Feature: The Future of Time Attack – Yasuhiro Ando’s RX-7

I recently read a somewhat contradictory article published on a popular website that surmised that there were no longer interesting cars in Japanese time attack, and how there has been a split in interest as nobody wants to build record setting cars any longer.  The article goes on by saying that while there are still plenty of mid-50 second cars at Tsukuba (ahem, breaking records), this lack of general interest in being the fastest is allowing companies to take advantage of a new market that caters to the hobbyist.  Of course this is an opinionated perception, albeit factually incorrect, and naturally everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it takes just a few minutes to see the holes in this side of the argument.

First off, several records have been broken just in the past year between Yusuke of Garage Work, Iiri with the new N/A record in his newly built FD, and Suzuki having just shattered his way into the 50’s.  I think that’s plenty to solidify that there are still several people that are in it to win; both privateer and shop backed.  Not to mention HKS’s newly developed 86 build.

Secondly, catering to mild enthusiasts isn’t a new concept, and similar to the US, there are a handful of events that center around this demographic.  Zummy Racing is probably one of the most popular and more well known of these hosts, having regularly scheduled events throughout the year.  Grooving, which has been around for a good decade and even ran alongside Evome (rest in peace) for awhile, now it’s own entity has been one of the main purveyors of the casual racer.  They even have driving clinics where people new to the sport can learn a good foundation of basics.  CASHEW had been holding both serious and beginner meets well through the 90’s and into the early 00’s before they were dissolved. WITH ME in Adachi, Tokyo, has been organizing track events and actual races throughout the Kanto region for auto enthusiasts since the 80’s.  Evome had a radial class for the longest time with encouraged lightly modified cars to drive.  Sato at Unlimited Works hosts an event at Tsukuba for his customers (as do many other tuning companies); both veteran and amateur drivers, emboldening his customers to come out and enjoy their builds in any capacity.  Swat Racing hosts drives at TC2000 regularly with a mission statement of …hosting events where car lovers gather at the circuit and enjoy sports driving without difficulty…since it divides traveling time with similar vehicle type · experience · tuning specs etc, even a beginner is safe.Let’s run for now! You should be able to discover new interests of yourself & your car“.  Similar to events here in the US, where we are sorted by class based off your lap times.  Honestly, I could go on and on.  One only needs to view any circuit’s event calendar to catch on pretty quick.  Are these events exciting to watch? Not really.  Do these events have international media present? No.  Just because we’re not privy to them, or they aren’t hosted by a big name, doesn’t mean they don’t exist, however, and it certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t outlets for those that don’t want to invest a small fortune into their cars.  I can tell you for certain they’re fun to participate in.  It also sets the standard in teaching beginners proper track etiquette and gives them a knowledge in safe driving; which are huge if you want to move onto more serious events.

There is no arguing, however, in the fact that event series like Attack are the driving force behind the still ever-growing popularity of time attack in Japan.  In the past few years, the sport has exploded into adoration on a worldwide scale.  I get to experience it first hand and I still act like a fanboy around the paddock.  The best of the best inspire the fans of the sport to take their car to the track, to emulate their passion,  It’s what drives me to have this website and build a car of my own. – it’s what keeps the sport alive.  I’m not the only one that thinks that way.  I was talking with Yasuhiro Ando last night about his FD,  and in our conversation about motor sports in general, he mentioned something along those same lines when I asked him what he had to say about the future of time attack:

“…to invite the younger generation to participate, and by widening a focus on safety.  For example, the use of a HANS device, so that there are no serious accidents.”

You can see for yourself that very conviction the pro-am drivers of Japan have just by walking through the paddock before an event.  Drivers in full race suits, Nomex lined gloves, FIA rated driving shoes, HANS devices, full roll cages, etc.  It’s a noble example that should be set when you have people idolizing your actions.  Ando-san does fall into that ‘older-generation’ of enthusiasts that inspire the younger crowd, and seem to make up a majority of the entry lists these days for the more serious events, and so he gets a first hand look at what needs to be done to continue the growing pace of time attack.

