Hachiroku Heaven At The Tsukuba AE86 Festival

Nothing says ‘Christmas spirit’ in Japan for me like the AE86 Festival – aka Hachiroku/86 Matsuri. The annual trip to Tsukuba Circuit for this event is pretty much a necessity for anyone even half interested in Toyota’s 1980s icon.

I’d argue that there are very few other one-make events that share the same diversity as AE86s. With almost 40 years of development and tinkering with the chassis, almost no two cars look the same.

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The Christmas Day event was no different, with both the drifting and circuit classes out in force, making for a jam-packed pit lane. The sea of colour across the Tsukuba paddock accentuated the different routes owners take with their cars – no Initial D replicas here.

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As the morning ramped up, more cars begin to fill the pits. There were a few late arrivals, but that was no real surprise given the below-freezing temperatures, which proved to be a challenge for both drivers and all the Hachirokus with carburettor-fed engines.

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It was great to see so many Garage Infinity drift cars out for the day. I’m always impressed by the amount of seat time many of these drivers get in their Hachis. No less than 10 times a year I’ll see most of these cars at events, a pretty impressive turn around when you consider the way they are driven.

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I was not at all surprised to see Oda-san out in his Trueno. Particularly on the circuit side of pit lane, Crystal Body Yokohama-built machines are plentiful, and it’s generally not hard to spot them.

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They’re usually sporting CBY’s iconic fender flares, and on this day some were even running the yet-to-be-released prototype CBY bonnet.

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At grassroots-style events like this there is often a lack of team branding and signage, but rest assured, it’s not particularly hard to match the owners to their cars. Intentional or not, there was no lack of colour-coordination this year.

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Whilst it remains a one-make event, a brief intermission in AE86 action is always welcomed by the Attack series cars that squeeze a few sessions in. As it is just the few sessions, it is reserved for some of the more serious time attack cars here in Japan. This TCP Magic-built FD3S RX-7 is no exception to that rule.

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You’re looking at one of the all-time greats in AE86 circuit racing – the Tec-Art’s N2 Trueno. This was one of the fastest Hachirokus of the day, and once again it’s running CBY fenders, hatch, flares and more. I think you can see a pattern here…

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Tetsuya Hibino was back out in his original D1 Grand Prix car. It’s always special to see these cars doing what they were designed to do. The term ‘garage queen’ is not in many vocabularies at AE86 Festival, and I really hope that doesn’t change as the cars become even older.

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As with every event, there’s always one car that steals the show, and for me it was this mind-bending Trueno hatch.

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Speaking briefly with the owner, an engineer, he told me the car has been in development for 23 years, and was built in collaboration with CBY. Everything has been modified to the extreme. A similar engine setup to the CBY car would assume a power figure around the 250hp mark, not bad when you consider the Trueno’s weight has been cut down to 700kg (1,543lbs).

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You may have noticed the shifter doesn’t look regular-H-pattern-like, and that’s because the Toyota is now running a Sadev sequential gearbox complete with air-actuated paddles.

Almost every nook and cranny of the car has been either riveted, welded or reinforced in some way. Combined with the ultra-healthy power-to-weight ratio, you can only begin to imagine how this car might feel being thrashed around Tsukuba.

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It takes a lot to stop someone in their tracks at an event where most cars are noteworthy, however in this case, there was a steady crowd of equally amazed spectators stopping to look, ask questions and admire the 86.

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I’d love to dive even deeper into the extremities of this particular car today, but that wouldn’t be doing it justice. Expect a full feature very soon!

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The drifting portion of the day is always the most popular with the spectators. The AE86 Festival is not an easy event to participate in as a driver, making for some of the best AE86 driving you’ll see anywhere in the world.

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It’s always cool to see an OG Speedhunters sticker still stuck to a car. But it is not uncommon to see these at AE86 events, with many of the cars being held onto by their owners for decades.

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It was another successful and freezing AE86 Festival at Tsukuba Circuit, but this year I came away both motivated and confused as to which direction I should take my own AE86. Is it the CBY-derived circuit approach, or the simple but timeless street car look that resonates most with you? There’s clearly no shortage of different avenues to take, but more on my own car soon…

In the meantime, press play above to watch my 4K raw-cut video from the day.

Alec Pender
Instagram: noplansco

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