When was the last time someone broke a promise to you and things turned out for the better?
Rewind 2 weeks… when I was at Sequential taking photos of their ‘Waruichi’ S15 circuit car, they invited me to come to Central Circuit to see them do a few shakedown laps and see Waruichi perform to it’s potential. Of course I jumped at the chance and I had visions of me, the Sequential crew and their S15 alone at the track with just the Central Circuit track officials to keep us company. I was assured that the Sequential team would be there as well as a few customers wanting to test out their freshly tuned cars. Famous last words… The day came to head off to Central Circuit, I met my friend Ikeda-san and we were off down the Chugoku Expressway averaging 140km/h in the trusty R32 Skyline. Before long we had arrived and we were pleasantly surprised to find that not only Stillway, but Nagisa Auto, J’s Racing, Auto Select AND Trial were there, but no Sequential! Where were they? They confirmed over the phone that they’d be there just the day before… well, as you could imagine, any ill-feelings about Sequential standing us up were quickly forgotten.
First up, get some pit lane pictures. All the teams were there in the freezing morning air (around 2 degrees Celsius) and were very polite and friendly, Ikeda doing the talking while I took the photos. We had gotten through about 3 teams when two guys came up to us and asked who we were representing. My initial thought was ‘mind your own business’, but Ikeda just quietly explained that we were just spectators and we had stumbled upon this meeting by chance… as it turned out those guys were reporters from Option 2 magazine and this was an Option 2 sponsored closed session for their exclusive report so they ‘advised’ us not to use the pictures we took for 2 months either in print or on the internet! Wow, I’d never been spoken to like that before, especially seeing as we had been invited by Sequential. I thought of Yakuza style intimidation amongst other things, but enough of that, lets get more photos!
Well things couldn’t have gone smoother. As I mentioned before, the teams were very friendly and let us take as many pictures as we needed, but they were there to test their cars so we tried not to get in their way. Of note while we were moving through the pits was Nagisa Auto’s R34 GT-R circuit special. The front guards were M Speed’s very own carbon copies of last years Nismo Z-tune Final carbon front fenders… just beautiful. Nagisa told us the output was “about 600ps”, but it could very well be higher than that. The car ended up pulling a best time of 1:18.711 which was clearly faster than anyone else. The car looked and sounded absolutely beautiful, I think it’s needless to say that the Nagisa Auto R34 GT-R was the fastest car there on the day, ahead of the Lancer Evolution VIII duo of Trial and Stillway.
J’s Racing had probably the best interpretation of ‘circuit special’. Just one look at their Honda S2000 and you’d be hard pressed to find a factory part… and I’m being serious! Wide body, carbon everything, massive down force and no expense spared, the car meant business and actually has a plywood front splitter (yes, plywood) painted black to errr… save money? At any rate, the car looked superb on the track and was lapping about as fast as the Quaker State S15. I couldn’t get a fastest time from these guys, I think maybe they were less than impressed by the performance on the day. Maybe next time guys! There was also an EF Civic SiR-II present, as was an EF Civic SiR rounding out a team of representatives from Honda.
The Stillway and Trial Lancer Evolution VIII circuit cars were almost identical, they even sported the same bronze RAY’S CE28N wheels in the morning before the session started. Someone must’ve alerted Trial because they quickly changed the wheels to some silver Gram Lights 57C’s. Both cars were lapping fairly hard when about halfway during the 3rd session the Stillway car had engine trouble and dropped a whole lot of oil just before the bridge section 2 turns before the main straight… instant retirement for the day. I didn’t get a lap time from Stillway, but the Trial Evo ran a best time of 1:19.573, 0.8 of a second slower than the Nagisa GT-R. It’s interesting to note as at 588ps in a lighter chassis it should’ve given the GT-R a better fight I would’ve thought… but Central Circuit favors GT cars and the R34 GT-R is the best of them, right?
The Flatwell Quaker State S15 Silvia was sporting some of the wildest front fenders for the S15 available, with the brightest day-glow yellow paint job I’ve seen since the summer of 1989… definitely a unique look on the circuit. Just like the others it was lapping at a furious pace most of the time, but struck trouble (possibly with the brakes) late in the 3rd session and stayed in the pits until we left. I didn’t get a fastest time for the S15, but I’m sure I’ll be seeing this car again in the near future. The Auto Select FD3S RX-7 was a favorite of mine and I got some shots of this car in action before it went off the circuit. The twin-rotor sounded great and was producing lots of flame on up/down shifts, but seemed to be only going at 70% pace as the best time of 1:20.412 was well behind the Evolution VIII and R34 GT-R. As it turned out the Auto Select RX-7 actually went off the course (I’m not sure where) and smashed the front bumper. The car limped back to the pits where the mechanics did a quick check of components and the quickest – and I mean quickest – tape up job I’ve ever seen to get the car out again. After that though there was definately some kind of mechanical problem and it was back in the pits after only a couple more laps.
The Option 2 guy’s requested the Nagisa Auto GT-R over to the drifting practice area behind the main grandstand for some publicity shots after the 3rd session. Luckily, I was there with my 300mm zoom lens getting some nice shots of the GT-R before the Option guys knew what was going on! I didn’t hang around too long after that as I was concerned the Option guys might follow through on some Yakuza style threats they neglected to tell me about earlier. Yikes.
So in the end, the Sequential no-show actually turned out good for us as we probably would’ve cancelled the lot had they called us before we left. It was my first time to Central Circuit and I think the layout is quite good considering the fact that it’s situated between two mountains. Spectators can see half of the track from almost any position and that’s excellent for photographers too of course. If you ever happen to be in Osaka or Kobe, be sure to check Central Circuit out as it’s probably the easiest circuit to get to from Osaka and has events scheduled two or three times a month ranging from Street-class drag racing to top level GT class shop tuned time attacks and races.
Text and Photos: Justin Karow