Yesterday evening I left my cozy warm home, to go spend the night in a tiny ski resort named Yachihokogen, in Nagano prefecture. I had this little trip planned for over a month now, when the owner of Fun2Drive, Chikara Yokoyama, told me he was organizing this little "get together" in the middle of nowhere!
For those who missed it, here is a little reminder of my time renting Fun2Drive cars
Anyway... "Yeah, Quebec ice driving memories!!"
I don't miss Québec very much, but I do miss driving there in winter... Heck, I miss driving in general as for now, I'm stucked with an automatic Toyota Passo until I find something I actually want to live with for the years to come (and I'm complicated and dificult when it comes to cars...). I couldn't ignore this "winter jam" and rented 2 cars right away, securing my spot at the event.
When I first arrived, after a good 4 hour drive, I had no idea what to expect. Maybe a couple guys with Miatas drifting an unplowed frozen lake? Maybe something super organized with some pros coming to perfect their skills? No idea. I didn't even know what car I was supposed to drive! I only knew I would spend some time in a RWD and in an AWD car. I was quite exited about the AWD car as the only couple of times I had driven one, it was to go get the groceries and I had NO IDEA how they behaved when pushed around.
Around 10am after a nice long night in the ski resort nearby I arrived at the lake and saw... everything! You had Renault Clios, Citroen C6, Mazda Rx7, Suzuki Cappucinos, a bunch of WRX STis of different generations, a Civic, some econoboxes, a couple of automatic minivans, a Golf R.... EVERYTHING! All types of modern cars were represented. I have to admit I was kind of desappointed not to see someone hoon an old Datsun or an old Skyline.
I wasn't gonna be driving until the afternoon so I hung around, taking pictures, talking with people in my broken japanese, mixed with some english.
All morning was icy to say the least. I'm glad I wasn't scheduled around 10am, that would have ruined my time there. The rental cars did not have any studded tires, just some decent snow tires and people struggled terribly on the ice. Luckily for me, it warmed up to 10 degrees celcius in the afternoon and the ice started to transform itself in something a bit grippier for studdless snowtires.
Then around 1.30pm, it was my turn to drive!
The Mazda FC Rx-7:
What a fun little thing to drive on ice! This car was just pure fun. Naturally slightly understeery, it was very easy to slide around, despite needing a little bit of hand brake action once in while on tighter corners. A small modulation of the throttle combined with a little tap on the brake and there you go! It pivots and slides aroud! Lots of fun and barely any turbo lag. On the down side, it was driving aorund with a stock of spare belts in the trunk and when I asked the mechanic how it was in term of reliability he laughed at me and said "Yeah! Problems and engine! Booom!!". I still like it though!!!
But well, it's a car you can find for 3k$ here, so if it explodes on you, I guess it's acceptable.
Join me for one lap in it (this time I can publish the videos, it's legal! :) )
Then the AWD car: A Subaru Legacy.
At first I was a bit surpirsed. Really? A wagon at that?? (not a big fan of wagons in general) Oh well, why not... I remembered being driven in one as a passenger, in the snow, with it understeering like a pig and the driver being totally unable to get it to turn. Sounds like lots of fun!
In the end, it's not bad. My friend who was driving it back in QC most likely sucked and it corners alright. Sure it understeers, but with a bit of practice and once you understand that you must let go of the damn throttle to get it to pivot (took me a couple laps to understand that), it's actually somewhat fun. Very stable and you can easily pull on to the hand brake at speed and get set for the next upcomming corner nicely. It's fun, but as a rental. I wouldn't buy a car like this as I would certainly find it to be extremely boring to drive after a while.
Another onboard quick video of one little lap.
(If you see me chewing onto something, it's my tongue... I'm chewing my damn tongue when I'm enjoying something. Don't ask me why, I know it looks stupid)
Overall a great time in Middleofnowhere, Japan and I'll come back next year with my own car this time! Can't wait already!
And to finish, a quick photodump of some of the cars that were there at the event!
(new JDM style of wheels!)
I miss this Ô so reliable Rx7 already...