Event: Attack Championship 2019 – Tsukuba Stage V.1

It takes a dedicated enthusiast to consider time attack a spectator sport; and trust me, I don’t say that lightly.  I’ve spent almost a good portion of my life promoting the sport, the last thing I want to do is discredit my own work.  That’s not my sole opinion though, it is simply a statement that is rooted in factuality.  Unlike other mediums in motor sport, time attack is more of an intrinsic, individual type of racing when compared to wheel to wheel events.  It’s something you’d rather be doing than watching.  At the top levels, the tracks are somewhat deserted in order to give the driver a clear shot in getting the fastest lap possible – having no traffic is essential.

There is no fighting for position, no overtaking, no pit stop strategy, and if everything goes as it should, no epic pile-ups (ala NASCAR Daytona 500).   It’s simply not the most entertaining form of motor sport.  So, yes, on paper, time attack is without a doubt, the most boring motor sport to watch.  Anyone who would argue otherwise probably isn’t a driver in the sport – because most assuredly, anyone who has experienced the thrill of time attack would much rather be participating in it that spectating it.  It just so happens that the barriers to entry are very low; almost anyone can experience driving in time attack themselves.  That alone is what makes the sport not only special, but very much obtainable.

Tsukba Circuit: TC2000 – the home of time attack

It is a battle between your conscious and your unconscious.  The ever-present struggle between what you think is possible, and what physics will allow.  It’s pushing the boundaries of man and machine until they push back.  It’s the little things that you can only feel when you’re behind the wheel; piloting your own creation, or a purpose-built machine, around a track with not 60 laps to win; but just one.  It is the epitome of perfection.  Not for everyone else, but for exclusively for you.  Yes, in a sanctioned event only the fastest times hold merit, but that’s the beauty of time attack.  Aside from celebrating the victors, each time a driver improves on his or her own personal time, we have the opportunity to take stock of our development; and with the right community, these moments are celebrated as victories in and of themselves.  It’s easy to dramatize such an experience, but it isn’t until you’ve experienced it for yourself that you realize how accurate and warranted the reactions are.

With all that being said, it is incredibly relevant to witness time attack become almost a mainstream form of racing, and I personally love to spectate (as well as drive).  All throughout the world we have great people hosting some incredible events that help to showcase what time attack is all about.  WTAC in Sydney, Australia; Ian Baker has done an incredible job of uniting time attack enthusiasts on a global scale.  Super Lap in the States has just recently landmarked an event at COTA that was watched around the country on their livestream, VTEC Club in California which has quickly grown to be one of the largest single make time attack events in the country, if not the world.  Of course, Aoki and the team that heads up the Attack Championship at Tsukuba; perhaps the one event that all others are piggybacked off.  The event that, as of 2019, has drawn some of the largest physical spectator crowds of any dedicated time attack event (not multi-faceted events with car shows and drift exhibitions included i.e WTAC).  I wouldn’t expect any less from the country in which the sport originated though.  I’m lucky enough to personally know many of the people making these events happen and the inherent dedication they have to the sport is really something worth mentioning. The most noteworthy thing is that they all started out at the bottom.  When I mentioned that time attack is very much an obtainable sport, I meant it in the most inclusive way possible.  Anyone who has a remote interest in racing is able to find an event to take part in; regardless of what car they drive, or how modified it is.  This is true on a global scale.

Hiroki entertaining the children – these are some of the moments I enjoy most about racing; those that show that it’s more than a hobby.  lives are built from the sport, and shared with family across all ages.

In Japan, the amount of entry level, grassroots motor sports events rivals that of Southern California; often hailed as the place to be for the aftermarket automotive scene.  Many of these events are considered ‘feeder’ events to those such as Attack, RevSpeed or the since defunct Battle Evome.  Over the past few years though, one event has stood out among the pack as being the quintessential time attack event of the year; the Tsukuba Attack Championship.  Surpassing even the RevSpeed Super Lap event in attendance and popularity, which is often acclaimed as the originating event of time attack, the Attack Championship has garnered the attention of a worldwide audience.  This year’s event had already been slated as a game changer as entrants from multiple countries had put in their bid to take on Tsukuba the day registration opened.  JDM Yard from Australia, and the Vibrant team from Canada sent their cars over with weeks to spare in preparation to take on Tsukuba for the first time ever.  Not only proving that time attack is growing as a recognized and respected motor sport but coming full circle as international teams head to the country in which it all started.  I had the fortunate opportunity to once again shadow JDM Yard, this time in their venture to Tsukuba, and just seeing the amount of work and commitment that goes into racing on an international level is rather inspiring.  It helps that the group that head up the team are some of the most genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  The weekend wasn’t easy for the team, but again, that’s all part of racing.  Getting to share this experience alongside them was just one of the many notable parts of the weekend.

I was photographing a car for 80R Volume 2 at b paddock when all the international competitors were taking group photos on the front straight, so I had to get the group together for a photo before I left.

