Crossing the Channel with a GTR

Every time I step into a new adventure I’m wondering what the final result will be of what I’ve captured and how close it comes to my satisfaction. Usually I have some sort of a plan because my regular work for Wangan Warriors is fairly limited to car features or event coverage. I can tell you that it gets easier every time I’m going out there shooting but I was a little insecure about the adventure I had lying in front of me. Purely how I would approach it photographically.


I was invited to come along to the UK with Wouter Vallen, Managing Director of Co-ordSport NL. He was planning a businesstrip to Co-ordSport head office in Birmingham and had a few other places to visit. Excited as I was because of the invitation, I looked my camera in the eye and thought “Well buddy that’s a first one for us isn’t it?” We prepared to go on our first overseas roadtrip.


We left on a Thursday morning and planned to head out to Calais around 10am but we were a little behind on schedule because the GTR, which was our means of transport for the weekend, needed a set of brand new HKS coilovers. Of course you mount these minutes before you leave for a little journey across the English Channel.


We had to cover the 340km drive in a lot less time than a normal civilian would but we didn’t classify ourselves as normal because we had six cylinders and two turbos under the bonnet plus a boat to catch. I’m not justifying any form of speeding but sometimes you just have to and humiliating a handful of Porsche drivers on the way is accepted as well while you’re at it.


As we made it in time after almost checking in at the wrong ferry company, we were well on our way crossing the Channel. One thing what most people will agree with me is that ferries do smell a bit.


We went outside to catch some fresh air and enjoyed a nice view, something I don’t see every day. A nice calming moment for both of us after a some rushing hours behind us.


We arrived in Dover and traveled one hour back in time which was a warm welcome because we had plenty of km’s ahead of us and drove North to meet up with Masaya Yumeda at HKS Europe in Huntingdon. It was a two hour and twinty minutes ride until we got there in the early evening.


I thought that I had seen some big companies during my time on the road for this website but I’ve never seen a place like the HKS Europe warehouse. It’s a very large facility with some nice HKS artwork in the foyer.


As Wouter and Mas’ had some orders to pack and discuss some things, I made my way through the storage and captured a few shots of the place. Shortly after we packed up some parts and customer orders, we stepped into the car again on our way to the hotel. We could need good night’s rest because we were on the road for almost 12 hours.


I was excited for the next day because we were going to visit the head office of Co-OrdSport. Co-OrdSport is one of the official distributors for many high quality brands in our tuningindustry. It’s likely when you order parts at your local tuner of brands such as Cusco, Rays, HKS, Exedy or GramLighs, that these come through one of the Co-OrdSport facilities.


I was happy that Wouter showed me around and told me a bunch of facts about brands and parts which I didn’t know. It was also great to see how well organised the place is and how well their stock is sorted. It’s good to know for a customer that their stuff is being looked after properly!


Masaya of HKS Europe, who we picked up the day before, had an important seminar to give for all the sales executives of the company. After the tour around the facility and becoming acquainted with the personel, I joined the team for the instruction which Mas’ had prepared. I have to point out to you that he is an interesting man. He’s one of the top performers in his area of expertise and has a great way to transfer his enthousiasm.


It was a good learning experience for the sales team because there was a great deal of information about HKS products to absorb, but even for me as an observer it was very educational. Apart from that fact it’s a pleasure for me to meet people like Mas’ because there is always a lot to learn from.


I had the idea that it really was a seminar where even the best could learn a thing or two. As you can see Peter Collinson, Managing Director of the company, was carefully inspecting the Hipermax MAX IV GT coilovers.


One of the newest products of HKS is their GT Supercharger setup and Mas’ demonstrated its added value to an NA engine by letting the personel go for a drive in the HKS demo GT86. Usually a GT86 shouldn’t be that much competition for a R33 GTR but when the Skyline is loaded with parts and two people it does have a harder time against the ’86 with this SC setup. It’s also the perfect solution for people who believe the GT86 lacks power.


As we finished up at Co-OrdSport for the day we said our goodbyes and I snapt my last few shots for the day. We planned to go out for a nice dinner in the city centre of Birmingham which wasn’t the best idea because we ended up in a queue for quite some time but finally found a place where we had a nice steak. I’m not that much of a food photographer so imagine a steak while looking at a HKS supercharger.


The next day was a ‘day off’ actually, so we decided to spend the night in Oxford and see the city for a bit. We took the tourist route avoiding the motorway and found some roads with exciting bends.


