Ibaraki is quite pleasant in December.

So this story begins a few months ago.  I was biking home from work, when I decided to take the back streets home.  As I rounded the corner, I saw the familiar silhouette of a loved one.  It was a Levin hatchback.  Then I saw another.  Then I had to meet the owner of this magical place.

As it turns out, he also has another AE86, a C3 Corvette, a Piaggio Ape, and a Formula SAE car tucked away on site.  His name is Komukai Ryou, and he’s also one of my favourite people in this city. That’s a story for another day, though.

Thing is, the first thing he said to me once it was established that we had a common interest was that there was an AE86 something happening in Tsukuba in December, and did I want to come.  Naturally, the answer was a resounding yes – absolutely yes.

So on a slightly wintery Saturday afternoon in December, we set off to Tsukuba.  Komukai-sensei (he’s a teacher at WiZ Technical College) and his son picked me up in his flatbed with his red Levin strapped to the back, and we set off. On the way there, he mentioned something about a race, and then it dawned on me.  We weren’t going to a meet, this was a track day!  Suddenly mega-stoked!

We decided to go to get some food (his son, mini-K decided on kaiten sushi), and wouldn’t you know it, we get a flat tire as we pull into the parking lot.  We got dinner first anyway.  Thankfully, it was a front tire that got popped, and not one that would be mega hard to to replace.  This one was just regular hard.  However, it did elevate our journey from road trip to adventure!

The next morning, we pulled into the track and met up with the team from the school.  The day then got started.

It was a pretty brisk morning.  Staying the night in a crappy hotel, and getting up early proved to be worth it the moment I got through the tunnel to the paddock area.  Just look at that view.  I was awestruck.  I had to stop and soak it in.

Some lapping guys in Porsches and stuff were just finishing up.  They weren’t the reason I was there, though.

This was:

I ended up seeing a lot of cars that I had only seen pictures of online.  Like the Noby Booth, Techno Pro Spirits, and Tec Arts cars.  They even had Tsuchiya’s N2 car out on display at the Hot Version booth!

Yes. I’m pretty sure this is THAT car.

The amateur paddock area was also full of cars that made me envious.

Komukai-sensei’s car

The main paddock area held not only the pro teams, but smaller shops, and a handful of amateur teams as well.

Aw how cute. You have a carbon hood and hatch? How about carbon EVERYTHING?
Even carbon window replacements!
Carbon underhood, as well as gold heat insulation.
There was so much weirdness going on here. The BEAMS engine, the 90s bumper, the 5 bolt. Still not sure how I should feel about this one.

Hey Nikon! Make me a non-autofocus lens for the Nikon 1 series so I don’t have to track a target.

Mini-k and Komukai-sensei getting in some quality time.
Dad’s ready to hit the track!

There was a small car show set up set up at the end of the paddock areas.  There were lots of prime examples of the car to see.  Yes, there were a handful of Fujiwara spec Truenos.  No, I didn’t take pictures of all of them.

Not entirely sure what kind of steelies these are, but I like em.

Sadly, Komukai-sensei had to wrap things up early, due to some electrical issues.  But this wasn’t before he went and posted some decent lap times in his Levin.  Soon after though, the big race began.  All of the pro cars came out to play.  To be quite honest with you, after a couple laps, the field spread out, and I couldn’t quite figure out who was in front.  It was felt like a continuous ring of AE86s. It was glorious to behold, though.

I have to admit, as the day drew to a close I felt a little overwhelmed, and a little wistful.  At this point, it had been over two years since I had driven my Corolla.  It really drove home just how much that little car means to me, and how much I miss the feel of a car like that. Being surrounded by all of its brethren made me feel simultaneously at home, longing for mine.

As I left though, Tsukuba had a message for me.  Yeah, I definitely am coming back next year.

What’s that you say, Tsukuba?
You got yourself a deal!

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