Event: Central Circuit Time Attack Challenge 2018 V.1

The days leading up to this event were spent in somewhat of a rush to compile my projects at work so I could afford some time to do a bit of research on Central Circuit, and the event itself.  This would be the first time attending CTAC for both Sekinei and I, and I wanted to have at least an elementary grasp of the track layout and event schedule.  It may seem dramatic, but when I’m presented with a finite amount of time to photograph something comprehensively, I get a bit anxious.  With the top class getting 3 sessions comprised of 15 minutes each, you can’t afford to be isolated from the action for even a minute.  With some of the fastest drivers gathered from all of Japan, I was looking forward to seeing what the day had in store.

Late Saturday morning, we packed up our things, grabbed a quick lunch, and set course for the Taka District of Hyogo.  Leaving from Yokohama around noon, we anticipated arriving to Osaka around dinner time.  Sekinei was looking forward to it all day, as he loves Osaka food, and hasn’t been to the area for years since he opened up his own business in Yokohama.  The drive was about as exciting as you’d imagine.  We took turns behind the wheel, and averaged a cool 140kph the entire way which helped knock down some of the time, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t tired by the time we got there.  We powered through most of the drive, which meant our first real stop was in Osaka.

We ate dinner at Shinsekai, an area of Osaka that has a great selection of famous restaurants.  Apparently the area has a seedy history, but honestly, using the word seedy in Japan is a bit of a misnomer.

Pretty neat alleyway that had some very color-corresponding signage on either side.

A little off topic, but arriving at night gave me a chance to test the low light capability of the D750 in the brightly lit alleyways.  These were all taken handheld at about 1/20 to 1/50 at f/4.

After a very well-deserved meal of kushi katsu we continued on our drive, anxious to get to our hotel and into bed.  Spending all day driving isn’t necessarily the most taxing activity, but it sure makes me tired.  We arrived at a fairly decent time to the closest hotel to the circuit.  The plan for the morning was pretty standard; get up early, grab a quick breakfast, head to the circuit, take care of media credentials, and scope out a plan for covering the best corners.  So, at 6:30am Sunday morning, we did just that.

Central Circuit is a 2.8 kilometer course located in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, almost directly West of Kyoto.  The track has a very unique layout with quite a bit of elevation change that includes a section that runs under the main straight; which is actually pretty long and helps define the elongated nature of the track.  Similar to some of the other larger tracks in Japan, Central Circuit has garages that lead straight to the hot pit area.  I don’t think the track has hosted sanctioned racing events in quite some time, and is now mostly used for a variety of privately hosted events.  CTAC is one of the largest time attack events held there on an annual basis, and since it has been growing in popularity recently, I had made it a point to attend this year.

They have a bit more run groups than a normal Attack event, and break them down by a few specifics. The fastest of the registrants run in the Vertex class, which is split into turbo and naturally aspirated.  These, of course, are the cars you’re used to seeing on this site on a normal basis (I like to call them the Frontrunners).  Then you have the ‘Middle’ class, which acts as sort of a gateway class to Vertex.  These are cars both N/A and turbo that run just a bit slower than those in the top run group.  Next is radial class, which again is split between turbo cars and naturally aspirated.  This year they also had a special class for R35 GTR’s as well as a run group specifically for 86’s.  The GTR class was actually pretty cool to watch.  We typically took the time during the radial or 86 run groups to switch positions on circuit.  This track is a bit larger, and more spaced out than a track like Tsukuba, so getting from end to end took a bit more time.

When we first arrived at the track we ran into Kaneko, our friend and previous Option2 photographer who now freelances and shoots for Attack.  Since Sekinei and I had never been to Central Circuit he let us in on a sort of insider spot to check out on the outside of one of the corners; which was great because aside from what I studied at home, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to figure out where to be on track for the best shots.  It’s not like Tsukuba, Fuji, Mobara, Motegi, etc. where we have go our go-to spots.  I enjoy shooting track side the most, so it’s kind of important to me.  I feel like the real excitement happens on circuit and I’ve always found a joy in capturing that.

For the first portion of coverage I had planned to sort of stay within the pits and try and capture of feeling of what it is like in the hours leading up to an event.  It’s been awhile since I made an event post, and I figured this would be a good segway into the results of the day and on-track photos.  I’ll do my best to introduce the drivers and teams as I know them.  I stuck around with Garage Work for the majority of the time I was around because, well, that’s where my interests lie.  So if the coverage seems skewed towards their cars, I apologize!  Kind of.  Not really.

So, you may or may not know, that this winter in Japan has been a pretty cold one.  It snowed just about 30cm in Tokyo the Monday after this event (which actually ended up cancelling my initial flight), and it’s slated to snow again next week.  Hyogo prefecture was no exception, being well below freezing when we arrived to the track.

The cars that were left out overnight showed tangible signs of the temperature.  When Matayoshi offloaded his FD from the carrier, I’m really not sure how he got it over to the garage because his windows were literally frozen.The garages have the ability to open and close, so the cars that had arrived the previous night were already thawed having been sheltered from the cold.Takayuchi’s DIREZZA Challenge spec RX-8 built by Odula.  The rotary specialists, located in the Sakai area, just south of Osaka has years of experiencing tuning rotary engines and has their own line of parts.

This car sounded really good on track.  The N/A rotary had a really distinct sound.Ando and his FD had arrived the night before to give himself plenty of time to set the car up, and enjoy the area for the weekend.

Motor in top shape for the weekend.

Hiroyoshi Shima was competing in the Vertex Turbo class with his yellow FD.  This thing was pretty awesome – it was great to see so many builds out of the Kanto area.Yamashita’s Stillway FD.  The Kobe based shop is responsible for a lot of high power builds in Kansai.Speaking of Kansai, how could I not mention Osaka’s Auto Select; GTR experts.  Thin-kun had a busy week, heading to Fuji for HKS day the very next weekend.The Anshin R32 put down some impressive times; the team has really dialed this car in.Run-Up GTR33.Nakajima from &G Corp (yeah, that’s right), brought out his one-off MR2.  His shop is very close to Central Circuit so they’re no stranger to the track.  Fire Ando, back from Australia, brought out the VivaC/Escort EVO9 for one of the first times since WTAC.  The gap between what it takes to compete on a global scale, versus domestic events is pretty intense.  Their program, just in the shear amount of equipment and parts the team needs to operate the car, has been stepped up ten fold since I saw them last year at Suzuka Circuit.

Stepped up how, you ask?  That’s a great question, I’m glad you’ve asked it.  How about 7 full sets of Enkei wheels wrapped in brand new Advan A050s.  On top of the 3 full tool boxes, and spares for just about any mechanical part on the car.  It doesn’t matter how big the venue, when the team is serious about time attack, it shows in results; Ando crushed the track record this weekend.

There were a couple S2000’s from K1 Laboratory’s that I was excited to see.  Up until now I didn’t ever look up to see where K1 was located, but Justin and I always watch the in-car footage from their track days.  Turns out they’re local to Osaka.Nishida’s shop car sported an HKS supercharged F-series.With the N/A record at TC2000, Hiroyuki was out to collect another title at CTAC.  They ended up falling a little short, being beat out by Ton in his EG.  But it was pretty close for this not being his local track.

From the get go, Ryo and the YF/KEW team were working on the Civic.  The day before they suffered major clutch failure with a shattered unit.  By the time we got to the track they were already busy getting the transmission housing out.

They were able to get it taken care of though, and the car was out on track later in the morning, only missing one session.The Kanagawa Engine Works shop car made an appearance as well, bunking with the YF car, and both competing in the Vertex NA group.  Kanagawa-san himself was piloting the car for the day.  I saw this EG on the CTAC website earlier on the year and thought it looked pretty wild.  Seeing it in person was a totally different story – there is a lot going on with this car.  Despite the exteriors..err..very unique appearance, the car was actually built very well.  It was running in the middle of the pack consistently throughout the day.Pretty clean interior too.  The roll cage was very well built.  Hanging around with the Garage Work kids, I don’t often see cages like this in the Civics built in Japan, but it seems like all the fully-built Kansai cars have really nice rollcages.Same goes for the Aslan cars.  Both the EK and their EF had full, gusseted cages.  K20 swaps for Aslan have become pretty common place.  They’ve adopted early on the ability of these motors, and have had very successful results with lightly tuned swap packages.Ton’s EG6, the frontrunner of the group, took the top position for the Vertex NA class.  With the power this car makes, and with the track being his home course, he was an easy call to win.  This car has a very high ‘Osaka flavor’, as Sekinei would put it.

The other EG6 that Aslan brought out, piloted by Masayuki-san, was competing in the Middle class.  I really liked this build, as it had a more Kanto look to it, save for the wild split exhaust coming out behind the diffuser.

My loyalties will always lie with Tora-san, however.  Iwata and the boys from Work made the long trek from Chiba, and brought with them a good showing of cars.  I was secretly hoping to see Iwata’s EG6, but when I asked him about the status he sort of just started laughing.  He’s been busy developing the other cars, that he’s hardly had time for his own – isn’t that a pretty common story for us all though.  The new aero package on Yusuke’s EK4 looks fucking incredible.  I couldn’t think of any more accurate way to phrase that, so pardon my language.  I didn’t have the chance to swing by Garage Work, but will have  spotlight on this car soon.Tomoko wasn’t there driving, but as usual, she was there to support the team.  All smiles from the man himself, predictably clad in his all-denim, Jay Leno-esque, jumpsuit.  This very bright pink EG was using parts of the Pandem kit.  The owner kept saying, ‘Pink, very cool!’ to me.Yukawa’s CRX from ACROSS did very well for being one of the more stock, street cars in the Middle class.  I think he ended up taking 3rd or something – I’ll have to double check.  Looks amazing too. The 86 class was pretty neat, but if I’m being completely honest, isn’t the most thrilling to watch.  This Pit Road built 86 looked pretty sweet though.A couple GTR’s from Endless, Garage Ito, and Jetwake were brought out for the 35R class.  Endless had the biggest showing, and ended up almost sweeping the class of 8.

This S2000 was from shop Ace Express and looked super confident on track.Shoutarou was of course in attendance, as Meishin was the title sponsor.  Regardless, the kid drives the most out of any driver I know.  I swear he’s at almost every event in Japan.Another nice street build from Temple.I was stoked to see Kubo back in action.  His car has been down almost as long as Iwata’s, and CTAC marked his return to the track.  With an entirely new, semi-redeveloped front end and side diffusers, he was ready to go.  I was also pleasantly surprised to see his car fully repainted, with fresh carbon doors.  The car looks super good now.I’m always impressed with what Kubo can do.  Seeing his driving style evolve from what Iwata has taught him is crazy.  These guys throw the cars into the corners sideways without any counter steer – I have a few pictures, but it really doesn’t do it justice.

Looks great.

Komi’s EK9 continues to be developed as well, taking on the look of previous reiteration of Yusuke’s EK.Tokue getting some last minute advice from Tora…or maybe he was dabbing.The Vertex NA class heading out to stage.

Vertex TB class.  Good to go!

I can’t get over how good this 20B sounds.

Plenty more action from CTAC coming soon.  Next we walk the course and dive into the times of the day. Stay tuned – the 2018 Attack season has officially began!