The weekend before last, I found myself at a very foggy and incredibly humid Twin Ring Motegi.
It’s been a few years since I competed in the Idlers 12h Race with the guys from RWB – my third time doing so – and I have fond memories of the event. There’s one thing I’ve never done at an Idlers 12h though, and that’s take a proper look at the participating cars to check out the modifications made and directions taken by teams for this grueling race.
In previous years I tried to look at the cars, but because I was also racing it wasn’t easy. A brief run through the paddock is all I had time to do. But this time was different.
Most of the cars that compete in Idlers 12h races are different than those that compete in Idlers Games events at Tsukuba. While the latter attracts more valuable and fast machinery, this one at Motegi sees a field largely made up of cheaper and more reliable cars.
This pair of Daihatsu Esse kei cars that the Carboy magazine team were running is a superb example. For the Idlers 12h, you’ll often see a group of colleagues or mates who have all chipped in buy a 15-year-old kei car, which probably costs the equivalent of a steak dinner. You sort out the handling, drop it on tiny wheels wrapped in grippy semi-slick rubber, fit a roll cage and a bucket seat, and you have yourself a fun endurance racer on the cheap.
That recipe is not applicable to all cars you see in the Idlers 12h paddock though. If you happen to be a property developer and have friends who rake in yearly earnings comparable to the GDP of a small island nation, then you bring bigger and flashier toys. Or proper race cars.
We’ll get to those shortly, but first up I’m going to take you on a stroll through all the pit garages. I warn you though, there is a lot to see, starting off with one of my favorites – this Tommykaira ZZ.
Am I the only one who has developed even more of a liking for this lightweight mid-’90s JDM sports car over the years? The ZZ really is a Japanese Elise.
This theme of this particular pit garage was lightness, and the pick of the bunch for me was a compact Japanese race car that you can buy in a variety of guises. It’s West Racing Cars’ Vita-01 Type J, and it features a tiny tube frame chassis, center driving position and a Toyota Vitz engine.
Minis are a staple of this event. The red and yellow car is from Stock Vintage, a Mini specialist in Saitama, and was an absolute beast around the track with its dogbox whining away.
Guess what seats this AE86 was running?Porsches, But No RWBs
By now, most of you would have formed a mental association between Idlers and RWB Porsches. Speedhunters is probably to blame for this, as in the past we’ve covered many Nakai-built creations and have of course raced with RWB. But there’s no affiliation; RAUH-Welt Begriff is simply a team led by Nakai, with many customers cars participating in Idlers events.
The man himself is taking some time away from racing this year, and I guess the rest of his team are following suit. Only the ‘McDonald’s’ 964 was present.
That said, there were many other Porsches to drool over.
Wait, what… a center driving position?
Also competing was the famous windshield-less and roof-chopped Targa we’ve seen in previous races. With thunderstorms in the afternoon, I bet the team behind this entry weren’t looking forward to driving around in a bathtub on wheels.
Given how air-cooled Porsche values have gone through the roof, I take my hat off to anyone willing to risk doing a 12-hour race in one.
But that said, these guys are actually using their cars as they were meant to be used, irrespective of market values.
This RSR homage was possibly my favorite car at the event. It’s stunning in every respect and was absolutely potent on track.
There are of course more affordable Stuttgart options to go endurance racing in, as this Tiptronic 996 proves. Remember, it’s reliability you need for the Idlers 12h, so an auto might actually make some sense.
Garage J’s first-gen Boxster with fender flares and deep-dish Fuchs-style wheels certainly looked the part.
Being in a position to enter a Porsche Cup car in this race would be nice, wouldn’t it? It’s almost borderline cheating though, or at least a little dangerous given the mostly slow field, but over the years there has been a growing trend of race cars entered in these events. I’ll investigate this further towards the end of the post.
The Idlers 12h Race always throws up amazing scenes like this. It’s amateur racing expressed in the best possible way, a mishmash of everything and anything, and fun with a little competition thrown in for good measure.
Heading the pack out of the bend in the picture above is Uzi Racing’s 911, a highly-developed vintage race car with a good mix of new and old. It’s got plenty of power too.
The bright green Porsche sat alongside a pair of Alfa Romeos, namely a Mito and a 146.
Behind them, a Honda Beat underwent an on-the-spot wheel alignment.
How could I not include a couple of Mazda Roadsters here… This car remains an amateur racer favorite the world over, and for good reason.A Lancia Beta & A Few Race Cars
Remember what I said at the very beginning of this post, how most Idlers 12h entrants seek reliability over everything else? I say ‘most’ because there are always few exceptions to the rule. Here’s one.
Yes, that is a Lancia Delta Integrale engine and AWD drivetrain in a Beta Coupe.
Wild to say the least, and it looked phenomenal out on track with its Alitalia livery.
As I ventured further down pit lane, more race cars started appearing. This KTM X-Box GT4 usually competes in the Z-class of the Super Taikyu endurance series, so it was a pretty cool addition to the line up, if a little out of place.
VW Beetles are no strangers to Idlers events, but I’ve never seen one quite like this. I didn’t get a peak under the engine cover, but looked blisteringly quick out on track.
What you don’t hear much of at the Idlers 12h is V8s, as strange as that may sound to our American audience. This year there was a pair of Aston Martin Vantages present, and every time they shot by on track I looked. The ACR Performance car looked sensational with its camo livery.
By this time there was still an hour to go before the cars needed to be lined up on the grid for the 7:00am start, so I continued my walk through the pit garages.
That’s when I came across this K11 March from Ossan Racing. ‘Ossan’ in Japanese translates to ‘old man’, and while the name and play on the Nissan logo was quite comical, I found the car’s boost upgrade even more so.
Ok, maybe what I said about reliability being the number one priority for Idlers 12h competitors isn’t completely true…
That brings us to the only Malaysian car in the line up, a Perodua. Obviously it was Daihatsu Mira, but it still got a lot of Malaysian guys messaging me about it on Instagram after I posted a shot.
Just look at this thing – it’s JDM race car stance on point.
Following on from the orange KP Starlet we saw at Daikoku PA on 7’s Day, here’s a EP looking ready to race.
I found it funny that the ‘NSX Owner’s Club Motegi’ raced an S2000, but you can kind of understand it given how valuable Honda’s ’90s midship sport car have become. That said, S2000 aren’t exactly affordable these days, are they?
This ex-Spoon CR-Z race car was a rocketship through the corners.
Pit #1 was filled with Roadsters, and two of the cars were set up for a couple of disabled drivers to race. I love seeing this sort of stuff.
Even better was seeing what these two drivers drove to the track in.
As we got closer to the race start time, the last pits raised up their shutters, so I made may way down.
I call this, ‘Team Let’s Bring A Nuclear Bomb To A Fist Fight’.
Jokes aside, what was once a single car thing has started a whole new class at Idlers. The first time I raced with RWB, Kimura-san of Car Guy did the 12h in his Lamborghini Huracán Trofeo race car, more for practise behind the wheel than anything else.
That outing has inspired a few more Super GT and Super Taikyu privateer team owners to do the same. At least that’s the way I am seeing it. What I can say is that I will never forget being overtaken under braking by a fire-spitting Huracán race car with glowing brake rotors, as I desperately tried to keep the RWB Porsche I was driving straight heading into the last series of corners before the main straight. It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
As for this race, at the end of 12 hours, the Car Guy NSX GT3 came in first with the KTM X-Box GT4 second. No surprises there…
So that’s the 2021 Idlers 12h, the best amateur endurance race in Japan, and one that continues to evolve every year. I hope you enjoyed my slightly different approach at covering it this time around.
Dino Dalle Carbonare