Fun2Drive, Fast & Furious in Hakone, after three days in Yokohama it was time to board the Shinkansen for Odawara, Shinkansen are the easiest way to get from “A to B” by rail in Japan, quick and comfortable, they are quite expensive though, if time is not an issue standard rail is a more sedate means of travel.
Odawara is approximately 2 hours south west of Yokohama, overlooking Sagami Bay, our visit to Odawara was to be brief, unfortunately, the final destination was Sengokuhara in the Hakone Mountains, ring any bells? for lovers of drift culture this area is well known, the movie Initial “D” was filmed here, the area is full of spectacular scenery and brilliant driving roads, we were heading to Fun 2 Drive a company that hires out sports cars and sports sedans.
The trip from Odawara to Sengokuhara takes about forty minutes by bus through some very scenic countryside this area is a popular vacation spot and you can see why, it is heavily forested with meandering rivers, lakes and mountain roads, then there is Mt Fuji, one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, Hakone is an area I would like to see more of, the bus dropped us off in Sengokuhara leaving us a fiffteen minute walk to Fun 2 Drive, most of which was uphill.
The directions we had were sketchy, so we were relieved when Fun 2 Drive came into view, our pace quickened at the site of the cars, red, yellow white, blue and silver parked in the lot along side the highway, we took a moment to check out our cars all lined up waiting for us, we were finally here, seeing them did set the butterflies a fluttering.
After meeting the owners and filling out all the necassary paperwork, and being appraised of the costs and civil penalties for crashing or damaging the cars or road infrastructure, we drew a deep breath and went outside to familiarize ourselves with our cars, I was driving a 1990 Honda NSX, Dave was driving a R34 Nissan GTR, Tony was driving a 1980’s Nissan Hakasuka GT-R spec, with Ashley co piloting and Togga had the Nissan Fairlady, 240ZG spec, all very desireable cars standard, these cars however do have some work done, improved brakes, suspension and exhausts which makes them even more fun to punt around the Mountain roads of Hakone.
Inspection and familiarization done It was time to take em out onto the road, we had decided on a 3 hour guided tour around Mt Fuji, along the way we would drop into Fuji Speedway to check out a skills day Nismo were running, we were given two way radios to keep in touch with the tour leader, we pulled onto the Hakoneura Highway under instructions to keep to the speed limit, we followed the winding highway becoming more comfortable with the cars, the scenery was beautiful, When our tour leader was sure there were no police on the road and that we could actually drive the cars, the pace picked up a bit, the limit is posted as 40 kmh, we were rarely driving at the limit except of course in built up areas.
After about 10 minutes we came to a tunnel, which according to our guide was the boundary between to prefectures, meaning that the police had no jurisdiction inside the tunnel, we cruised through at 12o kmh, talk about awesome, once through we resumed a more sedate pace making our way along the mountain roads avoiding the massive drainage channels that served as drains, there were no curbs just a 400mm x 600mm trench, I did not relish the prospect of dropping a wheel into that, by this time I had settled into the car and was pushing it quite hard through the corners, the thing had more grip than velcro only once did I break it loose and that was on a particularly rough corner, the torque of the VTEC engine made driving a breeze, gearshifts were smooth and precise the Honda steered beautifully with just a hint of understeer, easily corrected with the right foot, when it came time to brake I found the ABS faultless, the Honda accelerated smoothly, full marks to Honda, the NSX is a car you could drive anytime with full confidence.
After passing through the tunnel on Otome road, we drove to Fuji Speedway, stoping at the entrance for a souvenir snap, once inside we headed for the drift pad where eager drifters where destroying tyres, it was awesome fun, especialy seeing sparks flying from the bare wire, we then drove to the car skills area where they were practising the car handling skills and finally to the grandstand on the main straight away to check out the circuit racers.
leaving Fuji Speedway we made our way via quick dual lane roads and some wonderful twisty bits to Lake Yamanakako the views of Mt Fuji along the way were spectacular, our guide took us to a place that overlooked the lake with Fuji standing proud in the background, easy to see why this was a favorite spot for local photographers all looking for that perfect photo of Mount Fuji, I have come to love Mt Fuji, there is something about the symetry of Fuji and the way it always looks closer than it is, it is just beautiful, we had climbed quite a way up the mountains and the air was icy, dusk was falling as we started our trip back to Sengokuhara.
Our return trip took us back down the mountain road, past scores of tourists and photographers, on down to Gotemba where we refueled, it was dark by now and the route took us straight through the city, until once more we were on the sinueous mountain road that led to the tunnel we had come through at the start of our adventure, our guide had one more treat in store for us, a few kilometres before the tunnel he told us via the two way radios that he would be slowing down to make as much clear space in front of him as he could before we reached the tunnel, then we would do a sound check once in the tunnel, code for go like the clappers, I was the last car in our group with Ashley as my passenger, behind me I could see a long line of no doubt frustrated motorists, as our guide approached the tunnel the signal was given to nail it.
I had made sure I was in first gear as we entered the tunnel, the torque from the little three litre V six launched us forward as I buried my right foot into the carpet, accelerating hard brought a wonderful howl from the exhaust which was, unfortunately drowned out by the R34 in front of us, through second into third each time shifting at redline, Ash was eurphoric, man this thing hammers, I heard him yell as I slipped it into fourth gear at 170kmh, precisely at this time the big round brake lights of the R34 signalled we had reached the end of the tunnel, it was now time to see how the brakes went, I hit the slow pedal and felt the weight shift as the anchors took hold the NSX stopped as well as it accelerated, grinning like Cheshire cats Ash and i slowed to the regulation 40kmh, on the drive back to Sengokuhara, I reflected on just what a fabulous car the Honda was, it did everything exceedingly well, at no time, even under heavy acceleration and rapid braking did the steering feel vague, I had full confidence in the car, in short I want one!
We made it back to Fun 2 Drive feeling tired but extremely satisfied, all agreed that this was the highlight of the tour, I was told to book again and find accommodation nearby because all the boys wanted to do it again in 2016, somehow we all managed to squeeze into the Subaru wagon for the trip back to the bus stop where we caught the bus back to Odawara station and boarded the Shinkansen for Nagoya, we spent the trip sharing our thoughts on the cars and planning our return to Sengokuhara.
I leave you with some more pics.