April 30, 2005

●Indy Japan 300 Mile, Motegi

Was over at Motegi to cover the IRL race. Once you get over the amazingly loud V8 engines (Honda, Toyota or Chevrolet) it is possibly the most boring form of car racing you can watch. I'm sure the proper circuit races are exciting but these damn ovals....my God...makes Formula 1 look appealing again! Actually scratch that, there are quite a few overtaking maneuvers in IRL...unlike Formula-Ecclestone!

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I was told to piss off while taking this picture. Very polite those mechanics!
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These V8's run on Methanol. Just standing by the track or next to the car when it's idling will make your eyes water like hell. Smell reminds me of nitro RC cars.
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Aguri Suzuki, ex-F1 driver and the man behind the Autobacs backed ARTA project. Also part of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing
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Kosuke Matsuura, Super Auguri Fernandez Racing driver. Started 9th, went on to 6th but due to a long pit-stop fell back to 9th again. At least he finished the race unlike Tomas Scheckter who was on his way to a win when he run out of fuel 2 laps form the end!
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Super GT test car
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Slice of Americana in the form of Muscle cars
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Only track action shot I took:-D
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Posted by dino at 04:13 PM | Comments [0]

April 29, 2005

●Big X - Part II (Bikes)

Crazy bike stunts. These guys have balls!

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Always important to start early!
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You would think that this rear tyre has had it...not quite
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Still good for some more smoke!
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Multicolored tyres your thing? Check out this website: http://www.j-styleinc.com/
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Moto X
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And no the picture is not upside down;-)
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Posted by dino at 03:44 PM | Comments [0]

●Big X - Part I (Cars)

In drift crazy Japan you really can't go wrong with an event like the Big X. Drift cars, Moto X, car /bike stunts and a enthusiastic crowd is all you need for a good day out. Kazama, Miki, Tanaka, Suenaga and of course Kumakubo (owner of Ebisu circuit) were present to show off their skills which truly are amazing.

Kumakubo's JUN built RWD D1 Impreza.
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Female drifter Natsuko Muraoka
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Tanaka's Tex Modify built S15 D1 car
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Thank God Yokohama sponsores D1 drivers!
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Action
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Kazama doens't even have to be in the car to drift!
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New drift Skyline from the guys at Tex Modify.
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Man behind the Big X
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Posted by dino at 02:54 PM | Comments [0]

April 27, 2005

●Garage HRS - Cyber Evo

Cars that lap Tsukuba in under 1 minute deserve a lot of respect. The car you see here does it in the mid 55 seconds. It's an amazing accomplishment for a small shop like Garage HRS and the top people that work on this beast of a car. With around 800PS (no, it's not a typo) the 4G63 in this Cyber Evo has been stroked to 2.2 liters and completely rebuilt with race spec internals. Savage power delivery comes courtesy of an Apex RX-6 turbine which completes the package to make this one of the most powerful Lancer Evolution in the world. The full carbon bodied HKS TRB02 Evo is still number one but that is a bit out of any small tuners league, what with all the backing and unlimited resources involved. As Satoh-san of Garage HRS puts it there are no secrets about this car and as you can see from the pictures I was allowed to snap away at every detail I wanted. Too bad the car could not be taken out of the confines of the garage as it would have proven to be a hell of a ride...especially with no passenger seat! But I managed to get a few "action" shots nonetheless;-)

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Posted by dino at 11:45 PM | Comments [0]

April 22, 2005

●Fuji Tuner Time Attack (REV SPEED MAGAZINE)

Well hats off to Toyota for bringing the Fuji Speedway into the 21st century. Impressive is the word to describe the transformation the facilities and track have undergone, which are stunning and on par with the most modern circuits in the world. The main pit/paddock area looks like a carbon copy of the Nurbugring F1 circuit facilities and offers tons of space for track days and race events alike. After covering event after event at the "over-used" rusted out, run down Tsukuba circuit it makes for a pleasant change if not a pleasure to come to FISCO. Plus the view of the snowcapped Fuji-san is hard to top!