It often goes unnoticed, but we owe so much of what we enjoy to Japan and those involved in making time attack a global sport.  Inspiration seems to bleed out of Japan in not just their builds, but their entire ethos of life. The principles and underlying foundation of time attack should not be forgotten, and I hope events like that of which Attack hosts are taken into consideration around the world.  They truly are time attack in its purest form.

It is a dedication to a single platform with little to no restrictions. Focusing on the definitive objective of continuous improvement.  A founding principle of the sport is to achieve faster lap times built upon past results.  Attackers who return time after time are devoted to these values and prove to themselves their development on track.  This is the true spirit of time attack; this is what Attack embodies.

Narita Dogfight is proud to be a part of, and humbled to have the opportunity to present the 2019 Attack Championship in such a capacity.

It wouldn’t be Attack if it didn’t begin with a driver photo.  These group photos that Aoki and Shoichiro manage to organize before the first session starts have got to be one of the most entertaining things about the day.

With Mana P. involved the energy level is automatically increased exponentially.  Even Dai jumped over the barrier and took part in the fun.  With Mana P., Dai and Taniguchi at the front, it almost felt like we were going to film a Hot Version race or something.

A couple Tsukuba veterans.  From left to right; Haji-san (you may know him as ‘Smiley Shot’ – I’ve followed him for years to get my time attack fix, even before having NDF.  Small world knowing that we’re friends now), Nobutoshi Kaneko, famed Option photographer turned freelance, and film-buff/contributor Matt Kingery.  Good crew!  Haji and Kaneko shoot the majority of media that Attack uses for promotion and their website.  David Kim from BattleDriven came along as well; his first time to Japan to boot.

The man himself.  My brother Sekinei was gracious enough to man the booth all day during the event selling our One’s tribute shirts.  This year, since we were both so busy in the weeks leading up to the event, we shared a booth with Car Shop Glow.  Yukimitsu, Ken and Ricky were nice enough to help us out getting setup in the morning.  Next year I’m hoping to be a little more prepared with our own designated booth and a full lineup.

Garage G-Force was on hand during testing Friday, and had the car setup and ready to go in the morning.  NOB would once again be behind the wheel piloting the EVO around TC2000 in a bid to catch up to Ando and Team Escort.  It’s normally about 1 second off from Ando, but today they couldn’t put it down and bested a 53.820 – which is still blindingly fast.

Taniguchi was pulled in a lot of different directions over the day, although that’s fairly normal for him.  During an interview about the Assist M4, he forgot what was done to the car, resulting in a comical moment walking back to the mechanic to ask.  Pro-driver problems.

The M4 he was being questioned about.  A 58.818 second lap time in a car with full interior, and very little engine work is extremely impressive.

Speaking of being pulled in many directions, a few of the more vocal and well-known drivers sponsored by Sunoco sat on a Q&A panel for a small interview session during the event.  It gave the fans an opportunity to get up close and interact with the drivers.

Atsushi Shimaya and the Endless team were on point all day after a long night of maintenance to the car after testing on Friday.  Testing revealed some mechanical issues that needed to be mitigated before the event.  We actually had to postpone our photoshoot Friday as the car was up in the air until dark.

It paid off though, as Shimaya drove his best of 54.483 leading the RX-7’s, and taking the 5th fastest time overall for the day.  This car is unreal in person – it’s been a long time since seeing it, and it has changed so much over the past few years.

It really has a presence.

Yasuhiro Ando was able to pull off a quick time of 57.071, but unable to break into the 56’s to match his personal best.  The car was looking good as usual.  He brought me some kind of chocolate waffle snack as a gift that I haven’t been able to stop eating since getting home.

Yasuhiro and friends hanging out with the drivers during lunch.

Perhaps one of the most notable moments of the weekend was Fire Ando inching ever-closer to Suzuki’s 50 second lap.  After mending transmission issues that the team was having with the shift timing on Friday, Ando went on the following day to put down a blazing 51.119 – just shy of the 50’s.  With Suzuki out of the race for the time being, Ando is taking advantage of as much seat time as possible.

You can grab a closer look at the car on our new YouTube channel.

Honestly, I could photograph this car all day.  It looks absolutely amazing from any angle.

I was watching Bando and the AutoBahn JZZ30 closely during the day as they put the heat down on track.  A new best of 53.680 got them the third fastest time of the day, and more importantly, established their intentions in battling for the top spot.  AutoBahn is welcomed as one of the newest teams in our Frontrunner lineup for 2019 – this will be a good year for them!

The 1,000hp 2JZ that powers the luxury cruiser.

Bando says that he knows the team can get into the 52’s with a few more tweaks and the ideal lap.

