Published on June 17th, 2014 | by Jos Roder1
Drift Heaven: The Pearly Gates (Part 1)
I have been planning an Ebisu drift trip since my Ill fated attempt to drift there in 2007 which culminated in a friend and I being stranded on a mountain pass for 24 hours(here). Since that failure in 2007 there has been seven years of…well….. procrastinating ultimately and I decided I needed to make this wish a reality. Finally in May this year, that uncompleted dream was realised.
The catalyst for this trip really came via two wedding invitations we received, happening in Japan in late April (on the same day mind you) and fortunately the dates coincided perfectly with Spring Drift Matsuri dates in Ebisu. My eyes widened. The window was open. It was time to make this happen.
With advice from friends who had attended Ebisu over the last few years and my wife who assisted with much of the booking and planning, the first thing to do was book flights. Once flights had been locked in, it was like a foundation and I could build everything around it.
The next steps came together pretty quickly and included buying a car, organising accommodation, a hire car, bullet trains etc.
My friend Warwick (Waz) didn’t take much convincing to join in the drift adventure plans! Waz has drifted at Ebisu a few times. He was also Japanese in a previous life, I am sure of it.
I packed as many cameras as I could for the trip. At one stage in my enthusiasm, i wrote 4 pages of notes on angles I wanted to film at the event. Those four pages of ideas were left pretty much untouched, so it surprised me that montages seem to be the only angle people produce at Ebisu, however that is another topic for another time!
My wife and I met Waz in Tokyo a few days post our arrival and we all headed out for a nice dinner at a local bar.
After a night out in Tokyo, Waz and I were up early to start our adventure. We boarded a bullet train (one of my favourite things to do in Japan) and enjoyed a nice ride out to our base for the next week, Koriyama.
We arrived at Koriyama station around 10am and headed for our hotel. Waz had stayed in a business hotel only 5 minutes from Koriyama station on a previous trip and after investigating prices, it turned out to be a great option. It was also directly next door to our chosen car hire company! Score.
We picked up our hire car and with gusto, drove off in the general direction of Nihonmatsu, which is the closest town to Ebisu and about 30 minutes from Koriyama. Although we were itching to get to the track, we still needed to make one stop. Up Garage. For those who are not aware, Up Garage is a supermarket for drifters. Put simply, it is a cash converters for aftermarket car parts. Coil overs, wheels, exhausts and pretty much everything else you can think of is available at reasonable prices. Waz and I purchased coolant and a few things to assist in our car prep (including Jumper cables) before resuming the last leg of our journey up the hill to Ebisu.
It was roughly 1pm on a Tuesday as we arrived at the circuit complex and despite our excitement, we thankfully made the wise choice to enter the circuit as spectators (which is only around $16). This would allow us an afternoon to introduce ourselves to Emily and Andy from Powervehicles, pick up our keys and prepare the cars for the abuse they were going to receive for the rest of the week.
Customer cars at Ebisu have a special storage area, which is like a huge post apocalyptic JDM drift car park. Weeds, wheels and wacked out drift cars! Emily kindly drove us down into this car park, which is incredible in it’s own right. Cars are usually parked behind each other in some form of order and often cars in front will need to be moved so your car can be removed. Basically moving the Torana and the Cortina to get to the Camira if you have seen The Castle.
Emily has quite a collection of keys and I was amazed at how she seemed to remember most of the cars, who owns them and what the keys look like! I even tested her to see if she was just bluffing, but she seemed to pass.
The other annoying thing about this process is that the cars have been sitting around often for a year and the battery’s are usually flat. So jumper packs are necessary!
I was certainly intrigued to see what my car looked like in the flesh. I had bought it off a friend after only seeing two photos.
This was one of them. Falling off a track ledge. The other was the rear right quarter panel all smashed. And the answer to your question is… I have no idea. My initial reaction upon seeing the car was somewhat underwhelming. To be honest it looked quite rough but that was what I should have expected considering its sole purpose was to to drift and it sits out in the elements permanently.
After working with Emily and Waz to move cars around, Waz’s S14 and my Laurel were freed and I finally jumped in so we could relocate the cars to perform maintenance. As I slowly took off for the first time, I heard a large cracking sound. I turned around and noticed the rear windscreen had shattered (however still intact) and looked like it would completely fall out of the window frame. As I drove up the rough road, avoiding pot holes was all but impossible, so with paranoia, i did my best to minimise the bumps while the screen wobbled up and down. Nice introduction to the new car!
After parking our cars in one of the many large car park area’s scattered amongst Ebisu, Waz and I surveyed my new car in more detail.
My car was a C35 Nissan Laurel Club S edition that came standard with a RB25DET NEO engine and manual gearbox. It had some basic modifications fitted at some stage, including a 2 way diff, coil overs, a front mounted intercooler, twin plate clutch, exhaust, fibreglass bonnet and a race seat.
We knew drift time was going down the drain while we worked on the cars, so we didn’t waste a minute. The first port of call was a new radiator for the Laurel. The previous owner advised me the old radiator had cracked. I sourced an aftermarket radiator through Powervehicles and picked it up after arriving at Ebisu. This was the first modification of….many we would perform during the week. While changing the radiator, we removed the air conditioning condenser. Better air flow and less weight!
The interior was actually a total mess (as you will see in the video I will release soon) however I took this photo after a thorough clean. You can see the painted Momo steering wheel and boost gauge. The non essentials had already been removed.
The spare studs in the glovebox were not correct, however one of the Powervehicles mechanics came to our aid, found a hub that contained the correct length and pitch studs and with Waz’s assistance we were back in business with all five studs. If you look closely you can see the grey gaffa tape I used to hold in the rear windscreen.
Waz’s S14 is a nicely setup series 1 with a whole fruit basket of quality mods. T518z turbo, a metal head gasket, coil overs, clutch, adjustable arms, oil cooler, 6 point roll cage, electronics everywhere, Bride seat, diff, exhaust and a full bodykit with a 326 power wing.
While we were working on our cars, we ran into a few other Aussie’s up near the Powervehicles garage. This is Nic Wilson giving his battle JZX100 an alignment in preparation for the Gaijin Grand Prix to occur on Friday, which is a foreigner only drift comp. I joked that things are getting serious and he laughed and said “well I need to beat bloody (Chris) DeJager”. I had entered G1GP with the old when in Rome mantra. I certainly wasn’t going to get an alignment, but I also had no expectations apart from just enjoying a foreign drift competition experience. (A separate blog post on G1 will arrive shortly)
Tyres. We picked up some of our pre ordered tyres from Powervehicles in preparation for the next five days. It’s always exciting to see a bunch of nice new tyres you are planning to destroy. It’s not as exciting to think about the dollars you are burning at the same time though, but if that’s what it takes, you will hear no complaints from me.
After a non stop afternoon working on our cars, we parked them in a nice undercover area and headed to Up Garage for more suplies, before heading home for a feed and some sleep in prparation for the day I would finally drive in heaven!
Part 2…..Time To Drift!