Rev Speed Magazine organized a get together for the most renowned tuners in Japan to have a crack at the new circuit. Tuners like Mine's, MCR, ATTKD, Spoon, HKS Kansai, JUN, Amuse, Saurus as well as other lesser know names showed up. Fastest car of the day with a 1:46 was the Autech Tsukada BNR32 which was way ahead of the rest on this challenging circuit. Most drivers find it boring at first but its said to be quite technical and tests front end bite on cars with those tricky blind cambered corners. One I look forward to driving on in the future! Some pictures from the day:

-Autech Tsukada BNR32. Features the a clever rear mounted radiator and yet again on a demo car we find the HKS Valcon kit
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-MCR BNR34 and the president of the company, Kobayashi-san
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-JUN Evo 9 GT demo car. Car features the MIVEC variable valve timing system which, as some in these circles say, is proving to be a weak point of the usually bullet-proof 4G63
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-President of Spoon
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-The man behind JUN
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-Mine's BNR34. Why Mine's doesn't build a full-on race car to take part in these events is beyond me. There is a very good chance it would be the fastest out there but for some reason they set themselves so many unnecessary boundaries! If their street-class car is so damn fast...think what a proper track one would achieve!! Come on Mine's!!
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-Midori BNR34. One tuner I respect. They work wonders with their cars.
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-Must have been close to 60 GT-Rs present for the track day.
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-Track action
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-Amuse 350Z. I have a soft spot for this car, sounds superb and goes pretty good too for an NA
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-Spoon Honda Legend. Race car under development for the USTCC and a future competitor of the Nurbugring 24h race.
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Posted by dino at 12:51 PM | Comments [0]

April 21, 2005

●Kyoto to Tokyo

On the drive back from Kyoto I was lucky to get a clear shot of Fuji-san. In all the times I have visited the area around Fuji I can count on one hand the times the bloody thing has actually been visible! As with most beautiful things in Japan there is always something nasty in the way to spoil the picture so enjoy this snap of the famous volcano with a nice high-voltage power line right bang in the center of it;-)

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And what a lucky shot this was. Nice view of Tokyo Bay in late afternoon.

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Posted by dino at 12:07 PM | Comments [0]

April 20, 2005

●Kyoto - Part II

A few more pictures from Kyoto.

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Posted by dino at 11:59 AM | Comments [0]

●Kyoto - Part I

Even the rain couldn't spoil the beautiful scenery Kyoto has to offer.

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Posted by dino at 01:05 AM | Comments [0]

April 19, 2005

●Nara

Spent today in Nara checking out the usual tourist spots. Amazing weather for the time of year.

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Posted by dino at 03:58 PM | Comments [0]

April 18, 2005

●Tsukuba Hyper Challenge

The Tsukuba Hyper Challenge is a like heaven for Evo, Impreza and Legacy lovers. With all the best tuners showing up for some head to head combat on the track and an amazing display of demo cars, parts and girls it was without a doubt one to remember. Here are a few snaps:

Brand new JUN Evo 9 GT demo car
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The guys at Zero Sports have made one hell of a fast Impreza! Based on the non STi GDA this beast can lap Tsukuba in 58 sec and features a lowered engine, custom intake plenum and a curb weight of 1136Kg
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The Bozz Speed I featured a few weeks back was having some problems with the hot weather and couldn't manage a decent lap. Its potentially another 58 sec Impreza
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Original Rundance Evo. This company from Okayama has built one of the fastest Evos in the world and it lapped fastest during the day with a mid 57 sec lap. Running a 2.2 kit and an HKS T04Z turbine it produces around 650PS....crazy stuff!
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One for Fast & Furious 3 maybe;-)
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Mine's out in force with their new Evo 9 GT demo car and STi S203 demo car
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Not the "real" Cyber Evo, but another less powerful demo car. Weird they didn't run their proper car!
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Roketto Dancer Impreza
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Another fast Impreza
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Cusco Evo
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Nakaya, the master of "zero-counter," showing off his drifting skills. Getting an Evo this sideways takes serious skills. You can learn his techniques at his racing school. Stay tuned for some more info on this.
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Posted by dino at 09:43 AM | Comments [0]

