Full disclaimer: This is not an event coverage post. Think of this as some happy snaps from a Tsukuba virgin who made a 7-hour return trip just to get some tire rubber in his face while peering through a hole in a fence.
But seriously, if you want proper event coverage from the recent Idlers Games meet, please check Dino’s post here. Scroll on for a bunch of random shots of Porsches, Mazdas and old Nissans…
Checking out the Idlers event was only half the reason for my journey. I had arranged to meet the owner of a very cool GC8 Subaru Impreza coupe, which has just had a nut and bolt restoration and was heading to Tsukuba for its maiden voyage. Initially I thought I would follow it around for the day, and I had imagined photos of pit stops, mechanics making adjustments, and maybe even a hot lap in the passenger seat. However, when I messaged the owner to ask what the plan was, I was told they weren’t racing and would just be on show. Nevertheless, I decided it was worth travelling for.
By the time I arrived at Tsukuba, Dino had already left and I’d missed the first half of the event. Whilst he got the crisp and clear morning light, I would get the hazy golden light of the afternoon. Swings and roundabouts.
Walking into the hallowed Japanese circuit for the first time was, well… a little underwhelming, if I’m honest. I’d been dropped off by my taxi at ‘D’ gate, one of the entrances for cars, and after a quick chat with a member of staff manning the gate, I walked straight through the tunnel and into the pit area.
The pits were full of Porsches lining up for their sessions. There was a nice mixture of race cars and track-prepared daily drivers.
Notable mention has to go to the black 930 Porsche (last spotted at the Exciting Porsche event), which was built for the Wangan Midnight movie back in 1991. The owner is definitely keeping it very real, bringing this thing to the track at keeping the racing spirit alive.
Senses buzzing, I tried to take it all in and take a few photos as well. As I wandered through the lined-up cars I could hear the previous time slot lapping the circuit around me in a furious cacophony of braps, rumbles and down-shifts. I headed up to the viewing platform above the pits to check it out. This FD3S RX-7 was tearing it up and passing everything else in the group.
I really had no idea where would give me the best vantage point for track shots, but Tsukuba is not a huge circuit so I soon spotted a few places where spectators and photographers alike where gathered. Compared to somewhere like Silverstone or Goodwood back in the UK, it was surprisingly easy to get right up close to the track, with only a single wire fence and some plastic barriers separating spectators from machine. In a country that is so overregulated in many aspects of life, it was a little unexpected.
From my hole in the fence, I could see the paddock where the Hardcore Tokyo x Speedhunters Track Meeting cars had assembled (some had left by this point, though). Again, you can check Dino’s excellent coverage of that sub-event here. I had arranged to meet the black GC8 in this area, so I wandered over to see what I could find.
There was a really eclectic mix of cars, from NSX to E30s and even a cool VW Bus.
After sidling my way around a big-winged 180SX, I spotted two mean eyes peering out from a pitch-black front end. The GC8 coupe I’d come to see looked stealthy as a nimble ninja. It also looked like it had just rolled off the production line, or even better than. There’s a story coming on it next month and I can’t wait to take a closer look.
At any kind of event in Japan there are usually swarms of people out – something that’s expected with a population of over 125 million. But at this one, the number of drivers and cars greatly outweighed the number of spectators, a stark reminder that we’re still the midst of a global pandemic, even if events are beginning to happen again. The grandstands were near empty; I think there were more people puffing away in the smoker’s area.
The last run on the day was for the drifters, or ‘Sideway Proud’ as it was listed on the time sheets. Now, I am in no way a drift photographer, but I always love the rush of trying to capture what is debatably one of the most exciting genres of motorsport.
After any event is, in a funny way, my favorite time to get photos. Everything is more relaxed, the light is good, people are standing around talking, and there’s no pressure to get the action shot. It was a nice way to finish up the day – my first at Tsukuba Circuit, but surely not my last.