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#Festival of 86

Last Saturday was spectacular, it almost felt like spring was here. Birds singing in trees, no clouds in the sky, sun shining down on our sunburnt nation and the smell of… octane, Why? It’s because Toyota Australia invited 250 of their most dedicated fans to bring their car back to the mothership (in Australia anyway). The car in question is the Toyota 86 and what was great was that if you owned a BRZ or an original AE86, you were invited too. Also in attendance was Beau Yates, Neil Bates and Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer on the 86 project. How did I, Shaun Kok get into such an event on account of I don’t have an 86 you might ask? Well my buddy Lee happens to have purchased an 86 and recently at that.

For the attendees free food, drink and entertainment were abound and plenty of Toyota 86s to take your fancy and make you thoroughly bored with the idea I am sure, although I love cars so this was somewhat a boon for me. I went not hungry, thirsty or lacking in sights and sounds for the whole day so without further ado, I know you, came to see pictures because words are poignant but secretly we are all kids impatient for the “Where’s Wally” picturebook.

Click for hi-res.

86 Logo

It’s all about 86, Toyota 86 that is.

A Lee Car

My friend Lee who recently took delivery of a grey 86 GTS, he’s the reason why I, your intrepid blogger got to go in the first place.

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Lined up for entry to Toyota-land. It seemed like some amusement park entry, this was Toyota, one of the biggest car companies in the world.

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First thing I saw when I got in was this seemingly rally spec Cusco race car, looked pretty serious, not sure about the wheels.

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Ok the RX100 camera wasn’t exactly pro however this thing looked very streetable, once again, not sure about the wheels, but to each his own.

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Even though the wheels were iffy the engine bay certainly was not, swathes of carbon fibre with some lovely aluminium braces

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Work wheels look the business and Pikachu probably couldn’t find a more solid wheel to attempt to hide behind.

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An 86 shortage you say, I have to wait 6-7 months before mine arrives eh? Actually there was around 10 of these car parks just loaded with 86s, BRZs and AE86s

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I believe NSW 86/BRZ club was there in force, this is one of their rather serious looking rides.

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Looks the business, check out the interior below

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Alcantara for incontinence on the dash – check. Carbon fibre in place of speedo and other related and just as important dials – check. Seats, solid like rock – check. It’s a race car.

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Many people, all here for the love of the number 86

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Tetsuya Tada signing autographs for virtually the whole time we were there. This man is a signing and engineering machine! He was so gracious, shaking hands with everyone who lined up for ages. A rockstar in the owners eyes, I bet he’s just a regular guy who loves to engineer great cars. Wonder what he’ll do next? I can’t imagine anything could be as exciting as “Project FT-86”

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A recipe for success or RSI, either way with a queue like this.

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Mysterious (to me anyway) racecar with the Rocket Bunny/GReddy wide body kit. Got to see and touch the kit up close. Avid readers may have heard that I wanted to do this to an 86 but I cancelled on the car *sigh*.

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Plenty wide, looks good even in raw form.

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The roll cage is a custom job, looks the part and I am sure, doesn’t come with warranty. Son, do you know how fast you were going, where your bootlid is, what happened to all the windows in your car?

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Nice embellishment on the custom frame

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Interior like this, because race car that’s why.

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Turbo 86, at Toyota’s HQ!

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Initial D reference, always a favourite.

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Tough AE86

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Wide AE86

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One for the Dr. Who fans

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Free food. As my brother and fellow blogger said “I’m a slut for free food”, thinking on that, who isn’t?

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There were many sausages there of varying colour and shape. This one was mine. Ed – That sounds wrong.

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This BRZ was cooler than the rest, it had many STI badges on it.

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Kelly has a cool car, love the Volks.

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Queensland represent! Agent 86 likes some vinyling, I concur, on the vinyl front.

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This young man just had his dash panel signed by Tada-San. Proud moment no doubt. Seemed to be a trend that day.

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(L to R) Beau Yates, Neil Bates and a guy I am sure I should know but I don’t.

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So close to the front of the queue! You can smell the permanent marker fumes.

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Lee is shaking the hand of the man who engineered his car, rare moment. Can you say that you shook the hand of your car’s chief engineer. For the most of us, no.

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Justin just got his free #Festivalof86 shirt signed, that ones i going up in the man-cave.

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Neil Bates had a cool Initial D 86 GT on show, his own personal ride. Race drivers don’t need satnav but they do need Motec’s dash logger.

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The best of the breeds. 86 looks angrier and fangier somehow. Both are screaming at each other for stealing the show.

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Here’s an interesting AE86, all tough, old-school-ey just like the usual fare right?

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Actually it has a Nissan engine, sneaky fella got Yokohama’s finest into a Toyota festival.

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Rollcage, difficult ingress and some cargo equipment. Good for racing, bad for bad backs.

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Extended fuel tank for racing. Good for mileage, not good for luggage space.

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Queuing for the big driveway photo.

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Everyone out of your car!

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Setup to shoot

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The man himself, Tada-San with his many creations.