April 17, 2005

●D1-GP Round 2, Odaiba

D1 just keeps on growing. Bigger stands, more people and new cars was the order of the day for the Odaiba round. Katsuhiro showed that the AE86 is still king in drifting taking advantage of other driver's bad luck and putting on some great runs. Disappointing debut for the JUN built Team Orange Impreza driven by Kumakubo which seemed very slow among the Silvias, RX7s, 350Zs and pretty much every other turbo car! A lot of people were surprised to see the cute little Starlet doing the sideways thing!

Here are a few pictures from the day:
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Posted by dino at 12:48 AM | Comments [0]

April 16, 2005

●Veilside Ferrari 575 Maranello

Big V12 up front and rear wheel drive. This has always been the recipe of a true Ferrari. Sure the mid-engined V8 series of cars have proven to be impeccable performers but there is something special about a big Ferrari GT. When the 550 Maranello was unveiled I truly suffered. It was such a special looking car I would have done anything to own one. Living close to one of the UK's biggest Ferrari dealers didn't really help as not one day went by that I did not see the 550 in all its glory out on test drives or sitting in the showroom. It was hell, in a good way. But fast forward a few years and I now find myself in front of Veilside's version of the updated original car, the 575 Maranello.
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As with the Bentley Continental GT this Ferrari is part of the new Premium Collection the company recently launched. Mr. Yokomaku, the founder and president of Veilside, got to work on the 575's exterior by creating a subtle kit that would add some Veilside style to the Italian exotic. Using carbon fiber he molded a deeper front splitter into the original front bumper and integrated canards on the sides to generate some front downforce. This, in theory, should help high speed cornering while the rear Venturi diffuser generates more downforce. Some side under spoilers finish off the kit which looks pretty menacing on this black demo car. 19-inch Andrew Premier Series chrome wheels are used for an in your face pimp look, and wear Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tyres...massive 355/25 for the rears!
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The titanium exhaust, which costs ¥1.5 million(!), does wonders for the Maranello's V12, which in Ferrari terms does not sound at all special. The aggressive down-changes made by the F1 gearbox are followed by lots of crackling and backfiring which sounds pretty nice out on the road.
The interior has been upholstered in red ostrich leather which doesn't look as horrendous as it sounds, but why anyone would replace the soft Italian leather of the standard car is beyond me. A Pioneer head-unit with flip-out LCD screen takes care of the audio/video install which also includes and HD navigation module.
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Posted by dino at 01:24 AM | Comments [0]

April 15, 2005

●Warp speed

Played around with my latest gadget tonight.
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Been meaning to get something like this for ages, and after months of searching I found the right one. There is still something scary about bolting expensive equipment on the end of a rig held on a car by 3 suction caps, but it seems pretty solid and no accidents yet!
Here is what can be achieved (even by using a shitty 12 year old Accord!)
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Posted by dino at 12:39 AM | Comments [0]

April 14, 2005

●Nismo Skyline GT-R Z-tune [Part II]

As promised here are a few more pictures from the Z-tune test drive.
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Front blistered fenders
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Powerful yet compact Brembo 6 pot front calipers
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Gearbox and rear A-LSD cooler. Notice the rear carbon diffuser has been ditched.
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Same LED rear lights used in the 2002 GT-500 GT-Rs...(I'm beginning to like these!)
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Nismo Z2 RB28 GT engine. Unfortunately Nismo have no intention of selling that nice and chunky titanium strut bar
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Chassis number 001
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Rear boot compartment gets the carbon treatment. Only weighs 2Kg
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And finally the interior. Red alcantara inserts are an obvious link with Nismo and hold your rear end glued to the seat during fast cornering. Leather might be Connolly but already showing sings of wear, far too shiny and slippery for my liking and not very tightly upholstered around the seats. No idea what's going on with the steering wheel, alcantara trim was good for grip but the rim is far too thin (reminds me of the rim in a FIAT 500!!) Stereo is a 2 DIN unit and looks like its been taken from a 1991 Nissan Gloria. I guess Nismo thought it would be stupid to waste money on a good headunit when its the first thing people cahnge on cars.
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Posted by dino at 12:46 AM | Comments [0]