We ended up checking out some sort of Castle in Warwick which was called ‘Warwick Castle’, what a surprise!. They charged about 23 pounds to enter and have a look at old stones with a moat dug around it. Well, we’re Dutch so we got our asses back in the GTR and made our way to the Heritage Car Center, which costed only half of what the castle charged!


This museum houses the history of several British car brands and it had some interesting vehicles inside. We spotted a few official James Bond set cars and some Jaguar and MG concept cars which never got to the point of production. I can’t say I ever took much interest in brands such as Range Rover, Aston Martin, MG etc. but a visit to this place certainly broadened my horizon.


We continued our way from the museum to Silverstone to visit the circuit. This was not far out from our route to Oxford where we’d spend the night. There was a closed trackday at Silverstone so we couldn’t enter and we were left on the parking areas of some local companies where we found a few nice Porsches. We stretched our legs for a few minutes and continued our way to the university town.


Luckily we arrived around six in the afternoon so we had the entire evening to hang around in Oxford and explore the center of the city. We checked in at our hotel, had a little walk around and enjoyed a nice lager.


I will definitely return to Oxford in the future. I loved the amount of old and characteristic buildings, which are a treat to photograph. Again we drove quite some distance during the day and did spend our ‘day off’ with quite some activity. It was time to have a nice dinner and what better place to choose than a Jamie Oliver restaurant that was just across the street from our hotel.


It was an early morning the next day and we stopped at one of the many petrol stations we visited because of some much needed fresh octane. I couldn’t resist using the lightcontrast for a few photographs while Wouter was filling up the R33. Today we headed off to Silverstone again to visit the GTR Owners Club trackday, something we were both looking forward to very much.


We arrived at Silverstone pretty early and the track was still closed for the drivers so we hung about for a little while checking the track. I was quite impressed by its modernity and amenities, it’s amazing compared to the tracks I’ve visited before.


Even though it was so damn cold and I had a not so appreciated fever coming up, I was happy to see so many GTR’s at once. I believe I’ve never seen more than five R35’s at the same place and time so I was surprised to see quite the turnout this day.


As the track was slowly drying up from some of the (what the English call) blistering showers, the drivers were preparing themselves and their cars for some nice track action. I didn’t have the chance to shoot that much trackside because I didn’t have any media access and I believe Silverstone is a very hard track to shoot. You do need a 300mm telephotolens to capture some proper action out here.


Wouter was lucky enough to join one of the drivers for a few laps and by the look on his face he was very excited. Like a little child in a candy store.


As everybody was having fun out there I just lingered in the pitlane and enjoying how everyone was having a good time and snapping a few shots here and there. My batteries were nealy empty and I still wanted some juice left to capture some shots on our road back home. It was about time to leave in order for us to get to our ferry crossing without having to rush too much.


On our road back to Dover I started processing the trip already. It’s sort of strange to think that you travel to a different country which is fairly closeby and think everything is so much different, which it isn’t. McDonalds is everywhere, beer is everywhere and traffic acts in the same way but you’re simply driving on the opposite side of the road in this case. That wasn’t a problem, it felt quite natural even when holding my 5D while driving the R33.


We arrived early in Dover and were able to catch an earlier ferry which was a welcome coincidence. It was time to say goodbye to the blistering showeres, bad breakfast, awesome people and many petrol stations. We still had some ground to cover after our 90min crossing but it almost felt like being home again.


I was flabbergasted by the breathtaking view during our trip across the Channel and hoped my camera wouldn’t die during these shots because of the low battery level. These are scenes worth capturing in a decent way and do make me realise how lucky I was to be invited by Wouter for the trip. It also made me realise that this was the first moment I worried about taking a good photo, something I thought I’d be doing the entire trip.


We arrived back in Calais and had a three hour drive in front of us and I believe both of us still didn’t mind that, even after driving over 1500km during the weekend. The R33 GTR really is a comfortable car to travel in, of course with the proper set of HKS coilovers installed just minutes before we left a few days before.


We switched seats after we passed Brussels and I drove the last part of our journey home which was a nice way to finish our roadtrip across the Channel. I could get used to driving a R33 though, I really felt comfortable and in control of the car even though it was the first time I had so many BHP to deal with. I didn’t push it to its limits, far from it but it surely was a good experience to mark off my bucket list.


I want to thank Wouter again for the invitation, I had an amazing time mate! A big thanks to the guys over at HKS and Co-OrdSport for welcoming me and allowing me to join you guys this weekend. Goodbye England, we’ll meet again soon!

-Rens Adams