Every year in Japan, everyone gets a break from work on national holidays scattered around the calendar, the most famous being Golden Week in early May. Today though is one that probably isn’t well known, or considered a national holiday in any other country, although I could be wrong. The Vernal Equinox was observed this year on the 20th of March. It’s a day where day and night are nearly equal, and for some unknown reason to me, Japan decided to make it a national holiday.
I can’t complain though, a day off from work is always a good day. Recently I’ve been making a few changes to Project Kouki. The main two being a new steering wheel set-up and a Blitz FMIC. With nothing planned on the Vernal Equinox, I decided that there was no better way to spend this holiday than to go drifting. So, from now on, it will be called the Drift Equinox.
I packed up the Silvia the night before, so it would be ready for the 2-hour touge drive through the mountain to get to Bihoku Highland Circuit in the morning. This is the closest circuit to me, and it’s starting to feel like home. The gates open at 7:30 am and drifting started at 8 am. I wanted to get the most out of the day, that meant me leaving my house at 5:30 am!
I knew it was going to be a rainy day, and with only limited covered spaces, I wanted to get there first. And that I did! Cars started showing up after me until about 9 am, when everyone who was going to come for the day had arrived. About 10 cars in total. This included beginners, a few grip drivers, and also a handful of professional D1GP and FD drivers.
A week or so before, I had prepared the car for drifting. A few small steps turn this road car into a drift car. I replace the S15 seat with a Recaro, change the daily wheels over for my drifting wheels. Install the fire extinguisher (although no safety inspection is done at all), and then remove the ABS fuse.
I went out for my first run at 8 am, it was the first time drifting in the rain at Bihoku, I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my surprise, there was still a lot of grip. Of course, my entry speed was a whole lot slower, but generally speaking, it wasn’t too much different than in the dry. Rain also meant I didn’t have to use any of my tyres up, I could save them for another day!
From 8 am to 4 pm, it was an open track. There were no marshals because the track is always visible no matter where you are. No classes, just a free for all for 8 hours! And the price? A mere 5000 yen or $48 if you’re from the USA. You can’t really beat the value for money at Bihoku. Even when you need to quench your thirst, there are multiple vending machines to choose from!
What I really like about coming to Bihoku when there are no events on, is that it’s cheaper (usually events cost around 10,000 yen), not only that but anybody can show up. Bihoku is located pretty much in the middle of Tottori, Shimane, Hiroshima, Okayama, Hyogo. That’s 5 prefectures that can easily access this track.
I had the opportunity to try to keep up with the D1 drivers that come along on this day, but it was futile. My car was too slow, and their cars were much too fast. Towards the end of the day, I did start to get a little bored of drifting, so I decided to chase a Vitz around the track. I could only just keep up around the corners, but on the straights I had him.
I’ve come to the point where I’m happy with how the car looks and handles. From now on, what I want to do is improve the reliability. I think next on the list of things to do is an oil cooler and oil filter relocator. At the moment, the oil heats up too quick, meaning I have to take a cool down lap every 3 or so runs. After that, I think a water cooling upgrade might be next.
I met a few new friends on this day, we (tried to) chase each other, shared some stories, ate some food, smoked some tyres, and swapped SNS details. Hopefully, I’ll be able to drift with them another time in the future!
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable
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