30th July 2016, the first day of free practice and time trial for the top ten fastest. I woke up early to catch the early train and frankly, I really had no idea what was ahead of me. There were two options for me to go to Suzuka Circuit. One, from Ise-Ueno station where I had to disembark at Suzuka Circuit Ino Station and walked for about 20 minutes to the Circuit. The second option was from Chisato station and disembarked at Shiroko station followed by a 15 minutes bus ride to the circuit. I chosed Ise-Ueno without knowing that I would regret later.
The night before my departure on the next day, Megumi-san, the Airbnb house owner shared with me a simple, impromptu map. It showed me the direction from her home to the Ise-Ueno station and according to her, it was just a mere fifteen minutes walk by foot. I double checked from Google maps and true enough, the path shown was exactly the same as per advise by Megumi-san. It was an easy fifteen minutes walk. No sweat or so I thought.
The next morning, I left Megumi-san’s residence at 7.00 am sharp and I followed Google map religiously. After about ten minutes enjoying the peace and quiet stroll across the housing area, I came to a stop right in front of a bamboo forest because the path in Google maps showed that I have to walk across the bamboo forest.
I was a little hesitant to continue and decided to make an about turn. But, then again this is Japan and what could possibly happen or go wrong? I kept a brave front and decided to go ahead. The dark eerie path gave me goose bumps and that immediately reminded me of Sadako! Yeah, remember her? I walked silently by some cobwebs but somehow I just had to hum to keep my spirit up. I cannot deny that I kept looking around because I felt something was staring at me along the pathway. Creeps!
After about a hundred meters of walking along the bamboo path, I finally saw some light ahead. What a relief! I was greeted with an open sunny green field. I could see Ise-Ueno station from where I was standing but I still have to walk for about another five minutes before I reached the station.
I thought Ise-Ueno line is something similar to Kintetsu line but it is not. It is the smallest transit I’ve ever seen perhaps it is to accommodate only the locals. It is more like a local bus service on tracks. Besides the very friendly driver and a few locals who kept looking at me in the train, everything else was just perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed myself during that five minutes three stops ride. The train was decorated with many pictures of Suzuka 8Hours riders. I felt completely at home almost immediately.
On reaching the Suzuka Circuit Ino station, I disembarked and had to walk for about twenty minutes before I reached the main gate. While walking, I could just feel the “race atmosphere”. The thrill of seeing the big bikes with near-deafening noises coming out from their exhausts was heaven.
On arriving at the main gate, I went to the ticket counter to collect my V2 ticket which I booked prior to my departure. The procedure was very easy as I only needed to show the collection letter which was emailed to me at the counter manned by a friendly gentleman.
And to walk across motopia, I needed to buy another ticket that cost ¥1,700 before I could gain access to the circuit.
I walked to the grandstand to look for my seat. I was lucky in a way because I was given the best seat. It was right beside the starting grid and nearest to the 1st turn. After the preliminary “seat warming”, I gave a quick call to my friend, Masashi-san, who had access to the paddocks.
While waiting for Masashi-san, I sat there quietly and focussed on the practice trying to spot a few big names like Pol Espargaro, Sam Lowes, Folger and Nicky Hayden. Suzuka 8Hours is one of the 4 endurance races in the world and it is the most well known. We have the likes of Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Mick Doohan and countless more who had raced in this circuit.
I had not seen a pit stop for bike before and that was my first time watching it up close here. The pressure was definitely intense and the pit crews’ preparation were almost like Formula One’s. The pace of the pit stop work carried out by the pit crews were just unbelievable. They were lightning fast! By the time they completed their job, I guessed I just finished unscrewing my tire valve cap! This is something new to me.
I finally received a call from Masashi-san and he will take me to the paddock in soonest time. This is where the excitement begins.