Welcome to the biggest event of the year at Japan’s Central Circuit.
What race meet draws the biggest crowd to this small circuit nestled in the mountains of Hyogo Prefecture? No, it’s not GT cars, nor is it Porches. This close to Osaka, it could only be one celebrating Hondas.
Given our Honda K-powered theme this month, I wasn’t going to pass up on the opportunity to attend Circuit Festa 2021, held by Honda tuning legends ASLAN and BrushUP Auto Works.
I had asked my friend Nabeshima-san – a Honda Beat owner, fantastic photographer and all round nice guy – if he knew of any interesting K-powered cars, and being a legend around the tracks and friend to many, he sent through a preliminary list of cars that would like attend the meet at Central Circuit.
We hatched a plan to shoot some favourites, and you’ll be able to catch that story before the month is out. For this story I’m going to concentrate on the event as a whole, of which there was a lot to take in.
Arriving on Sunday morning, I immediately discovered how awesome Central Circuit is. There’s a throttle-happy straight, some twisty corners and a unique underpass where the track loops around on itself.
I parked in the general parking area amongst a throng of Hondas, but there were plenty of other makes too. You don’t have to drive a Honda to appreciate a Honda track day.
As I walked over to the circuit, a procession of NSXs noisily revved their way through what turned out to be the wrong car park, before heading into the main circuit area.
On site there were two main parking areas for a kind of show ‘n’ shine display named HONDAism Type3. One car park was packed with newer Civic models, while the second was for everything else. And it really was like a box of liquorice assorts.
The thing with Hondas is, people tend to go a bit mad with customisation, and it can swing many ways here in Japan – race-inspired liveries and tyre lettering, all the way to VIP style. If you’re going to Honda, you may as well Honda properly.
After scoping out a few of the more interesting builds, I headed over to the pits to meet up with Nabeshima-san. He was busy getting ready for his entry into the Honda One Make Race 1500cc-2000cc category.
I really admire this man, because he pitted his Beat against higher displacement cars and still gave them a real run for their money.
Nabeshima-san helped me secure a press bib and even organised a lift to a corner of the track to get some panning shots.
Looking at all these front-wheel drive, naturally aspirated track weapons made me want to try and better understand the appeal of the Honda platform. I’ve never really ‘got’ it, and I feel like I’m still not really there.
To a point, I do understand the attraction of a high-revving engine that can take serious abuse, is fairly simple to maintain and makes good power all the way through the rev range. But, for me personally, it’s a recipe that will always be missing a turbo.
Even though, I’m still impressed by the brilliant engineering behind these precision motors.
Maybe it runs deeper than the cars themselves. Many of the guys at this event were embedded in the Honda scene back in the day.
If you look a little deeper, it all starts to get pretty tribal, but it’s unquestionably important to Osaka’s car culture and heritage.
Tearing up the expressway circling central Osaka, better known as the ‘Kanjo Loop’, Civics have long been the weapon of choice for underground street racers in this part of Japan. Inspiration has been drawn from Japan’s Group A Civics of the early ’90s, and that’s reflected in distinctive liveries and paint jobs.
Of course, these days the Osaka police have really cracked down on illegal racing, and that’s pushing people onto circuits for events like this one. That same Kanjozoku spirit is kept alive with down and dirty, no fuss racing. It’s an environment where drivers can race in peace.
Unsurprisingly, many of the cars racing were using parts from ASLAN, which has been around for as long as the Civic platform itself.
Looking around the pits, it was really nice to see so many teams with the whole family there, complete with camping chairs and picnics. Everyone seemed to be making a proper day of it, while keeping the vibes relaxed and warm.
After absorbing as much of the atmosphere as possible on an empty stomach, I stopped for lunch and replenished fluids before heading back to the pits to get a closer look at the K-swapped cars I had teed up with Nabeshima-san.
Not only did we get a close look in the pits, but we also arranged a very special and privileged surprise exclusively for Speedhunters.