The First Ever R's Day - R Stands For Rain And Racing
It was a rainy and cold Saturday in Monterey, California last weekend but the inclement weather wasn't enough to dampen the spirits of a hardy collection of Skyline and GT-R fans that had gathered for the first ever R's Day - an event to "Celebrate All Things Skyline" as the organizers describe it.
If you missed my previous announcement posts or you recently happened to move to 1400 Under A Rock Lane, R's Day was the brainchild of a small group of dedicated West Coast GT-R owners called the Skyline Syndicate. Led by Jack Yi who'd long been wanting to have an event at Laguna Seca that took inspiration from Japan's legendary R's Meeting the date was set on November 26 and an open invitation was sent out to any Skyline or GT-R owner who wanted to come.
Never heard of R's Meeting? Well, if you're a GT-R fan you owe it to yourself to learn more about it because (with the possible exception of Nissan's own Nismo Festival) it's probably the single greatest concentration of distilled GT-R awesomeness on the planet! Every year Japan's GT-R Magazine rents out the majestic Fuji Speedway and then for a whole day - rain or shine - seemingly every Skyline and "R" driver in the Land of the Rising Sun makes the pilgrimage to check out rides from the country's greatest tuners as well as fellow owners. Companies trot out their latest pet projects and new parts while the magazine itself shoots hundreds of photos to include in their annual owner's issue. Speedhunters has covered the event for years so because learning is a wonderful thing here's a link to some of their posts: Linkydoo. Unfortunately there's no single link with all their excellent coverage over the years but that's a start. I thought this post in particular is relevant to R's Day as you'll see later on.
|Image credit: Speedhunters|
I've been to many world-famous tracks like Indy, Mid-Ohio, COTA, and so on but at the top of my list of must-go-to tracks was Laguna Seca. I'd run hundreds of laps on the circuit already but sadly it was all virtual as the photo from Gran Turismo 6 above shows. R's Day meant I could do it for reals. Giggidy.
Needless to say I was looking forward to the event like a kid at Christmas whose parents did a crappy job of hiding the fact he's getting a new PS4 Pro from Santa so I prepped my trusty R35 and set off from Arizona early on Black Friday while everyone else was busy having fistfights over the last remaining Hatchimal at Toys R Us.
Google Maps said the drive would take about 9 hours. Nearly 600 miles behind the wheel of an R35 GT-R demonstrates the validity of those three famous letters. It's a great Grand Touring car to demolish long miles of highway driving and then have some fun Racing at your destination.
Unfortunately the Racing part can be a bit of a drag on the way to your goal since on this drive, just like almost every one I've done on this car, the sight of a GT-R seems to push every immature asshat on the road into "Fast and The Furious" mode. It was hard to relax when everyone from the dork in the chrome-rimmed, V6 secretary-special Mustang to the doofus in an Audi A6 or the dingbat in the Corvette C7 with Canadian plates thinks his wiener will grow a couple of much-needed inches because he managed to pass a GT-R. So sad.
Aside from the incessant immaturity of my fellow drivers the drive up was perfectly pleasant especially as I hit the scenic areas north of Los Angeles. At the Grapevine I had to stop for a quick bladder break and to snap some pics to remember the trip by. As I got nearer to Montery though the scenery got even better and I wish I'd had a chance to stop and get some more snaps as I wandered through the hills of California wine country.
That Friday night kicked off the event with an informal meet and greet at the Coast Guard pier in Monterey. The parking lot was fairly deserted except for our group but that didn't stop random passersby from stopping to ogle the unusual gathering of Nissan's hero car.
I got to the pier a bit late after my long drive up but that meant there was already a big group of cars of all years and states of tune and I was soon chatting it up with old and new faces alike.
A couple of fellow Arizonans had also made the trek - one of which I'd met before, Jose from Phoenix with his purple R32 sedan. He'd told me Laguna Seca was also a dream of his to go to so he made the trip over with a couple of friends joining him on the ride.
We were wondering at the S2000 and secretly hoped it packed an SR20 swap but sadly that wasn't the case.
All the way from Canuckistan came Victor and his gorgeous MP2 R34. I don't think he packed enough microfiber to handle all the drool his car provoked, especially since his was the lone "san-yon" in the group.
The previous days' weather had been great but unfortunately Saturday dawned gloomier than holiday dinner at the Grinch's house. It was still amazing to see the distinctive circuit I'd seen only on my TV before in real life for the first time.
Luckily for me I'd taken up the event's offer to rent out one of the garages so my car could take shelter from the pouring rain. Interestingly the one I got was right underneath Nissan's own company room. I had to resist the temptation to run up there and sneak a peek in - not that I was expecting to see anything except some chairs but if I was lucky Bob Sharp's ghost might have possessed me. I could have used his skills to run my first laps on a daunting circuit IN THE WET!
To help everyone stay psyched the organizers had arranged some free swag so everyone got a Tomei bag with goodies and a Cusco lanyard.
There was also a small display of various JDM and Skyline-related items:
Being the first to arrive except for Jack and his fiance the garages felt kind of lonely at first but that changed as Skylines and GT-Rs of all description soon came pouring in.
R32s of course outnumbered all the other types.
It may look like just another gun metal R32 at first glance but Chris' car was tuned by Do Luck in Japan just before making the trip over here and had a set of sexy sexy Runduce brake calipers.
Not quite as festooned with rare JDM kit but certainly more unique on the aesthetic front was Jay's car. Aside from the body kit and Nismo-inspired graphics he had this:
Yup, his car was one of those itasha I keep raving madly about in other posts. Jay's obviously a huge fan of Nozomi from idol anime Love Live. Best girl, Jay, best girl.
Love the fact he combined a Nismo S-tune-style livery with the race queen Nozomi graphics!
Most distinctive in both tuning and looks was this R32 - Aki from Garage Bomber's personal purple beast that was DETUNED to 760hp.
This pristine '71 Hakosuka also graced the event with its presence. It was great seeing it take to the track along with all the more modern machinery.
It was hard to do Victor's Midnight Purple baby justice with the bad weather but here's a bunch more pics anyway.
The R33 was much better represented than the 34 and Hako including Andy's example in the first two pics that was decked out with some especially drool-worthy Nismo kit like that amazing titanium strut bar and rare LM GT3 wheels.
As expected the R35 contingent was well-represented, ranging from the midlly-modded like Billy's Meteor Blue Pearl DBA to the Voltex kitted black one just below.
It's not simple to just put on a track day at Laguna Seca. Despite its fame and history the track's been affected by stupid legal restrictions over the past couple of decades. Foremost of which are the sound limits imposed that mean fines are issued if you go over 90db during most events. To facilitate R's Day's track sessions the organizers had coordinated with the Northern California Racing Club (NCRC) to run as part of their scheduled event. This meant other interesting machinery was on hand aside from the GT-Rs like this amazing Lancia Stratos replica. The owner told me he'd spent years building it and the craftsmanship shows. It was powered by an Alfa V6 to keep it Italian (a Ferrari Dino V6 being harder to source of course) and even replicated the original rally car's dash including a couple of analog stopwatches for the navigator!
NCRC ran the customary driver's meeting before letting everyone go wild on the track.
Being busy with driving (and chatting, and wandering around, and just generally wasting time) I didn't get a chance to shoot my own photos of the track action but thankfully GotBlueMilk Photography was there and I got these great shots as a souvenir of the day. In case you're wondering about their name I'll give you a hint: Luke Skywalker's Aunt and Uncle.
The race numbers were supplied by the event and me and some others were getting ready to go all Black Friday in a mad scramble for the choicest combinations but wisely the organizers hadn't made "23" or "35" and so a killing spree was avoided. I had to settle for "22" but hey, that's Nismo's alternate race number so we're still good!
As you can see from the photos the first sessions were crazy wet. Not wanting to wad up my baby I drove like those legendary words from the original Fast and the Furious "granny-shifting and not double-clutching like you should". Not that those words make any real sense but I drove like a senior citizen in short. Even then there were a few hairy moments as hundreds of horses tried their best to make me swap ends. In the first two sessions there was quite a bit of that happening and some people were unfortunately left scrubbing gravel out of their undercarriage.
The sun did decide to come out of hiding by the third session but sadly it didn't stay that way. Still for several awesome laps we got to see what Laguna Seca was like in the dry. The Corkscrew really is as amazing as they say by the way!
The little bit of dry running was a godsend for some people, like this Exomotive Exocet driver running with NCRC.
Also on hand was Diane Krey, "Mary" from the famous Japanese Ken and Mary ad campaign that gave the Kenmeri Skyline its widely-accepted name. Sadly there weren't any real Kenmeris at the event but Diane kindly gave me this autographed promotional photo. Here's some more learning for you if you're not familiar with her story: Linkydoo again.
By the end of the day the clouds had rolled back in but to cap off a memorable day the organizers arranged for a final photo op on the main straight. What an awesome way to end a great event!
The following day my poor R35 was a wet and soggy mess but I still had another day left on my stay. Driving Laguna Seca was one of the bucket list items I checked off on this trip but I was determined to take care of another one by checking out the other thing Monterey is most famous for: stoners. No wait, that wasn't it...
Oh yeah, it was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I'd always wanted to go there since I was a wee squirt dreaming of being an oceanographer - before reality set in and all that jazz.
The day after meant another nearly 600 mile drive back home dodging "street racers" most of the way. The Grapevine was gloomier this time around but my mood was far from that as I drove back from a truly memorable trip.
If you didn't get a chance to go this year, take heart that Skyline Syndicate is already making plans for 2017! I'm hoping to make it out again - this time probably with my R32 - and hopefully you can make it out too!