For as long as I can remember, there has been a huge Japanese influence on Irish car culture.
It’s certainly a generational thing. My father and his friends were primarily inspired by Ford, Vauxhall and other marques associated with rallying and motorsports. Mine would have been influenced by the influx of Japanese performance cars towards the end of the ’90s and early ’00s, even before the arrival of a particular movie with an infinite number of gearshifts.
From the very beginning, Irish owners and builders were quick to draw inspiration from Japan and to keep things as true to their vehicles’ homeland as possible. Some, unfortunately, did Irish-ify things, but for the most part things were kept most honourable.
Routinely then, Japan has been celebrated with events across Ireland over the years. Japfest would probably be the largest gathering here, but there are countless meets and small local events hosted by passionate enthusiasts across Ireland on a regular basis. One of the most recent was Showa Racing’s ‘Honda vs. Toyota’ event held at the one and only Mondello Park.
Honestly, I don’t know what we would do without Mondello in Ireland, it’s the epicentre of Irish motorsport and car culture.
While the title of the event might have suggested a certain level of competitiveness, the event itself was anything but. An open track welcomed anything Honda or Toyota-powered for a day’s worth of grip action.
It was a treat to see a swarm of AE86s gripped up, but for the sake of keeping the two sides apart, this particular story will take a closer look at the cars packing Honda power.
If the day had to be judged from a quantity perspective, then I think the Honda side would have been clear winners. From a quality standpoint, it would have been a lot closer.
This DC2 Integra Type R has made several brief cameos on Speedhunters over the years, and even featured on our stand at the Irish Motor Festival in 2018. I keep meaning to shine a spotlight on it, but considering what’s next for the car I’ll hold off until it’s completed. Direct-shift gearbox, anyone?
The mixture of Hondas ranged from Irish Touring Cars to mint retro examples and pretty much everything else in between.
There was a show and shine area, but I was drawn to the track for most of the day. That’s not a slight on the owners of cars in the static section, because I did find one or two prime examples there, but I couldn’t resist the various sounds of B, K and F-series engines at full noise.
Although the sounds often didn’t come from places you might have expected them to. I failed to catch this owner, but I was told there might have been a K-swap involved at some point. I’ll continue to ask around…
As is normal in Ireland, there wasn’t much in the way of sunshine. It does make for dreary photography, but that’s not how the event felt as a spectator. There was the normal calm in the morning before the green light illuminated at the end of the pit lane, and then it was pretty much maximum attack for the rest of the day.
After the last couple of years, it was nice to be reminded of just what lurks behind closed doors in garages and sheds across the Irish countryside. What impressed me most was that many of these cars were road registered and drove to the event. Some of the track-dedicated cars were even treated to fresh liveries to heighten the Japanese vibe around the circuit.
That EK Civic with the carbon-Kevlar bonnet is a genuine Top Fuel Japan build.
The course layout for the day was Mondello’s National track, which I’ve always felt to be a spiritual companion to Tsukuba. It’s similar in length (actually around 200m shorter), but is perhaps a little bit more technical. A sub-minute lap around here is considered plenty quick, with the outright lap record sitting at around 50 seconds. Watch out for lift-off oversteer coming into Turn 4, however.
There was some brief respite at lunchtime, which allowed a quick look around some of the static cars, along with just enough time to squeeze in a quick feature shoot on the track with a car which perfectly embodied the event.
It wasn’t this EJ Civic, but I quite liked that as well.
There were a few cars which stood out, and I figured you lot would appreciate a closer look at this RPF1-equipped NSX. But it was actually what was beside it that I thought warranted a brief spotlight; keep your eyes peeled for that one in the near future.
The action on track was relentless, compounding both Honda and Toyota’s almost supernatural levels of reliability. I could have sworn I saw an EF puke its guts out at one stage, only to return to the track about 30 minutes later.
It might have felt busier due to the shorter layout, but cars continued to turn lap after lap after lap. Mondello is a surprisingly difficult track on a car (I personally find that it’s more punishing on the car than the Nordschleife), so the level of endurance for these cars is something else. Is it just not possible to kill them?
One observation I had was that while the B-series isn’t dead by any means, its following does seem to be in decline. It wasn’t all that long ago that K-series engines were fairly novel here, but it now seems that’s the direction everyone is heading in. This black Integra was still proudly flying the B-series flag, however.
From a purely Honda perspective, it was worth the trip to Mondello Park. I will go into more detail in separate posts about specific cars, but there’s the Toyota side of the event to run through first…