A Car Nerd's Guide To JapanAn insider look at car culture in Japan.

When I first heard about the Nicole Racing Days, I was pretty skeptical about it. A company with a huge dealership and service network throughout Japan inviting its customers and various owners’ clubs to a day at Fuji Speedway seemed like a ploy to get cars to thrash around a circuit only for them to need service afterwards, I figured.

EB110, SS and EB110

Conveniently for Nicole, they deal and service cars from BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, the Bugatti EB110 (yes, just this one specific model), and are the sole distributor for Alpina in Japan. So they had a lot of expensive cars that would need a check up afterwards. Maybe working for Jalopnik has made me too cynical.

But I’m glad I went and found it was so much more than a sly quick moneymaking scheme. It was a busy day with few breaks—or boring moments.

As well as customers of their respective brands, they also invited various clubs such as the BMW Owner’s Club of Japan and the Ferrari Owner’s Club of Japan. The presence of these two clubs at the day made it all worthwhile.

The whole reason for this track day was to celebrate Nicole’s 40th Anniversary since they started doing business in Japan. While they’re known for their network of BMW and Mini dealers, it was their involvement with Alpina that led me to them.

Japan is actually the second-largest market for Alpina in the world, behind Germany of course. You’ll notice this if you visit Tokyo. There won’t be a day where you won’t see an Alpina on the road.

I was disappointed to find out the U.S. only gets the B6 and the B7 because the rest of the Alpina lineup is so damn good.

Alpina D3 Touring in the signature Alpina Green color

Alpinas are popular in Japan for buyers looking for a discreet and more exclusive alternative to BMW M cars. As you may know, the cars are built alongside the equivalent BMW at the automaker’s factories to Alpina’s specifications. They only work on the highest spec standard BMW; for example the B3 is an advancement on the 335i. The difference is an extra turbocharger, larger brakes and tires, an Akropovic exhaust, and retuned suspension.

The way they blend comfort, exclusivity, and performance has made Alpina a popular choice for the well-heeled buyer in Japan over the years. In some cases, Alpinas are the go-to choice of daily drivers for Japanese supercar owners in.

You have to have something when you’re not in your EB110, after all.

1 of 66 Alpina Z1
Alpina B7

So it should’ve come as no surprise to see a whole variety of Alpinas at Fuji. But nothing could prepare me for what was Alpina heaven.

Okay, I know this was supposed to be a whole day celebrating Nicole and all the brands they represent equally. Yes, there were three EB110s, a Ferrari F40 with LM conversion, and a Liberty Walk 458 Spider, but hand to God, the dozens of Alpinas (particularly the green ones) got me way more excited.

It was a busy day with cars going in and out of the track constantly. It was nice to be able to have a closer look at them in the paddocks or in the pit garages before they went out on to the track. After a while, cars from the track would come back in and the cars that were parked up would take their place on the circuit.

The problem was I don’t think even Nicole anticipated how many people would show up. Meaning by lunchtime the lunch buffet was completely emptied out. So they had to send people over to the Fuji Speedway restaurant for a complementary lunch. It was a pretty funny sight watching the exodus from the buffet above the pits to the restaurant on the other side of the car park.

During lunch, Nicole held a special event for people to watch while they took a break. They sent out a B6 GT3 car around the track driven by Juan Pablo Montoya to do a few laps. It was a crowd pleaser, to say the least.

After lunch, they held the second round of runs for the BMW Club of Japan, Ferrari Club of Japan, the Alpinas and Minis. I guess after the earlier runs in the morning and getting more energy from lunch, some drivers were feeling a bit more confident.

1 of 799 Ferrari 599 GTO
1 of 555 Alpina Z8

Because everyone was allowed to have a go, there were some surprising cars even made it out on to the track. How often do you see a Rolls-Royce lap the full circuit at Fuji Speedway or a BMW X3 with a ski box attached?

It was a very enjoyable day. While there weren’t as many Ferraris on the track, the variety of Alpinas more than made up for it. It was also nice they allowed everyone to have a closer look and even sit in the cars they had on display.

Anyway check out the gallery to see some of the cool stuff that showed up at this event. Hopefully they’ll hold more of these track days in the future.

Alpina B5
Alpina B6 (E30) & M2
Alpina B7 (E12)
Alpina Z1
Ferrari 575M in Blu Ghibli Cup
Alpina B5 & B3 GT3
BMW M3 (E30) Iding Power
Alpina 2002tii
Alpina B6 (E30) Touring
Alpina B12 Coupe
BMW 2002 Alpina
Alpina 3.0 CSL
Alpina B7 (E24) Coupe
Alpina B12
Alpina B7
BMW M2 AC Schnitzer
Alpina B9 (E28)

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