Martini. Marlboro. Cigarettes and liquor have traditionally been big motorsports sponsors. But a new breed of sponsors exists, such as Sony's PlayStation, and even more otaku geared companies are using racing as a vehicle to promote their wares.
The GT300 class features otaku-friendly cars such as the Evangelion RT Test Type-01 (Neon Genesis Evangelion inspired race queens and cars), the Hatsune Miku Good Smile BMW (figure maker Good Smile's racing car with music game heroine Miku Hatsune), the Evangelion RT Production Model-02 Direction (an Evangelion Porsche), the Pacific Nac Ika Musume Ferrari (a self-descriptive Shinryaku! Ika Musume Ferrari), and the Haruhi Racing Hankook Porsche (a collaboration between South Korea's Hankook and schoolgirl character Haruhi Suzumiya).
Anime-themed racing cars started appearing in Japanese racing as early as 2007 or 2008. Last year, the Evangelion racing team aroused much publicity with its Eva cars and cosplay racing queens. The driver's suits were even modeled after the "plug suits" wore in the popular anime.
Good Smile also makes miniature versions of its nerd-flavoured race cars.
During the last decade, otaku culture and expensive cars have become closely intertwined with the rise in "itasha" popularity. Itasha, literally meaning "pain mobile", are cars covered with elaborate anime, manga or video game themed stickers. A subculture of car stickers has existed in Japan for decades, but the stickers were traditionally tuning or racing related, with the occasional right-wing sticker collection.
Itasha are a common sight in geek areas like Tokyo's Akihabara or Osaka's Den-Den Town, and there are even itasha meet-ups like Autosalone. One of the most famous itasha owners is Hirohiko Yoshida, honcho of erotic game developer Acid, who has an itasha Lancia Stratos and Lamborghini Gallardo, among other other autos.
The race cars might be otaku-powered, but that doesn't ensure victory. On last Sunday's race, Hankook's Plain Jane Porsche came in first. The highest placing itasha racer was the Hatsune Mikue Good Smile BMW in fifth. It isn't whether you win or lose, but how you cover your car in otaku stickers.
【SUPER GT 開幕戦】痛車マシンが争うGT300 [Response.jp]
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(Top photo: Taki | ターキーの写真ブログ)