My return to Utsunomiya with Terry went smoothly. We had no issues catching any of our connections to Motegi, though that 1.5 hour bus ride through the boondocks of Tochigi was mind-numbing. I guess I didn't read it carefully enough, but when we got off the bus, we were approached by two ladies working for Twin Ring asking if we had passes to the park. Naturally we didn't since I thought entry to the park and to the Collection Hall were both free. Another ¥1200 was quickly drained from my wallet (actually I think Terry paid for me because I was out of ¥ at the time).
Getting off the bus, we were drawn to the sound of motorcycle engines so before making our way to the Collection Hall we walked up the hill past it to see what was going on. At the 'Playing Midget' track, there were a bunch of motorcyclists conducting drift session in the parking lot adjacent to it. After gawking at them for a few minutes, we made our way back towards the Collection Hall and was greeted by tons of S2000s and NSXs in the parking lot. There was a club meet that day, though I have no idea where all their owners were. Terry died and went to heaven.
The Collection Hall is split into two wings, the North Wing houses automobiles and other miscellaneous products such as their aquatic and lawn care equipment, the South Wing is dedicated to the machine that started it all for Honda, motorcycles.
As luck would have it, the special exhibition at the Collection Hall featured Honda's inspiration and subsequent entry into automotive racing. The ground floor was dedicated to famous F1 cars, and Indy Cars whether or not Honda had anything to do with them didn't really matter. Among them were the Honda RA273, RA301, American Red Ball (1964) which featured a rubber fuel tank and an engine mounted midship, and the STP Oil Treatment (1968) which featured 4 wheel drive and a wedge-shaped body. I have plenty of photos so if any car nut wants them just let me know.
Out back, between the two wings was a tiny road course next to the Restoration Room. Mechanics demoed the few funky cars they had on hand. A mini-pickup truck, an Urkel-like vehicle, a larger version of a Power Wheel car, and the one that failed to start up, a small one person vehicle with a... gullwing roof I guess. The back also had three cars parked in front of the leaning glass wall, an NSX, S2000 and Insight.
I couldn't really appreciate the motorcycle section of the Collection Hall since I have no background knowledge of the two-wheelers. But seeing the newer ones up close was pretty nice. I love how they incorporated the rear lights into the tapered shape of the rear fender. The paint job on Nicky Haydens' Honda RC211V was also impressive. The carbon fiber pattern with the orange paint went together really well. On the old school side, the wooden Daimler Reitrad motorbike was worth a good long look.
On the automotive side, the upper floors featured two beastly non-Honda machines. The Bugatti Type 35C (with so many vents in the hood, you wonder why they didn't just race without a hood) and the Curtiss Special. The Curtiss Special may have gotten Honda into racing. Soichiro Honda built it when he was 18 years old, working as an assistant to Ikuzo and Shinichi Sakakibara at Art Shokai. He would accompany the driver as the race mechanic. The crazy thing about the car? No firewall protecting the occupants from the Curtiss aircraft engine mounted up front.
The Hall also had a ton of the Honda F1 cars through the years. My favorite shape was the Williams Honda FW09, the high back looked like a submarine to me. Over on the other side of the floor, the first three generations of the Honda Civic were parked next to each other, each subsequent generation losing more character and looking uglier. The old nameplates, wordmark for the Civic as also decent looking, too bad they got rid of it as well.
After the Collection Hall, we spent some time wandering the ring itself. We took the underpass to the pit area and stumbled upon a bike demo meet. All the famous bicycle manufacturers were on hand showing their wares, except SRAM of course. Must be sweet to demo a bike on a race course.
Before catching the bus back to Utsunomiya, I ran into the Fan Fun Lab which housed all of Honda's robotics exhibitions, including ASIMO! I got there in time to sit among the little kids and their parents to see ASIMO move around and kick a soccer ball. The exhibition also featured all the previous generations leading up to the current ASIMO. Some of them were sure hideous, but the P1 model was brutal enough to garner my affections. It's no E209, but it looked like it could kick some ass.
On my way out, I passed by Twin Ring Motegi's Mascot which looked like some fat lizard. There's a certain sensibility to whatever the Japanese undertake, but sometimes their decisions just don't make any sense... like the mascot for instance. On the way to the bus stop, I walked by the Kart areas (too bad I didn't have time to try them out) and snapped a few photos of some young kids riding bikes at the Mobility Island Petit Town.
I forgot to mention that the park is a great place just to watch classic cars roll through. There were tons of them making their rounds. Also a very nice area to get your cycling or running in. All they need is a lake for some rowing and paddling and it would be a perfect weekend destination. Wish they would bring some direct train to the area. Without a car, getting to Twin Ring Motegi is a total PITA!