Rally Nippon 2010 – A Pleasant Assault On The Senses
Story and photos by Len Clarke
The first weekend of November saw the running of Rally Nippon 2010, an event that, despite being only in its second edition (after debuting in 2009), has become the end-of-season round in the Japanese historic rally season.
Featuring cars that would make any aficionado’s eyes weep, this is a domestic-focused event to rival October’s La Festa Mille Miglia (long established as the country’s most prominent historic event, duly paying homage to its namesake, Italy’s Mille Miglia).
As the name suggests, Rally Nippon is all about celebrating the unique aspects of the beautiful Japanese countryside, much in the way the Mille Miglia does for Italy. The event is no short sprint either, taking in over 1,200kms over a leisurely four days’ running, including, in true European style, stays at some of the most prestigious hotels and lay-bys, all strategically placed along the way.
The whole affair makes for not only the most scenic rally on the vast and varied historic calendar here, but also one of the most enjoyable in which to compete.
Starting in the heart of the country’s modern capital, Tokyo, the event winds its way towards Japan’s ancient seat of government, Kyoto. Organisers NASC have cleverly thought out a route that pleases as much as it challenges, though nothing too hectic as the focus is on pleasure and enjoyment over out-and-out dashing from point to point.
It’s a good concept, and one that resonates well with the entrants, who field machines from Britain’s glory years of the ‘20s and ‘30s with the finest Bentleys, Rileys, Aston Martins and such up against Continental examples from Bugatti and Talbot of the same era.
The field is not limited to that classic motoring period however, with – as can be expected, the majority of competitors fielding machines from the glorious decades of the fifties and sixties on this well-subscribed event.
A total of seventy machines made the start, situated in the centre of Tokyo’s downtown core, Akasaka. Despite it being a ‘drive-in, drive-out’ start (uncommon here, but understandable given the busy location – and on a Friday morning no less) only one car (who shall remain nameless) didn’t make the leaving ramp on time. This is Japan after all. Incredibly well organized is about the simplest conclusion I can make. Again, it’s Japan so everything went like clockwork. Naturally.
Back to the cars: As always, there were a couple of Mercedes-Benz 300SL on hand, de rigeur on an event of this stature, plus an astounding array of Italian beauties from the same decade, including Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari etc. And there was so much more to feast on besides…
Japan was beautifully represented also (better than I’ve ever seen on a domestic event, in fact), including no fewer than three examples of Toyota’s 2000GT MF10 – including a convertible, one of the only two examples in existence. Think back to ‘You Only Live Twice’ – that car, the one Bond almost couldn’t fit into. Great film. Wonderful car.
This year’s Rally Nippon was co-hosted by the Japan Aston Martin Owners’ Club, which brought along a number of their members’ cars, including a few modern examples. That’s one of (the many) great things about this country, everything’s similar, but from a slightly different point of view. It’s refreshing.
The quality of entrants on this event was never in doubt, but to see them all streaming into the city centre right on their mark – and then heading out in a blur of colour and lines the like of which we’ll never see from any manufacturer again was a dream.
Once they’d all made it through the starting gate, it was back to reality and the task of finding the best locale for Friday lunch – another event with endless choices…