I always dreamed that, one day, I’d get to blog about a grassroots drift day at Meihan Sportsland. Last Wednesday, I found myself driving along the expressway from Osaka in the sweltering heat alongside my friend Eiichi, himself an O.G drifter of Tinker fame. I was exhausted from our hectic schedule, feeling ill and struggling to cope with the near 40 degrees heat but I knew there was absolutely no way I was going to pass up on visiting what is a mecca for fans of grassroots Japanese drifting.
We arrived into the parking area that sits behind the viewing gallery, with the first car that drew my attention being this 180SX. I never saw anyone working on it during the day nor did I see it hit the track, but it was definitely cool nonetheless.
This Rocket Bunny PS13 belongs to Michihiro Takatori who campaigns it in the Formula Drift Japan series. Takatori was one of many FD Japan, D1GP and D1SL drivers that were in attendance at this no-frills mid-week practice day, simply keeping their skills topped up prior to their next respective major competitions.
This is one of the many aspects that I absolutely love about Japanese drifting; no matter how good you are, you can always learn something from practicing regularly. It’s rare to see top level competition guys from the UK attending their local practice days regularly and refining their skills, so this Japanese approach was definitely refreshing to see.
I think Takatori’s S13 was the only car present that wasn’t fitted with an SR, RB or 4AGE engine. Thankfully, it definitely didn’t sound like a traditionally lazy V8, with the individual throttle bodies contributing to the extremely loud and aggressive bark that this power plant emitted.
The full dashboard and door cards remained, with a through-dash roll cage contributing some additional safety. A set of Defi gauges featured atop the dash along with a selection of switches and a cut-off switch having been fitted where the central air vents once lived.
Thanks to Eiichi, I was given the chance to ride shotgun with Takatori for a session while he chased down D1GP and FD Japan driver Kunihiko Teramachi – it was definitely an experience I won’t be forgetting in a hurry and consider myself very fortunate for being offered the opportunity.
Speaking of Teramachi and, in my opinion at least, he was definitely throwing down the wildest and most aggressive entries of the day. The PS13 that he was driving is the car that he once used to win various D1SL events a few years ago, with the car being fitted with an extremely potent SR20 setup. Looks like he’s missing his rear lower light panel though – maybe I should send him one of my fibreglass replacements?
Nowadays, Teramachi drives his 2JZ powered S15 in D1GP and FD Japan but it was great to see that his PS13 still sees regular use as a practice car to help him keep his skills topped up.
While it was one of the most subtle cars present on the day, that still didn’t stop me taking a few pictures of this C33 Laurel, mainly because it looks almost identical to mine (albeit with 18″ wheels and a stock metal bonnet).
It was definitely at the other end of the spectrum when compared to some of the other more track-focused cars that featured smashed bumpers, lurid paint jobs and a plethora of graphics.
Speaking of C33 Laurels, it was great to see the Supermade C33 out on track. Having been bought from Supermade by a friend of the company recently so that they could continue with their new S15 build, the new owner definitely wasn’t afraid of throwing it up against the legendary Meihan wall (which would probably explain the missing rear light!).
I love everything about this car, from the custom bodywork (check the integrated boot spoiler) to the little 15″ Rays TE37Vs and candy paint job that drew it so much attention when it competed in FD Japan. Stay tuned for a future video of it in action.
Speaking of four doors on 15″ wheels, this A31 Cefiro also won my heart.
Full interior, stock bumpers, mismatched 15″ wheels and an SR20 under the bonnet; I loved it.
Another D1SL-turned-D1GP drifter was also present in the form of Seimi Tanaka (Tanaka is the driver chasing Nakamura in this now-famous video).
He too was also getting some practice in what was once his competition car (he now drives an S15 in D1GP). While this PS13 has certainly taken a beating over the years, that made it perfect for Seimi to throw around and keep on improving his already enviable abilities. Unfortunately though, a leaky fuel tank seemed to be causing him some grief on the day.
The interior is a typically Japanese affair, with a dash-dodger cage, bucket seat, steering wheel and a set of Defis having been fitted.
As expected, a potent SR20 setup lay under the bonnet. I love seeing the engine bays of cars that have done so well in competition and finding that the battery remains in the original position, the stock header tank remains and that the front end isn’t constructed from a myriad of tubing.
This Onevia featured an RB engine setup and sounded truly brilliant when on the limit. The Enkei RPF01s also looked cool – you don’t see too many of them fitted to drift cars.
This S15 was absolutely immaculate, yet the owner was still trying his hardest to throw it up against the wall, getting better with each session throughout the day.
You might notice that the Original Labo Racing Line aero that this car features is also fitted to a number of other cars in this article. This is mainly because Origin Labo is an Osaka-based company, so plenty of local drivers go to them for relatively cheap and easily replaceable aero parts.
Another Racing Line-kitted S15, although this one is campaigned in the D1SL series.
Ziek Power are an extremely well known Japanese shop (most recently, you may remember them for building an SR20 powered GT86), with all of their cars having featured the same distinctive livery. This Onevia of theirs was powered by an RB setup and sounded nothing short of incredible. I also liked the modification to the pop-up headlights, with the lower section of the covers having been cut away and aftermarket lights mounted underneath so as to remove the need for them to pop up to be functional.
I saw this JZX100 Chaser parked up near the track entrance that also featured beaten-up Racing Line aero and some bolt-on arches.
It was great to see that, while a bolt-in cage had been fitted, the creature comforts still remained.
I wasn’t entirely sure why one side featured such an in-your-face colour for the Origin wheels while those on the passenger side featured a more traditional colour – which do you prefer?
This S15 had a nice and basic SR20 setup and was going extremely well on track, with the owner getting more and more confident and throwing wilder entries as each session passed.
Unfortunately, our busy schedule meant that we weren’t able to hang around all afternoon at the track but, in the few hours that I did get to spend at Meihan Sportsland, I knew that this practice day exemplified everything that I love about drifting. There were no egos, no bad attitudes and there was an overwhelming urge from everyone to continue to improve their skills, regardless of their current ability.
The practice day itself was a total no-frills affair: there were three members of staff working the circuit (a lady in the trackside office and two guys who alternated on flag waving duty), there were four driver groups based on ability (each having a ten minute or so session before cooling down for half an hour) and, in the event of a crash, the drivers marshalled the track themselves. If anything, the day reminded me of the vibes you get at a drift day at the likes of Santa Pod or Buxton here in the UK, albeit one with some of the best drifters in the world taking part. Hopefully, one day, I’ll get to drive at Meihan Sportsland myself.