Four years. Nearly 1,500 days living overseas in Japan. However, now I have returned to my home, New Zealand. Returned to enjoy the smell of smoke in The Land of the Long White Cloud. It had been about a month since I had touched NZ soil, I had done my two weeks of Managed Isolation at The Rydges in Rotorua, and was now keen to see some NZ automotive culture.
My friend Kendall (who owns this 180sx) invited me along to a private track day held by a bunch of mates of his on a Thursday at Hampton Downs’ Club Circuit. It was going to be my first time going back to Hampton Downs in four years, that’s quite a hiatus. A lot of things change in four years. I wasn’t sure I was going to recognise anybody at all. And I was kind of right.
Kendall met me beforehand and we cruised down together. A much-welcomed reunion, with him and his type x 180. I was driving my newly purchased, 08 Honda Odyssey wagon, my daily driver (I’ll be writing up an introduction of that vehicle a bit later.) here in NZ.
Keeping with Japanese fashion, Kendall’s 180 is road legal, so of course, he drove it to Hampton Downs, swapped out the rear wheels, and hit the track. He’d had a bit of a break, meaning the first few outing were taken cautiously.
But then he started to get back into the groove of everything, with high 3rd gear entries. This track is actually very similar to Bihoku, well the first corner anyway. It’s a 3rd gear entry into a right-hander, with most people changing down to 2nd. One day I’ll drive my 14 here too!
It was clear, straight away, that NZ drifting is different. Rules were much, much stricter. Something I’ll go over later on in the year, how much Japan and NZ differ at the race track.
Isn’t this just eye candy? Arguably the best two-tone colour combo on an S13. Michael Keane has gone through a hearty restoration, much more in-depth than what was first initially anticipated. The results speak for themselves here though.
As well as Kendall, I knew Michael. But that was it. And I knew Michael through Kendall. Michael was actually the organiser of this particular drift day. Only a select few close friends of his pedalling their way around the Club Circuit.
It just looks right. Plus, by the end of the day, he was really pushing the car to its limits with some hectic entries.
No roll cage, no worries. Unless you’re taking some buddies for a ridealong.
The yin and the yang. The s13 and 180sx. An iconic duo chasing each other lap after lap. If you had the chance, which route would you go down? The retro flip lights of the 180, or the classic square look of the S13?
Before returning to NZ, while I was still in Japan. I made sure to have a look around Instagram to find some cool cars around my area. This was to make sure I wasn’t completely clueless when I landed back in NZ. One of those cars was this beige R32, owned by Harry.
Wabaki. If you’ve watched F&F Tokyo Drift. You’ll remember the Japanese teacher yelling at “Sean” asking him where his wabaki were, or indoor slippers. The word wabaki actually has a U in front of it, making it uwabaki, but it’s rather silent. In any sense, it’s still an awesome personalised plate.
I vividly remember a few times at Bihoku Circuit (My home circuit in Japan), there was another R32 there. Skylines seemed to be something of a rarity in Japan, unlike New Zealand where you see one every other day. This particular R32 had an engine noise like no other I had heard. While running the smaller A course, I remember this R32 coming around the corner behind me, literally SCREAMING at me. It was the only car that made me scared to be chased by.
New Zealand is the home of four-door Skylines. Some are modified for grip, some for drag, you can even see a few badly modified ones which haven’t been cleaned for years, driving around the less classy parts of Auckland. The last of the litter, spend their time burning rubber with speed.
Hampton Downs Club Circuit is a “female dog” if you ever come off with your low drift car. You will most likely fall into gravel, destroying your nice fibreglass bumper, or break that expensive plastic oem bumper. This can make even the manliest of men shed a tear in regret.
For the majority, Olly was piloting his car with precision. But all it takes is one slip up and there goes 1G. It’s a sad time, but it also gives you a chance to change bumpers, or paint. It’s a lose, win situation.
Compared to back in my second home, the action here was limited. Depending on how much dough you fork out to hire the track, you can only run a certain number of cars. We had three cars out at a time which might have been okay for a smaller track, but for one so large like this, it brought a lot of waiting.
From a photographers point of view, that’s not all bad. It gives me time to look back at the photos I had just captured and cull all the non-worthy photos. This process saves time in the long run as doing it on a computer seems to take longer.
The S14, in my opinion, the best chassis for a Silvia. It has the bigger rear end (If you have the turbo), the rear guards gobble up wheels, and parts are the cheapest. Angus’ S14 was very clean, with beautiful vivid red paint and matching seats to suit.
This might be me someday soon. Once my S14 has gone through the process of becoming legal on New Zealand roads. I want to drift at a few tracks here in NZ. And of course, I’ll document the experience!
Days like these are usually the best. When it’s closed to the public, and only close friends of the drivers are present. Everything is more relaxed, it’s much easier to approach people, and borrowing tools is no problem.
And when you do finally cock it up, there is nobody to capture it.
Or maybe there is! Just being in the right place at the right time can produce some good results!
There we have it. The first event back in good ol New Zealand. I’m looking forward to doing more events around Auckland and maybe even Taupo and Manfield. Until next time. Stay safe and drive fast!
Photos: Shaun Constable | Words: Shaun Constable
Ambition Works 2012 – 2020