The Racer’s Edge

The Racer’s Edge

Head to Fuji Speedway for a pair of motorsport extravaganzas


Originally published on on November 2009

Len Clarke/RACENOW Japan

Len Clarke/RACENOW Japan

In what has become something of a tradition for Japan’s carmakers, the end of the racing season marks the start of the manufacturer-themed motorsports festivals. More than just an annual wrap-up, these events also serve as a hugely valuable fan-building exercise. Race enthusiasts are in for a treat, as hordes of the greatest machines from each maker’s past and present, driven by some of the sport’s biggest stars, get out for a big bash to see the year out.

The oldest of these events is the 11-year-old NISMO Festival (that’s short for Nissan Motorsports International, natch) which takes place at Fuji Speedway on Sunday, December 6. Equally popular is the Toyota Motor-Sports Festival, which happens at the same location two weeks earlier, on Sunday, November 22.

Naturally, each manufacturer has its own specialty. Nissan’s festival is largely centered around GT (grand touring) and sports cars (think the Le Mans 24 Hours), though the automaker has also been hugely successful in rallying, off-road competition, Rally Raid and formula car racing, and will be showcasing examples from each. Toyota, on the other hand, gets to show off the technologies it’s developed in F1, along with Japanese GTs, sports and rally cars, NASCAR and other vehicles.

So what can you expect to see and do at the shows? In addition to some of the most famous racing cars this country has produced (and there are a lot of those), the atmosphere at either event is, well, pretty festive. Activities on offer include exhibition races, driver appearances, autograph, photo-op sessions and, for a very lucky few, “taxi” rides aboard race cars with the personalities who made the cars famous.

Toyota’s event will be tempered by the company’s recent announcement that it is leaving Formula One. While its now-former drivers may not show, the cars from the team’s eight-year stint at the summit of global motorsports will no doubt be on hand. In addition, you can expect to get up close to over a dozen of the biggest names from the domestic racing scene: Juichi Wakisaka, Daisuke Ito, Hiroaki Ishiura, Kazuya Oshima, Kohei Hirate, Manabu Orido—the list goes on.

The NISMO Festival promises an amazing crop of star drivers, among them current SUPER GT champions Satoshi Motoyama and Benoit Treluyer, plus Joao Paolo de Oliveira, Seiji Ara, Ronnie Quintarelli, Hironobu Yasuda and others. Also expect to see numerous past greats, including Kazuyoshi Hoshino (a.k.a. the “Fastest Man in Japan”), Masahiro Hasemi and Motoji Sekine.

“Just seeing all the cars is amazing,” gushed ‘Mad’ Mike Milligan, a car buff from Long Beach, California, at the 2008 NISMO Festival. “There’s so much motorsport history right here in one spot, and total accessibility to the cars—you can practically stick your head inside! Plus, all these famous drivers from the present and way back too. Our trip from the US—16 of us in total, all Nissan fanatics—has been fantastic. Any motor head would be in heaven at this show; there’s nothing like it in the States.”

Getting there
Driving to Fuji Speedway is a lot easier than many people realize (though getting back can take a while, so plan accordingly). Take 246 to the Tomei expressway, continuing for about an hour until you reach junction 7, the Gotemba interchange. It’s just 15 minutes from there. By train, it’s best to head out of Shinjuku on the Odakyu Line Asagiri (buy tickets the day before), which takes 96 minutes to reach Gotemba. A bus service on Sundays gets you from the station to the Speedway in about 20 minutes.
NISMO Festival, Dec 6: Toyota Motor-Sports Festival, Nov 22: