Rather than write something like “On a crisp and chilly Monday morning…” I’ll just get straight into it – it was ducking cold with a capital ‘D’. Winter is definitely here in Japan and nothing quite says winter like preparing to drive two and a bit hours on some winding roads.
Day three of the Pagani Touge Drive Japan consisted of driving up north of Tokyo to Nikko in Tochigi. The group left a little later as planned, though with all these supercars and their owners these sorts of delays will soon be a common thing.
You’d think leaving Tokyo would be a simple enough exercise, drive on to the nearest motorway entrance then go from there. But since these cars aren’t from Japan they don’t have the electronic toll card machine systems installed. Therefore, every single Pagani and crew car have to pay the tolls in cash.
Usually tolls are calculated by the size of your vehicle and the distance you’ve travelled. It was fine for the AMGs, Rolls-Royces, and Paganis as they looked like cars despite their lack of Japanese number plate. The problem came in the shape of an obnoxious large grey box; the G500 4×4². The man at the toll booth literally had to come out and inspect the car to see its size and number plate only to be even more confused that it had U.K. plates.
Once all the faffing around the tolls was over, half the rally had already set off towards Nikko leaving me behind with the second batch of cars made up by the Zonda Absolute, yellow Huayra, Zonda 760 Oliver, the blue Tempesta package Huayra, the 4×4², and a Rolls-Royce Dawn.
Unfortunately I was driving so I couldn’t take photos of it, but whoever was driving the G-Wagon was an absolute baller. He’d clear out the traffic in the fast lane so that the other cars would speed up and cruise together. Of course, if a car that big tries to push its way in front of you, you’re going to give way. Nobody wants to play chicken with a car like that.
Eventually we made our first stop at a service area just under the halfway point from Tokyo to Nikko. It was a short stop to regroup everyone and for some of the cars to fill up for the first time that day. At the speeds they were going, I was surprised those V12s didn’t need filling up sooner.
The drive on the motorway would’ve been a long and arduous one but not so when you’re trying to keep up with a dozen or so V12 powered supercars, and a couple of AMGs of course. We made it to Tochigi prefecture in, erm, let’s say good progress.
However, again, the toll gates separated the group apart. Eventually I was following only one Pagani, the carbon Zonda F from Singapore, who was following some crew cars that were also completely lost. It wasn’t such a big issue at first as the countryside scenery was absolutely beautiful, but after a while it did get quite frustrating.
Eventually, after many loops and going around in circles, we made it to the lunch spot which was at some hotel. I literally lost track of where we were because my bearings were all muddled up when we got lost. Hell, even the car’s sat-nav just decided to give up and go on holiday.
For some odd reason the restaurant the owners had lunch at (I ate at a more homely place for lunch than the owners but that’s another story) had the steepest ramp in the whole world. Just the ideal place to park 10 or so Italian hypercars in.
But to my surprise the cars came out rather easily and quickly. After a much needed rest, the group was off once again in search for the famous Nikko mountain roads. The road, officially known as Route 120, is also known as the ‘Japan Romantic Highway’. I have no idea why, but it is very pretty during the autumn.
Luckily there were no toll roads but the cars did leave their lunch spot quite quickly and the small two-lane countryside roads didn’t make it easy to overtake slow traffic and catch up with them. We had a break and saw some cars from the first batch stop for their second fill up at a petrol station not too far from the Romantic Highway.
It was hard to miss seeing the Zonda Cinque, La Monza Lisa, and blue Huayra Tempesta filling up at a random petrol station in the middle of nowhere. While the Dawn, Enzo, and other waited for them on the side of the road. It was a sight suited to the epic autumn backdrop Tochigi had to offer.
As the cars took their time filling up, some decided to go up to the top of the windy bit of the Romantic Highway to get some shots of the Paganis going up past us. Except for the massive cats-eyes, this was one of the most stunning roads I’ve ever been on.
Not only was it great to drive, and believe me, in a smaller and more powerful car this would have been the perfect drive, the background was something out a National Geographic doco. All I need was Sir David Attenborough narrating what was going on to make it a perfect day. It wasn’t difficult getting ready to see the cars come flying past us, we could hear them make their way up the road. Paganis sure do sound very nice, the Zondas especially.
What I didn’t expect was the level of kindness some of the owners have. Some waved at us as they drove by, some gave us the peace sign, some took photos of us. But Abdul in the Cinque and Kris in the La Monza Lisa even stopped to make it easier for us to get pics of their cars. Absolutely legendary.
Once the rest of the rally went past, we continued to the next meeting place which was supposed to be by a big lake. On the way though, we passed several big lakes and more pretty scenery. It was great to see Pagani Tokyo had organized a great juxtaposition from the Tatsumi night run to the nature drive of Nikko for the owners. They got to experience two very different sides to Japanese culture.
We finally made it to the big lake, and it was big. However by the time we caught up with the cars it was time to go again. So off we went. This time, even more confused and lost than before. Out of sheer luck and perhaps due to the car’s constantly changing sat-nav brain, we made it to final point of the Nikko drive at some random car park in the middle of nowhere.
Some of the Paganis had already parked up, some we were waiting for. As we were taking photos of the Enzo and Absolute combo, we heard the unmistakable sound of a Zonda approaching. And wouldn’t you know it, it was the blue Cinque.
Everyone basically stopped what they were doing and ran towards the howling blue car to get pics of it coming up. Except it didn’t because Abdul stopped it in front of some pretty autumn trees for us to get pics of. I have a feeling you just wouldn’t get that with many supercar owners.
After about half an hour of chatting and catching up with each other, mostly talking about the beautiful scenery and how everyone got lost, the cars made their journey back to Tokyo in quite a hurry. It was pitch black by the time we caught up to them all at a petrol station for their third, and I presumed last fill up of the day. Seeing them all gather at petrol stations is a sight I’ll never get tired of.
Even though it took some time to get there and there weren’t many long stops along the way, the long drive was completely worth it for the roads and scenery. It was one of those unforgettable days and a great way to start the first proper day of the Pagani Japan rally. This day is going to be hard to top. Stay tuned for more updates.