Founding Auto Rescue Izu, a towing and auto transport company based out of Shizuoka, Ando had a love of cars very early in his life and that love naturally carried over into his work.  He’s been a long standing fan of the Mazda RX-7, having purchased his first one over 22 years ago.  Many cars have come and gone since then, but throughout them all, he’s always had an FD.  This current one, you see here, has been a 12 year project, and just recently has reached a level that will be hard to beat.  Gathering a group of people possessing top-tier experience in tuning the FD, he’s turned his once mild street car into a full blown race car that’s geared to go as fast as he can pilot it.  Despite his infamously comical demeanor, Ando actually enjoys the seriousness of the Attack series.  Saying, “the caliber of cars and drivers ensures that only serious people will gather.” 

Serious is an understatement coming from Ando.

The most prominent change in his FD comes in the form of the very seldom unheard of RE Amemiya GT Championship body kit.  The widened body panels have many one-off pieces and an assortment of carbon bits added to aid in downforce.

The massive triple-element Voltex Type 16 rear wing is the center piece of the rear of the car, complimenting the custom RE rear diffuser which, in combination allows the car to stick to the pavement around corners.

It takes an aggressive car to pull these parts off, and RE has done an amazing job allowing it to look the part.

The car sits lower than any car in the series, tucking tire in both the front and rear.  At first glance you wouldn’t think it driveable at that ride height, let alone pull sub minute lap times, but indeed it does – and looks amazing doing it.  It’s all thanks to a fully custom set of SCOOT Quantum Dampers that have been valved and setup to allow full stroke and usability at this low of setting.  Ando has relied heavily upon Ozeki-san of SCOOT, and his former colleague Endo-san; who between the two have half a century of tuning knowledge.  I learned yesterday that Endo-san was responsible for a lot of the work that went into Amemiya’s D1 car, as well as the Hurricane FD (that I think now is in Thailand?).  At any rate, Ando has them review the car’s data after every event, and adjust the tunes accordingly.  Not just in engine specification, but in suspension tuning as well.  How’s that for dedication?  I mean, the participants in Attack are pretty hardcore anyway, but I don’t think I’ve seen any of them out on the track as much as Ando since finishing his FD.

It’s incredible to look at even off the track.

Super Now brakes at all four corners are tucked away behind the 18″ TE-37’s.  Advan A050 tires in a 295/35 size are mounted in both the front and rear, and you better believe he’s using all of that tire to stay on track.  With over 550ps at his command, at full throttle even Japan’s most proven tire has a hard time staying connected to the circuit.

A close up of some of the detail on the Voltex wing.

One of the cooler details of this aero is, attached to the front of the side strake (which is a continuation of the full underpanel) is a smaller, adjustable wing element.

Isn’t it just the cutest little thing?

Carbon doors help get the FD’s rather hefty OE weight down to a much lighter 1070 kilograms (2380~).

Inside the car, every piece of the original interior has been replaced or gotten rid of entirely.  The Quaife sequential transmission’s shifter now sits in the center console, surrounded by an ATL fuel cell, and the single Recaro bucket seat.  An AIM MXL cluster replaces the stock readout while other systems are monitored to the left.  A custom dash shrouded in carbon houses the package.

The rear glass, hatch, and roof have been replaced with custom carbon panels resulting in a serious weight reduction, as well as helping to lower the center of gravity.

A lot of people notice the exhaust port coming out of the trunk – a little tip of the hat to the E/G double-sided, 7 mm bridge ported rotary engine that powers this car.  While SCOOT is responsible for a lot of the engine and suspension work on this car, Ando prides himself on doing the majority of body work and paint.  He spends a good portion of his time in combing the car over to find which places to reinforce, or if something needs changing.  I guess you could say he’s very in-tune with how the car works.

Details of the rear diffuser.

Heading out to track, we can see the car perform at it’s limit.

Coming around the first hair pin, the undertray all but scraping the ground.

Ando was able to grab a 58.8 second lap time this past outing, getting him a little bit closer to his 55 second goal.  A goal which I think he’ll have no trouble hitting after he gets used to the new build.

I gotta say, after getting to know Ando a little better, I have no doubt that with people like him carrying the sport on their backs, the future is nothing but bright. I think I just might become his biggest fan.  Thank you for your time, Ando, and next time I’m out in Japan let’s grab some BBQ.

Check out his personal best laps at Fuji Speedway last month: