Seven Year Itch: Attending R's Day 2023 at Streets of Willow Springs, Part 2

Welcome back to the blog for more on the awesome celebration of GT-R awesomeness that was R's Day 2023. In case you missed the previous post where I detailed the origins and basic info about the event here's a quick link: Part 1.

As I said in that previous post, R's Day is primarily a Skyline and GT-R meet with a trackday incorporated in the proceedings and no Skyline meet would be complete without some nice examples of the R32, the car that firmly established domination was in the GT-R's DNA and gained the “Godzilla” moniker for its ability to lay waste to all before it.

As a link to that very first R's Day 7 years ago it was nice to see this particular one, owned by a guy named Jay, whose devotion to anime waifu Nozomi Toujo has apparently not waned over the years. Notice how his livery has evolved and gotten flashier though since the first event where this photo below was taken:

Also an attendee of that first R's Day but still sporting the same brutal look was the purple Garage Bomber car, still turning heads and thrilling eardrums.

The last time I attended R's Day the R33 wasn't legal yet for import so only a couple showed up. Fast forward to 2023 and there was now a whole smorgasbord of them with some truly unique examples to catch your eye.

Probably the most attention-grabbing was this one dressed-up just like a Japanese police cruiser. It might even be an actual retired cop car judging from how authentic the pieces on it looked, down to the signature clear plastic hood panel and v-shape light bar. Pretty sure the active service versions didn't sport those natty BBS wheels though.

Almost as hard to miss – but not by much – was this bright yellow homage to the Fast and the Furious franchise. Even before becoming Brian O'Connor's ride of choice the Nissan GT-R already made a cameo in the very first movie in the form of an R33 driven by side character Leon and it looked just like this one. The movie car was nicknamed “Big Bird” for the striking yellow color the production staff painted it but it later became notorious in real life for being scrapped by the Feds in the wake of the Motorex import scandal.

More subtle - if you can call a car with a huge Gran Turismo logo on the side “subtle” - was this R33, looking like the pixels in the game had made themselves manifest in reality.

Even more subtle, but again, it's a modded R33 so I'm using the word in a relative sense, was this crazy clean silver bullet. This one's notable for the tasteful and well-executed mods and the fact it's owned by my friend Henry – a seasoned hand in the JDM-modding scene who I was very happy to see had made the trip out to Willow Springs as well.

My favorite R33 at the event though was this Autech four-door that enthusiasts will know is the only other official four-door GT-R apart than the original Hakosukas way back in 1968. After the 400R, which is now WAY above my pay grade, the Autech is THE R33 I would love to have in my collection, just because of that unique body style.

It's at this point I'd like to be telling you about all the R34s that were there but for most of the event there was only one, and it was my own Midnight Purple baby, so I won't bore you telling you about it again. Instead, let's look at one of those blasphemous cars I mentioned earlier, this bright green bit of craziness that showed up in the afternoon:

Yes, that's a supercharged V8 under the hood. No, I did not proceed to assault the driver like a drunken lunatic on an American Airlines flight, asking he repent for his act of bastardization. I left that to the real loonies. I love my Skylines but “you doing you” is fine in my book as long as you're not a prick about it.

Speaking of respecting people's choices, the R35 was also a common sight, thankfully disregarding the silly notion some people still have that the latest GT-R is so not one at all. Sure feels like one to me, after having the privilege of driving or riding in several different generations. Anyway, this Millenium Jade T-Spec was a perfect example of the latest in the long line.

As I said earlier, Nissan's not of the Skyline or GT-R persuasion are still welcome at R's Day so there were plenty of those to check out as well.

Skyline import guru Sean Morris had brought out his personal Stagea and ran it hard. For those not familiar with the Stagea, it's basically a station wagon version of the Skyline with different bodywork. The more potent versions even have the same RB26-powered drivetrain as their contemporary GT-Rs and the dimensions are close enough to the Skyline that grafting a Skyline nose is a common modification for Stageas. That's why Sean had a top tip for those still looking to get into the JDM GT-R lifestyle but want a better buy-in price: get a Stagea instead. And put an inflatable bed and curtains in the back. I may or may not have added that last part.

Sean's wasn't the only Stagea around and this lady-driven example is a good example of the Skyline nosejob I mentioned above. Yeah, it's like an automotive mullet, business in the front, party in the back – or should it be party in the front, business in the back? Ah, whatever, it's cool, alright?

Moving on to another car with some cosmetic surgery applied, check out this slick Pandem-bodied S-chassis. Always loved the look of this particular kit and would own one if I had Elon Musk money and weren't a regular daily grind normie.

As a hopeless Nissan nerd, I don't just have a special place in my heart for the company's sportier output, I'm also quite fond of some of their more humble creations. The Cube in particular is a delight and I'm glad other Skyline fans give it some love too.

Of course the cars are the main reason you go to a car meet – unless of course you drive a Mustang, in which case you mainly go to endanger bystanders – but events like R's Day need other things to do besides ogle the sheetmetal. And R's Day did have other stuff to see.

R's Day wouldn't be possible without helpful sponsors to help foot the bills while showing off their wares and most prominent of them was Top Rank Importers, the biggest name in the US JDM import business. They brought out a brace of shop and customer cars to show prospective customers what they could offer and like I mentioned earlier, their director Sean Morris was on hand to help answer questions in between track sessions. I caught Sean during one of those intermissions and we chatted for a bit to catch up on things. He's the reason I was able to own the Nismo R32 and MP2 R34 I have now and lots of other people have benefited from his help over the years in realizing their dream car goals.

Top Rank doesn't just import cars, they also help source hard-to-find parts from Japan so they had some tasty bits on display like a snazzy Built By Legends custom ignition key, Nismo carbon intake piping, and a new replacement R32 door panel for those needing to refurb their car back to OEM goodness.

Plenty of other sponsors had stuff to check out and buy like JDM parts house Trust Kikaku and tuning specialists Haltech. Hagerty had a stand too to promote their collector car insurance for both off and on-track use.

The on-track action is the other main draw for both drivers and spectators alike at R's Day and although Willow Springs doesn't have the drama of Laguna Seca's corkscrew it's not a disappointing track by any means. It was a real challenge with deceptive decreasing-radius turns and multiple fast transitions to catch out the unwary or unskilled.

As I said in part 1 of these posts, I decided to run in Beginner group instead of a more advanced class despite years of track experience just because I REALLY didn't want to hurt my lovely purple baby and because I'm rusty from the years since my last track session. Having been in the shoes of a newbie to track driving I can say the Beginner class at R's Day is a good way to dip your toes in the world of road-course driving. Although understandably not as structured as say a NASA High-Performance Driving Education trackday, they don't just throw you out there to sink or swim but instead teach you some of the basics like safe passing and what the different flags mean. The first session is also a lead-follow so those new to the track can learn the proper racing line more safely. Driver meetings after each early session help smooth out any kinks that show up.

That's not to say you can't have proper fun and get off the leash if you're in Beginner though. In fact, as the day wore on Beginner was the place to be since it was much less busy than the higher groups. Me and a couple of others could have easily moved up if we wanted to but we were having too much fun on the uncrowded track that we stayed put.

I wanted to take more photos of the track action but there was plenty to do in between my own time on the course that it just wasn't possible. Here's a few of the pics that I did manage to snag though:

The white R35 was driven by my next-door neighbor in pit lane Sam, who came out from LA with his full-bolt-on GT-R to do his very first road course event. He and I had a blast especially as the day worn on with the track becoming less and less crowded during our sessions.

I was also hoping to have a nice collection of photos of my own car running at speed so I was happy to see Caliphotography was there in the morning. Back when I regularly did trackdays I'd used their services before and knew that it was well worth their bundle price to make sure you got all their photos of your car from the day. Unfortunately come the afternoon they informed me their photographer had an accident and so they had to issue a refund. Happily I heard their camera person came out okay but of course I was still disappointed not to have some nice photos of my beloved R34 being driven like she was meant to.

Image credit: @shootheory

Thankfully both the internet and R's Day's organizers came to my rescue. After the event I was contacted on Instagram by some very nice folks who sent me their shots and the organizers also sent out an email to contact the guys at SoCal Motorsports West magazine who'd been shooting all day in case they had shots to share. 

Image credit: SoCal Motorsports West magazine

The staff at the magazine did have some gorgeous photos of my car and they kindly shared them with me. I gladly sent a donation their way as R's Day suggested as a thank you for the pictures and even paid for a subscription. Print mags are unfortunately a dying breed now and I miss the days when you could look forward to a shiny new issue of Sport Compact Car or Import Tuner every month so I try to do what I can to support what's still out there. I hope some of you reading this will do the same so here's a link to their website:

Even the best events have to come to an end and R's Day is no different, but to cap it off with a blast they had several final activities lined up.

First off was a parade lap of all the cars, including people who had opted out of the full trackday but paid a smaller fee to just do the parade lap. As the parade lap ended the cars were then lined up on the front straight for a photo op. Having this many Skylines and GT-Rs in one place is a rare sight anywhere so of course I took full advantage to try and get some good shots.

As the sun set there was one more photo op on the skidpad portion of the track with the cars all gathered around in a rough circle. The day wasn't done yet though as night fell.

For one final hurrah the organizers held a raffle for some pretty sweet prizes ranging from pricey car parts to sponsor goods like hoodies and stickers. All registrants got at least one ticket but you could buy more for a reasonable price and for once the car gods smiled on me and I came away with a certificate for a set of Swift lowering springs of my choice. Not a bad way to end the day.

After that, there was nothing left but to finish packing up the car for the long drive home. It was well past midnight by the time I parked the 34 back in my humble home town but it was a trip well worth remembering and I hope my next outing to R's Day won't take another seven years. If you have the chance to go I'd encourage you to also not let the chance pass you by. Maybe I'll run into you there in the future but until the next article, drive safe as always!