April 09, 2005

●Nismo Skyline GT-R Z-tune [Part I]

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Well it doesn't get better than this! One Nismo Z-tune, full tank of gas and 2 hours of fun on the Ashinoko Skyline private road. Nismo has been developing this car since 2000 when it first made an appearance at the Nismo festival by winning the Tuner's Battle. Back then the car was running 600PS and was more like a stripped out performance machine than an actual road car. As the project developed the car was slowly tuned into a more easy to live with road-car which saw the disappearance of the roll cage and the addition of a leather interior, A/C and of course a catalyst to comply with toughening emission standards.
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The Z1 engine was de-tuned to the 500PS Z2 variant (which equips the final car). After being tested for years and at the Nürburgring 24h race (slightly different spec) it's safe to say that with its GT block, crank and conrods (from the victorious GT500 RB powered Skylines) this engine is bullet proof. In fact it could handle a hell of a lot more power...but keep in mind Nismo has to offer a reliable car for the 20 lucky customers that will get their hands on the ¥16,900,000 Z-tune.
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So how does it go you might be wondering...
As I set off on my test it took me a while to explore the engine's capabilities. This is because I spent at least 5 minutes with my mouth open, in total amazement of the suspension-chassis-brake combination. I have driven a few GT-Rs in my time, a lot more powerful than the Z-tune but as I have always believed, power is not everything. Put it down to the Sachs racing suspension, the revised geometry with harder bushing, the front 1.5 way LSD I don't know what...this Z-tune feels so in touch with the road, the grip is phenomenal and the steering feel is simply awesome bettering a standard BNR34 by a mile offering far more information and weighting up strongly yet progressively when tackling those cambered mountain corners. The brakes...perfect. No other word can sum them up better. They are noisy as hell, bite down in anger at the first millimeter of pedal travel (which can make for jerky heel&toe downshifts) but who cares when they work so well. With S-tyres these Brembo brakes (6-pot front & 4-pot rear) offer 1.6 G of braking force. The ABS was reprogrammed to take into account the increased braking power.
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The Z2 engine feels just as special. It revs and responds effortlessly while being totally refined from low rpm. Coming from an ATS twin-plate carbon clutch (fitted to my car) I found the Nismo Coppermix twin a bit unrefined when setting off at low rpm but miles better than the old twins they used to sell. Floor the throttle and the thing takes off. You need at least 4,250 rpm to get any substantial shove (about 1Kg/cm2 at this engine speed) but all hell brakes loose once you hit 5,000 rpm (1.4~1.5) and it doesn't give up accelerating until the fuel cut-off just under 8,000 rpm.
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I wasn't expecting such a peaky delivery but I soon began to get used to it. Due to the very stiff suspension (14kg/mm springs front and rear & hard damper settings) not really suited to the bouncy mountain roads I found myself short-shifting 2nd (6,000-7,000rpm) in a few places and getting caught off boost in 3rd...you really have to hit 8,000 rpm if you want 3rd to pick up well. This is a circuit oriented car after all but it drove beautifully on tight mountain roads...although a bit more low-down grunt would have been spot on.
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Levels of grip are outstanding. The Attesa E-TS Pro has been reprogrammed to offer a lot more front torque transfer than a standard GT-R. This became evident straight away as I tried to get the back end to drift out, something my car does easily and safely like all GT-Rs. The Z-tune rear end does not budge! Floor it in 2nd at the apex and it just goes around like it was on rails...only time it got remotely out of shape was under hard braking going into a corner. This increased front-end power shift was confirmed by the front torque dial on the MFD which would light up green all the way to the max every time I would get on the power. I would have preferred a bit more adjustability under power but I feel that at these performance levels and on such tight and bumpy roads I would have run out of "talent" and done something stupid!
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Check back in a few days for a few more pictures and details from the day.

