In the US, we often think of the late 1990s as when the good times came to an end. The flagship Japanese sports cars had left the US market, and automakers began building cars to the preferences of local markets, meaning once fun but practical choices started to get dumbed down for the average commuter. However, in Japan, even though the bubble economy had burst, many golden age sports cars continued production through Y2K.
In a Best Motoring video from the year 2000, the hosts lined up a smorgasbord of contemporary domestic sports cars and held an 18-car battle royale at Sportsland Sugo Circuit. The selection was glorious. In the first part of the video, they go over the corners of the circuit explain the ideal driving lines.
Nissan had the R34 Skyline GT-R and S15 Silvia in both Spec R and Autech guises. Subaru brought the Legacy B4 RSK and Impreza Type RA STi to the table. Mitsubishi Motors, still healthy, had the Lancer Evolution VI and the FTO. Even Toyota, which spent much of the decades to come killing off all its sports models, had the MR-S, but the SW20 MR2 was built until 1999 so it got included. It also had final-gen Celica, the A80 Supra was offered until 2002, and it had just launched the Altezza.
Representing Mazda was the NB Roadster and FD RX-7, which continued production in 2002 and offered the 276-horsepower RS version. The Honda Integra Type R was going strong in both Japan and the US, as was the NSX, though Japan got the track-focused S Zero version of the latter. The the EK9 Civic Type R was on its last year, but Honda was just introducing the S2000.
If you want to bask in the brilliance of Japan’s car culture at the turn of the century, watch the videos for yourself. And you really should, if only to see Japan’s most famous drivers giving these hero cars the full beans. Otherwise, spoilers ahead, and we don’t mean the big wing of the Supra.
Among the compact and mid-sized cars, the Lancer Evo wins in the multi-car race. In a five-way battle of the top class cars, the R34 prevails. However, when strictly lap times are taken, the NSX takes the top spot. In the mid-sized cars, the Lancer Evolution has the is quickest around the track. And finally, the Civic Type R reigns supreme among the compacts.
It was a bountiful era, but with most of these cars having disappeared from export markets like the US, the writing was on the wall. Fortunately, we have videos like these to take us back to the heyday.