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The “Oh what a feeling” shot, they messed it up a couple of times. Tada-San decided enough jumping on account of his shoulder. He is an engineer after all.

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Lee getting his photo taken with Tada-San again because i ruined the last shot

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Grid 2: Game Review (PC)

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These days anyone can be a expert. You can sit back on your armchair and tell it like it is. You’re informed so you can make informed decisions because of all the research and forums you visit. All this before you even handled a wrench or waved that brush. You madam/sir are an expert… but you aren’t that good because look at what is coming up.

These days kids are sharper from very early on, they have iPods and they play with mum’s iPhone enough to know that a quick Fruit Ninja swipe or the right turn angle in Real Racing means the difference between kicking arse or losing the race. They know what a good driving line is, when I was a kid I sure as heck didn’t. I knew you didn’t drive like they play drove on Play School (Australian children’s television show) because if you did you would be arrested for reckless endangerment swerving left to right like that. Kids these days are informed and they don’t even know it, this is the real – next evolution of humankind, it’s virtual experience.

I like cars, everyone knows that. So I write and talk about them nearly all the time. When I am not driving a car I am probably playing a game that involves cars because you can drive so much faster, safe in a virtual environment than reality. What is fast in real life (IRL) is just boring in games, I want to go faster and test my limits at the top end of the car’s spectrum… then I want something faster and push that all the way too. When you play as many car based games as I do you become somewhat an experienced  on the stuff, but what are we talking about here? Many different games all with different styles and content, no two games are alike so how do you draw a conclusion?

Like real cars it’s about how you feel in the seat of your pants, what may be faster may not feel it compared to something else, in this case it’s the feeling in the part of your brain that says “Fun”.

Grid 2 started as a loser in my books simply because it lacked in-car view. All the keenest players choose the in-car view because you can see the wheel and that is already very cool and the view out the window is limited and pretty much what it is like IRL (remember?). You get the warm fuzzy feeling that you are driving like you are supposed to, not as if you were tailing yourself in a large Mack truck or with your head out the front glass and right on the hood, or with your head in the front grille. So 0 to Codemasters and their new racing culture simulator before the game even hit the shelves.

When you start it up you immediately notice how odd they’ve made the menu system and how much it seems like you live at your mum’s place (why? well because race cars – yes you have 9 already, how do you pay for that?). The menu is a 3D garage (at your mum’s) and you have your  iMac amalgam down there from which all your dealings with new races get done in a chrome like browser window, they’re taking the social media thing along as well with “comments” from fans and rivals in a ticker at the bottom. The cars roll in and out of the garage as you switch between them and your neighbours all hangout outside on the street. You get fancier digs later as you progress but this is all secondary because it’s time to race.

Driving physics in Grid 2 seem simplified compared something like Shift 2 or Forza 4. The handling feel is responsive, the concept of over or understeer is quite simplified, no sudden breaks in traction, drifting is as easy as stabbing the brake while turning in and then flooring it to a perfect drift (albeit a bit dissatisfying on the difficulty part it’s flattering). Nearly every big release racing game save for the F1 and NASCAR series’ have modifications as their selling point. Here it’s just decals and wheels but huge brownie points go to the team for their selection of wheels, every cool and important wheel from the last four decades is here, especially the OG selection of today (3SDM 0.05? Yes please!). I watched a Chris Harris youtube video recently about his experience meeting Rob Dickinson and his very beautiful Singer Porsche and something he said rang so true, a great set of wheels makes a car, you can have any old lemon but if you put some great wheels on it, it becomes so much better. Of course you can’t make a car go much faster on wheels alone however you can look the business. In that sense Grid 2 aims to please with good stance and great looking wheels to help make the transfer from humdrum to “yes please”.

Speaking of cars the selection seems to touch all the right bases and even though it isn’t as extensive as Forza 4 it’s enough to satisfy, I like that the KTM X-Bow R is in there. What is a bit odd is that you are no longer purchasing cars. In the same way they have taken the management of performance modification (Subaru BRZ that can outpace a BMW 1M is just like IRL right?) they have also made the acquisition of cars a linear and sort of unimportant affair by offering you a choice of two rides when you get into different series, the thing that kind of takes away from earning your seat time is that you can just do a vehicle challenge just after you level and get that other car you decided not to take just as you levelled so who really cares what car you choose. I guess money isn’t really an object nor is kudos, it’s about fans and you now gain aficionados rather than bucks for covering the sponsor objectives. This experience sort of makes it feel kind of like you were a real race driver in some sense because all you need to do is drive for the team, not earn cash or plan your car lineup, it’s all easy come and you don’t lose anything. Consequences are thin on the ground then, maybe a popup message saying you need to cover an objective. If you have coordination you can easily handle this.

7/10

– Fun, sounds great and looks good
– Lacking in the features I would call necessary like in-car view, scaleable/changeable handling difficulty, consequences.
– You can drift all day long if you like and it’s not hard to master the physics engine.
– Play to rise above the NFS BlackBox offerings, you are so much better than that… you expert you, who’s the funny wunny little expert, you are, you little expert.