Posted by dino at 12:00 PM | Comments [0]

April 07, 2005

●Bozz Speed Impreza WRX STi Type RA SpecC

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Take a look at the logo on the Bozz Speed cars and you'll see the words "Astonishingly Ferocious." I didn't think anything of it until I got in their demo car, a GDB Spec C based monster cranking out around 500PS courtesy of a 2.5 boxer engine and a rather large HKS GT3037 turbine. This car's power delivery is, well just look at the logo! It's not so much the horse power but the explosive midrange this beast hits you with that will leave you with your mouth open.
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I haven't felt acceleration this savage this side of a 900PS Top Secret tuned GT-R! And the car was running only 1.3 bar rather than the normal 1.6 and the NO2 tank was empty..that would add another 70PS! No wonder this beast cracks the 1 minute barrier at the famed Tsukuba circuit!
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Sticky Bridgestone RE55S semi-slick tyres keep the Bozz Speed GDB glued to the asphalt and more importantly Tsukuba's corners.
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The guys at Bozz Speed will be trying their best to win next weeks Hyper Challenge which will pitch Lancer Evos against Imprezas and Legacys.
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They certainly have a capable car!
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As you can see from the pictures the cars interior is completely stripped and things do get very noisy in there. Due to equal length manifolds and a hefty dosage of tuning the typical boxer offset beat is gone, in its place a menacing growl amplified through the original titanium exhaust.
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Needless to say I was seriously impressed with this Spec C. Seems every tuner out there is using the 2.5 block these days ...maybe Subaru will take it as a hint and fit it to the Japanese & Euro market cars??!!
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Posted by dino at 02:57 PM | Comments [0]

April 04, 2005

●Nismo Z-tune bumper

Once I saw the pictures of the new Nismo Z-tune bumper in December I knew I had to get it as soon as it became available. After speaking to the guys at Nismo at the Tokyo Auto Salon I was very happy to learn that the bumper would be sold from early February. So I put my order in. I decided not to go for the wider front fenders as I think they are a bit too square and take away from the lines of the BNR34.
I had no idea how the car would look with this bumper fitted as I had only seen it on the silver Z-tune Final. But once I picked up the car from the paint shop I was very pleased with the result.
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I'm very glad to have gotten rid of the middle lip that would fit between the front diffuser and bumper. I always thought it looked cheap. Next thing I need to do is to replace the bolts that hold the diffuser to the Z-tune bumper with some stainless steel items which I have already piked up. The stock bolts don't look too healthy as the front diffuser has been removed from the car many times.
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All that needs to be done now is the bonnet. As much as I like the Nismo carbon one I can't justify paying so much for a purely aesthetic mod so I'm looking for a stock V-spec II one. If you have one (TV2) for sale please contact me!

Posted by dino at 06:12 PM | Comments [0]

