Hello, again. You might remember me as a once regular contributor to these hallowed pages, who has been MIA for a considerable amount of time. I’m not even going to pretend that last year was anything but a complete and utter shit show.
I have however greatly missed being a part of Speedhunters in any sort of meaningful way over the last year. I’ve had to purposefully avoid the site and social media channels during this time, as it was unbearable to not be a part of things. Not that I was made to feel ostracised; it was more out of a form of guilt of not having anything meaningful to contribute month after month – all thanks to COVID.
Ireland has been through Lockdown, Lockdown 2: Locked Down Harder and are now in Lockdown With A Vengeance. This currently means that I cannot travel further than 5km from home, and all non-essential work is pretty much on hold.
Truthfully, though, I don’t have it that bad. I have my health, my family, my friends, and a government that has actually taken care those who can’t work. It could have been an awful lot worse, although I do hope that we don’t have to endure the next instalment of this film series (for many reasons)…
There was a brief amount of time between the second and third lockdowns here, which provided a single, responsible opportunity to capture something for Speedhunters before the end of the year. Unsurprisingly, it involved a particular model of car that even a global pandemic can’t kill: the venerable Toyota AE86.
It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out why the annual 86FEST was taking place in December, but it’s nothing short of a miracle that the event happened at all.
Held during a pandemic, there were naturally some consequences. Attendance numbers had to be lower, there would be no static show and shine, everyone had their temperature checked on arrival, and attendees were required to social distance within the confines of the largely empty paddock at Mondello Park.
It was 86FEST, but not as we’ve come to know it.
Furthermore, the organisers also had to open up their eligibility criteria to include non-AE86s to make up the numbers required. This isn’t something new to 86FEST, although it’s normally harder to notice when the non-86s are comically outnumbered.
Toyota purists need not be alarmed, as it was still restricted to Toyota only models. Although, the Altezza and its Lexus-based counterparts were not considered eligible, almost entirely down to Ireland’s typical Altezza owner. Some day, someone will take the Altezza back and it’ll be glorious indeed.
Despite all of this, I can’t begin to describe the feeling inside of me walking around a paddock early in the morning with the sound of cars quietly idling and that smell in the air, with cameras hanging off either shoulder.
I tried to capture it in the video above, along with some of the on-track action. No music, no fancy edits, just raw footage from the day.
For an event that ultimately doesn’t really mean anything – there are no prizes etc. – it was one of the most important I attended last year, and perhaps have ever attended. It comes back to what Ben recently wrote, about the resilience of car enthusiasts in the face of the world we currently live in. If we can make something happen in times like these, then I don’t think anything will ever stop us.
I don’t have much insight to offer from this day otherwise, as I was preoccupied trying to soak it all in. Instead, I’ll present the rest of the (considerable) gallery below, in chronological order and without comment – other than to keep an eye out for the genuine Black Limited Trueno being used as intended.
As always, images are best viewed on a desktop or laptop, if only to prevent an RSI from scrolling.
Stay safe, everyone.