Feature: All In A Day’s Work – Chiba’s EK Frontrunners

Something happened last month that honestly didn’t get the recognition it deserved; at least from publications that I frequent.  In hindsight I probably should have made it more of a priority to highlight the news on my end other than social media, but in my defense I was busy with work and part of me wanted to wait until I talked to a few people about it.  When a guy like Suzuki Under breaks records it’s, because of his amassed following, it’s pretty easy to hear information about it.  I remember when he clocked the 50.746 back in December everyone I knew was talking about it; and rightly so, it’s amazing.  So when I heard that during last month’s Attack Tsukuba Championship, Yusuke had broken the 57 second barrier to clock a lap time of 56.748 I thought the internet would explode.

That wasn’t the case though, and other than a few shares from JDM Option’s blurb about it, and subsequently a small printed article, I didn’t hear much about it.  I don’t really know how else to word it, except for saying that this is a big deal.  Time attack cars are advancing so quickly that, just a couple years ago for a naturally aspirated, front wheel drive car to even break the minute barrier was commendable; now it seems almost commonplace.  With Iwata and the Garage Work crew paving the way, similar shops like Aslan, Yellow Factory and GNR are following suit and getting serious about these events.  None, however, have come close to what  Yusuke has accomplished; and if his time is any indication as to what Garage Work has been cooking up in the past year, you’re going to lose it when Iwata and Kubo unveil their EG’s next season.

Previous to Yusuke setting his record breaking lap time, I believe the course record for a naturally aspirated FF was 57 seconds flat, set by the JACCS/Mooncraft Accord; which, as I’m sure you know, was a factory backed JTCS race car sporting a 280hp H22A and sequential gearbox.  Iwata still holds the FF record at TC2000 in an EG6 with a 58.138 and Kubo, I’m pretty sure, still holds the NA FF record on a radial tire (Direzza ZII) 59.849.  Last time I was at Garage Work, Iwata was showing me the progress of the build and mentioned his goal was to break into the 55 second range.  If you weren’t aware, last year Iwata suffered a pretty significant crash coming out of the last turn at Tsukuba.  The front end damage was so severe, it was really only a two option decision; to totally rebuild the car from the ground up, or scrap it entirely.  Well, he chose to rebuild, which explains his absence, but it’s also given him more time to help prep the other shop and customer cars.  Yusuke’s new course record speaks volumes about that absence.

As you would imagine, Yusuke Tokue has been driving for quite awhile.  I mean, regardless of what car you drive, you don’t just hop in and pull consistent high 50 second lap times at TC2000.  Even in the most well prepared car, it takes hours of seat time to find the control needed to get literally everything out of the lap.  Investing your mornings walking the course, looking for anomalies in the layout, studying camber and elevation of each corner, spending entire days practicing various lines to see which one yields the best exit speed, and of course years of chassis development.  Only those with a sincere dedication will reach this level of driving; Yusuke possess this devotion.  Actually, I have yet to meet anyone associated with Garage Work that doesn’t have it; it’s one of the main reasons I look up to the shop so much.  Iwata and his crew don’t just build amazing, well performing Hondas – they truly understand them.  Its hard to imagine that you can pull any more time from the chassis, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back next season to top it.  Iwata’s vision of Garage Work is to have the fastest NA cars in Japan, and clearly he’s taken that vision and gone beyond.

In it’s current state, Yusuke’s car didn’t really have many changes done to it in the last year, but the additions (err…subtractions?) did help him set the time that he did.  Most of what was done helped shave the weight of the car to an incredibly lightweight 759 kilograms (1673 pounds – 300 pounds lighter than my personal Civic!).  The weigh savings, in addition to a slight increase in power easily secured him the course record for the Unlimited FF class.

The fully built B20B is equipped with Toda ITB’s and puts out a very healthy 280ps; which is a high amount for any NA B-series motor, but more than that, it’s more than most of the builds that come out of the shop.  Comparatively, the motor in Komii’s car (the other white EK), puts out about 225ps and weighs roughly the same.

Yusuke’s accomplishment isn’t the only representation of success for the shop, however.  You see that all the EK’s that come out of Garage Work draw similarities from one another; I suppose that’s what happens when you have a good recipe though.  If it works, it works.  All three of these hatchbacks run similar fuel setups, with small fuel cells and sumps mounted in place of a passenger seat.  They run the same seats, and the same interior setups with the majority of the car being stitched with rivets, and the most minimal cages they can get without sacrificing safety..  Their exteriors are nearly identical with heavy front aero, identical GT wing mounts, and driver preferred wheel and tire setups.  Some choose to run 18″ fronts and 16″ rears, while others stick to one inch stagger.  Tire sizes range from 295’s to 205’s, both S-tire and radials.   It really is a good showing of consistency and solidity between the drivers, and the machines that they’ve built together.

Unfortunately, there’s no video of this year’s record lap, but there is one recorded from last year’s Attack Tsukuba Championship.  This 57.58 was impressive enough, but Tokue really crushed it this year.

Iwata has always worked very close with suspension masters Tein, and as a result, has access to a wide variety of custom valved RA spec coilovers.  Garage Work cars run no stabilizers, and tune solely off of dampening and spring rates.  This, alongside Iwata’s amazing ability to calculate perfect gear ratios for each track, gives them an advantage over most FF competitors.  Customized rear trailing arms on the Civics provide a lighter alternative, and increase suspension tuning.  It really is a unique, extremely tailored formula that elevates them to an entirely new level of expertise.

I wrote an article on Makoto’s EK4 awhile ago highlighting yet another unique challenge that a Garage Work driver had given himself; to break the one minute barrier with a stock engine.  Last year he did very well at the CTAC event, but is still working to break his personal best at TC2000.

As long as the group of people at Garage Work continue to do what they do best, they’ll continue to be an inspiration to me.  I enjoy following each driver to see how they tackle the goals they give themselves, and how Iwata and Kubo both support their team and continue to develop their own cars.  It’s not a fast process, as some of the drivers, like Yusuke, have been at it with the same chassis for over 20 years.  Little by little though, they gain the knowledge it takes to get them to the next level.  I guess you could say that for them, it’s all in a day’s work.

Photos: Matt Kingery


  1. Pingback:Feature: All In A Day’s Work – Chiba’s EK Frontrunners | Complicated.Yet.Simplified

  2. Great article! Wow 56 sec! No sway bars? Super interesting!

  3. Great article and photos!! I had no idea this happened, thanks for posting this, it is amazing.

  4. Jonathan

    Freakin love this site and the content!! Use to own an EK myself, but now an S2000. Do you have any close up shots of the Orange Amuse car that was next to them, can you do a post purely about that car?

  5. I searched a lot of places for info on the record braking run. But like you said, very little was out there.

    It’s a stunning time and definitely deserved far more attention.

  6. Wow, 56sec! That’s sick fast! This is big news indeed!

    I totally subscribe to the “no sway bars” school as when one digs into choosing his own spring rates, one understands that sway bars are mostly for “street-going-straightline-comfort!”

    Because with them, one can have very low spring rates (for straight line) and sway bars for when the car rolls.

    Most OEM sports cars have their wheel rate (spring+sway rates) dominated by the sway bars! (70% of front wheel rate in an FR-S is contributed by the sway bars!) but sway bars is akin to live axles, they tie up “independent” suspension which is kinda beats the purpose of having an independent suspension in the 1st place. ^_^

    I felt great enthusiasm from you writing this piece, made it very enjoyable (and made want to get an ek9 :p)

  7. Pingback:Close-Up: Yusuke Tokue – The Vanguard of FF

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