●Veilside Bentley Continental GT

Nothing could be further from my ideal car than a Bentley Continental GT. Its big, its pimp and its heavier than a full-sized SUV! Then why do I like this thing so much?? Hoping to answer this question I made my way to Veilside in February to take a closer look at their very own GT. In a bold move the famed Japanese tuner has taken a leap of faith and began catering for high-end luxury and exotic cars. The "Premier Collection" http://www.veilside.com/premier is proof that the company is maturing and although it will continue to offer its usual over the top body-kits, its nice to see a well established company taking a new direction. The owner and founder of Veilside, Hiranao Yokomaku, who styles all the kits by hand has toned down his usual design cues and settled for a more refined look. The kit on the GT features very subtle front and rear integrated lips and chunkier side skirts all made in carbon fiber.
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I loved the way the kit adds a touch more aggressiveness to the bulbous GT and doesn't interfere with the original design of the car.
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Massive 22" three-spoke wheels finish the car off while giving the much needed gangster look! Surprisingly enough these huge wheels don't effect ride quality at all as the active suspension take the edge out of the lower profiled rubber.
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Thanks to the full titanium exhaust the concoction of offset frequencies that sprout from the crystal tail pipes (I'm not commenting on these!) is simply awesome. Think a mix of V8 and V12 soundtracks mixed together churning out a distinctive low edged rumble. Awesome.
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Once behind the wheel I'm astounded at how the mighty W12 twin turbo propels this 2.5 ton beast so effortlessly.
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I have never experienced such mechanical refinement and have to say I quite enjoyed it...for a few minutes. Then I began to notice little things that, for me at least, have always been at the core of automotive enjoyment.
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Steering feel, brake feel, how the car communicates with the driver...everything felt num in the GT, over-servoed everything! Might be great for your comfortable drive to the golf club but disappointing for people looking for some driver involvement. I was expecting something along these lines, but even so I have to say I still love the GT for its emotional lines and superb interior. Its one of those cars you can't help but like, but would never buy.
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Posted by dino at 04:41 PM | Comments [0]

April 01, 2005

●Lancer Evolution 9 GT

Spent last week driving the new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. I decided to go for the GT model which does away with the AYC which I really did not like on the Evo 8 MR I drove last year. The GT uses a mechanical 1.5 way LSD at the rear which feels far more natural when pushing hard than the AYC fitted to the GSR cars. One other main advantage to the GT is the fast and precise 5 speed gearbox, which I prefer to the notchy 6 speeder of the GSR.
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I was expecting the car to feel different to the 8 MR mainly due to the adoption of Mitsubishi's variable valve timing (MIVEC) for the inlet cam, but out on the road its very hard to feel gains in torque (407 Nm for the GT) compared to older cars. One thing I did notice is that the delivery remains very flat until about 5500rpm and then trails off quite noticeably. Boost pickup is slightly improved thanks to the adoption of a new turbine design which features a titanium turbine wheel and a magnesium compressor wheel for better response. The MIVEC does also aid fuel consumption. Best I managed was 9.1km/L on motorway driving.
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But these cars are all about handling and this Evo 9 GT sure does tackle corners like there is no tomorrow. My test was blessed by continuos torrential rain but this was no biggie for the Evo which offered amazing levels of grip and traction out of corners. The rear LSD does wonders for mid corner adjustability as well as giving you the option to set up the car for corners far more precisely and naturally than AYC equipped cars.
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Second and third gear does allow you to play with a bit of oversteer in the wet, just keep your foot down and the car straightens its self out under power only requiring a few degrees of counter steer. The Yokohama tyres are simply superb! Why more manufacturers don't use such tyres for hardcore sports models is beyond me!
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Overall a great car especially if you factor in the price (¥3,318,000) but don't expect great quality of interior materials nor mechanical refinement. This particular car I drove suffered from a very annoying sticky throttle...the worst I have experienced. When lifting off the accelerator the engine would hang on to revs (in some cases even increase rpm momentarily). You then have to wait a second to engage the next gear until rpm drops to avoid a shut from the drivetrain. Its a known problem in the Evo world (effecting the 7, 8 & now 9) and some have put it down to injector lag. Whatever it is Mitsubishi should fix it!!!

Posted by dino at 12:50 PM | Comments [0]

●My First Entry!

Hi there! Welcome to my personal blog here at GTROC.

I will be using this space provided by the guys at GTROC to keep an updated overlook of the cars I test and events I cover here in Japan...and whatever else I feel like sharing! Please bare with me over the next few days as I select some material to upload. Check back regularly to see what I get up to:-)

Posted by dino at 02:14 AM | Comments [0]