japanese aftermarket continues to create parts for the mini SUV.
The Two Brothers Racing Jimny was parked alongside a Toyota Hiace – one of the best selling vehicles in Japan, and also the most stolen vehicle in the country. I call this van the Japanese pick-up, because that’s pretty much what people here use it as – a customizable utility vehicle that can be transformed to carry anything and serve all purposes. And when they’re slammed on dished wheels, I can’t help but think about adding one to the Dino fleet.
A RAV4 is more your thing? RAYS has you covered with the right set of wheels.
Moving inside, RAYS staff had prepped an air-conditioned room for the official part of the day. While we waited for the presentation to begin, everyone had a chance to check out pretty much the entire 2020 RAYS wheel range.
My small obsession with the TE37 meant that I pretty quickly ended up in front of the latest limited edition Super Lap version. Having recently found out that the 19-inch CE28Ns I currently run on Project GT-R are now out of production in that diameter, I must remove them and store them away as classics.
But what to replace them with?
I may need some help to not only choose the model, but the color too.
Here in Japan we are still taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19, and as such there was plenty of distance between the chairs in the presentation room. We were even gifted RAYS-branded face masks for an extra layer of protection.
Mine-san, RAYS’ Chief Operating Officer soon took to the stage to thank us all for attending, also stressing how the company will continue to pursue quality and innovation.
Special guests called in to say a few words included Hiroshi Tamura, better known as Mr. GT-R. Tamura-san is now involved in the next-gen Fairlady Z, which the rumormill suggests will be a real enthusiast car.
Next, I was signed up for a very interesting ride-along with Tetsuya Yamano, a famous and highly-respected GT driver. The point of riding in the RAYS A90 Supra was to showcase the difference between the stock wheel/tire setup and a lightweight Volk Racing wheel setup with Toyo rubber, by comparing how the car felt under braking, turn-in and power-out. The tricky, long sweepers at Fuji Speedway, which always end up upsetting a car’s balance, would be very telling too.
I ended up filming a couple of IGTV videos during my rides, so give them a watch on my Instagram if you have time.
As always, riding shotgun with a pro reminds you how much of a different breed race drivers are. The sheer precision, the speed, the way Yamano-san got onto the brake pedal, and how he fine tuned his lines through the corners was amazing to watch from the passenger seat.
On the stock wheels, we ended up losing the brakes by the hard-braking zone before the in-field chicane, but aside from that the A90 felt adequately powerful and really balanced.
We arrived into the pits and the brake pads looked like a forest fire. Volk Racing G025 wheels with Toyo Proxes radials were quickly fitted and we were out again.
While you’d assume the differences to be very small, even as a passenger I could tell the car felt way sharper and more responsive as we went into corners under heavy braking, and somehow more accurate to place through the fast corners. One thing that I later talked to Yamano-san about is how with substantially less weight hanging off each corner, the brakes have far less work to do in order to slow down the wheel speed. Yamano-san said that the fade he was getting with the stock wheels had vanished. Unsprung weight is the most important type of weight you want to shed, that’s for sure.
After my time on track came to an end, I had the chance to check over some Super GT cars that had competed at Fuji Speedway the previous day during the spectator-less race. The Green Tec Prius GT300 is my kind of hybrid.
The design technology used in the wheels that RAYS supply to GT teams really does find its way to consumers like you and I. See all the holes, and the way the spokes and outer rims have been carved out – this is pure metallurgy and production refinement taken to the highest level.
Many of the demo cars continued to take members of the media out for hot laps; too bad I missed out on the 8 Series…
The event’s finale involved three GT cars, including the Nismo-Motul GT500 GT-R, being wheeled out to a main display in the paddock.
At the end of the day, it was great seeing a wheel manufacturer bring the tuning and motorsport world together. Not only did it allow RAYS to promote their latest products, but also ensure that we know they’ll continue to push the envelope, first in the racing world and later on for us enthusiasts.
I’ll be happy as long as they continue to produce the TE37!
Dino Dalle Carbonare