August 10, 2009 7:36 pm Published by

Drift Matsuri! Two days of as much drifting as you and your car can handle on multiple tracks at the greatest drifting complex in the world, Ebisu Circuit!

I kept my little Nikon on hand the whole time, and took a photo whenever there was something interesting to see.

As part of the Japanese Government’s “stimulus package” to promote domestic tourism, tolls for the usually hideously expensive expressways have been subtantially lowered on weekends for people who use the electronic toll collection system, known funnily enough as “ETC”. This means that the trip to Ebisu, which costs over fifty bucks usually, is now about fifteen instead. Since it was a holiday period, the government extended the discount to Friday as well, so we left late at night to try and avoid the afternoon or early morning rush.

The best part about driving on the expressways is stopping at one of the many service areas, which usually have plentiful parking, decent food and drinks, snacks and large, spacious bathrooms. I’ll have to do some little mini-features on my favourites on the Tohoku and Chuo expressways.

I drove up there with my friend Yoshio Takahashi, and his friend who drives a Civic.

Along with gas and tyres, you need food as well! At about 2:00AM, we stopped at the Family Mart in Dake Onsen, just up the road from Ebisu Circuit, to pick up some food and refreshing beverages for the next day.

Cars were already cramming the entrance of Ebisu Circuit when we got there, so we crammed ours in there too and had a quick sleep in the passenger’s seat.

About half the cars had people asleep in them. The other half were asleep in a nearby large room, in which there are a whole lot of slightly musty futons for people to crash on. Sleeping bags are recommended.

At 5:30AM, the gates opened.

For some reason, this Matsuri wasn’t particularly crowded, so it was easy to get my own pit space for once. I camped out over on the Higashi Course, since that’s where most of the people I know usually go, and it’s nice and quiet at night, as only grip drivers are allowed on there after 10:00PM.

Here’s Garage 3UP’s trio of missiles.

There were about a dozen black R32 Skylines at Ebisu, so I wanted to do something to the car to make it a bit easier to recognise. Since I had bought a blue magnetic police light to use later that night, and I’m Australian and the car is black and kind of beaten-up, I figured “Mad Max” would be a good bet.

About ten minutes after the tracks opened at 8:30AM, I was out on Higashi!

After a couple of sessions there, I thought I’d go and have a look at Kita Course, since it’s one of my favourites to drive at Matsuri. The elevation of Kita is fairly high though, and the low clouds made the conditions interesting!

Next, it was down to Minami, the track used in D1. I haven’t had a chance to try it in wet conditions yet, which meant it would be a good chance to see what it felt like to drive with a lot more power. “Rain gives any car four hundred horsepower” as I heard someone say once. Luke from wearedrift.com, stuck his brand-new camera in the Skyline for some in-car shots.

Dino Dalle Carbonare was there too, shooting for Speedhunters.

Here he is, looking rather nonchalantly cool.

I managed to spin out and crash into the foam and tyre barriers a couple of times, but luckily resulted in nothing worse than a couple of dents. We managed to pull out one dent in the door with Luke’s camera suction mount!

At least mine didn’t look as bad as this one.

It almost seemed like there were more foreigners at this event than Japanese people!
On the right there is Rob from roadsterdrift.com

Here’s his clean, Taniguchi-style S15.

The camera I was using was pretty much useless for action shots, so I didn’t really bother.

This 180SX was pretty badly scraped up by the end of the weekend, but that’s probably because Yasushi Wakamatsu had been teaching him and probably pushing him as far as he could go.

Luke interviewed a few drivers for his video.

D1SL driver Mizuno’s JZX90 missile.

Here we are back at Kita with slightly better visibility, even if it is still wet.

The high mount on that turbo was made with a piece of steel box section.

Temporary roof?

Time for lunch!

Kiirochan was there testing out her new car, which was in the middle of being built.

Uh-oh. Jesse Streeter, who had come up from Kansai with Roadsterdrift’s Rob, videographer Laurence Janus and fellow Aussie Shane Bingham had a bit of an accident on the downhill chicane on Higashi.

Just by complete chance, I was standing over on that part of the course watching someone else drifting. Unfortunately, I had switched my camera off and was about to walk away when Jesse dropped a wheel into the dirt on the outside of the course. The car lost a bit of grip on the steep downhill, and Jesse slid onto the wet grass, and didn’t stop until the car found the wall.

The front right of the car was a bit of a mess. The caster rod and caster rod bracket snapped in half, and the lower control arm was bent. Take a look at the shape of the strut brace.

After unsuccessfully driving around Ebisu trying to see if anyone had some spare parts, we headed into town to visit K-Style, where Igusa sorted out Jesse with a caster rod and lower control arm.

There’s always time for a quick bit of sightseeing. Here’s Naoto Suenaga’s current D1 car.

Back at Ebisu, we continued to ask around if anyone had a caster rod bracket. Luckily, we were offered a part from the junked Team Orange Sileighty truck!

This is the one that Naoto crashed in Las Vegas, I think.

More foreigners! These guys were from Australia, and are members of the drift club I used to help run, Initial Drift.

Here’s a pic of me with the police light in action. Thanks Eiji!

Over on Nishi Course again, and I couldn’t believe this car still existed. I had seen it at the Spring Matsuri, and the rear end had slowly been panelbeaten by the walls into something that looked like a Porsche 928.

Gas tank held in by a strap. Just don’t roll over.

Once again, the wet conditions made Nishi’s long corners a lot easier to negotiate with low power!

Once the sun went down, our group decided to head into Dake Onsen to visit one of the many famous onsens that the town is known for. This is the same town that we stayed in when Vaughn Gittin Jr. came to Ebisu recently. Unfortunately, it’s the middle of summer holidays here, and the place was full!

Instead, we went to a local sento, which is basically a regular Japanese bath house and only cost 300 yen to use. The volcanic bath was the hottest one I have ever sat in. Just moving around hurt like crazy. It still felt great though.

Kokeshi dolls and other cultural souvenirs in the foyer of the sento.

Back to the Family Mart for more supplies!

Unfortunately, by the time we arrived back at Ebisu, we had missed the beef roast. As a free service to all the drivers and their friends, the Ebisu Circuit crew set up a large spit, and roast whole halves of cow over a big fire before carving it up and serving it. Everyone takes their pieces, sticks them on a spike and grills them over smaller fires like a shish kebab.

Here’s what’s left of the fire.

Seeing that I had missed out on the food, Wakamatsu gave me a bit of his. Thanks a lot!

After dinner, it was back to Minami. It was dark, wet and foggy, but I figured that if you could drive Minami in these conditions, doing it in sunny weather in the middle of the day should be a piece of cake. D1 Street Legal East will be holding a round here later in the year, so I tried to get in as much practice as I could.

It was still pretty sketchy though!

Hoshino Car Style’s Hoshino was there (on the right), drifting in sandals and jinbei, traditional Japanese summer clothes. He had sold this RX-7 cheap to a customer to use at Ebisu, but it had a bit of an overheating problem.

Dino thought the steam had a great “Back To The Future” look to it. I’ll have to see if I can get the photo he took of me doing the Marty McFly poster pose…

Sunday’s photos coming tomorrow!

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This post was written by Alexi


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