Naturally, one of the most talked about entries in this years event were the foreign competitors.  Will Ae-Young and team Vibrant from Toronto, showed up ready to do damage.  During Friday’s testing, he effortlessly (I’m sure it required effort) broke the FF record during the very first session of driving, snatching the title away from HKS.  The team later went on to absolutely destroy the record, establishing the new fastest FF time at TC2000 of 53.071.  I knew that Will and Adam would do well; my personal prediction was a mid-54 second lap for both.  I had no idea they’d be this fast though – and neither did the Japanese competitors.  Almost all of them stopping by throughout the day to get a closer look at the car.  I was joking with Sato-san from Unlimited Works about it as he was hanging around their pit almost all day Friday.

Adam Casmiri with JDM Yard from Australia put in a mega effort as well, also beating HKS’s previous record with a 54.901.  Balance issues plauged the team during Saturday’s event as they weren’t able to dial in enough rear downforce.  The new aero had no testing back home, and it was sort of anyones guess as to how it would react at Tsukuba.  Not to mention they blew two headgaskets – lots of work at the JDM Yard pit, but high spirits nonetheless.  They were able to take the title of fastest trap speed; 255kph on the back straight.  Unreal fast.  I hope to see them back again, as their predictive best lap was a low 53.  I’ll have a special post about their campaign coming up soon.  As I previously mentioned, I had the good fortune of getting a close look at the build up to their drive.

Kenneth Lau, also from Canada, was there in this immaculate K20 DC2 Type-R.  A very mild build in comparison, but still very modified.  A 1’01.129 for the team alludes to a sub one-minute lap if given more track time.

Kiyo-san in the TFR FD3S wasn’t able to improve upon his time, but managed a 55.576; second fastest FD behind Shimaya.  This car has come a long way, and has been meticulously rebuilt.

On Thursday, I drove over to Ichihara to visit Garage Work and check up on a few of the projects they have going on; including Iwata’s rebuild and Tokue’s chassis swap.  We talked about Kubo’s drive this weekend and his attempt to break into the 58’s on radials.  The day he does that, which he’s rather on the cusp of, is the day that I believe he would have the potential to take the FF NA record after upping his power.

He is incessant on driving on radials despite the potential of going faster on S-Type.  It’s pretty cool to watch his determination.  Regrettably, he would only go 59.917 during the weekend (best of 59.2).

Car was looking good in the shade of the evening clouds.

Two fast boys talking about rotary stuff.  Shimaya left, and ‘Shark’ Iiri right probably comparing how cool their cars sound.

Speaking of Iiri and the best sounding car in the paddock; the Full Stage FD.  The 390 horsepower, naturally aspirated 20B make the exhaust note sound like a Formula car.  Taking aerodynamic cues from Escort, the car sports large wing endplates that connect to the diffuser for this year.

Iiri just about matched his personal best with a 55.599, to the previous 55.595; showing that the car is being pushed to the limit.

Oddly enough, I caught both out of the fast boys out of their cars talking in the paddock, and in their cars on track together.  Imagine the sounds here…You’re actually not allowed to be inside track on Turn 1 exit and I got kicked out shortly after – worth a shot though.  Get it?  Worth a shot…

Nobu and the now infamous, Rasty supported, ‘double-wing’ Supra.  Why double wing?  I still don’t know.  He’s fast though; a 55.816.

A friend of mine saw this photo and said, “I guess double downforce didn’t work.”  Funny, because as I shot this I thought to myself, “He should put a third wing on there.”  Cold tires coming out of turn 1 most always results in some oversteer correction.  Actually, this is exactly the reason why you’re not allowed inside track at turn 1 exit haha

This was the first time getting to talk to Seyama since his new Voltex aero was finished and installed.  He’s still working on dialing in the balance, as the rear aero is much, much, much stronger than the front.  He’s about a second off-pace of his previous 54.1 lap, but once he gets the balance figured out, this car will be in the 53’s easily.

He put down a 55 flat on Saturday’s Super Lap.

Hey, look who it is!  Shimada flew up from Kyushu to hang out and parooze the competition in the Kanto Region.  He was saying that Kyushu Danji might make the trip out to Attack Tsukuba in the next year or two.

I ran into Yoko from RWB as well!  We were chatting for a bit about what’s been going on at RWB and her drives – was nice to catch up.  Kitajo of Craft Company stepped in for a pic as they’ve been long time friends.

Toru Hasegawa, one of the TiRacing/Outer Plus Lotus boys was on hand to throw down at TC2000.  These cars are unparalleled in style.  He bested his fastest lap by almost a full second; 56.894 for the MR.

I thought these shots came out pretty cool.  This was earlier in the morning when I was walking about after getting the booth setup.

GNR Racing’s K20 EK9 was on point and able to break into the 57’s with a 57.823.

Asai-san was really driving the piss out of it though, using all the track and then some.  It’s been cool to see this car develop so quickly.

There is so much more to share from Attack, we’ve barely scratched the surface.  Over the next week or two, I’ll do my best to comprehensively show most of the cars and moments that took place; there were quite a few.

Above all the racing and record breaking, however, there was a more important reason this event was special to everyone.  It was used as a means to celebrate a life that’s helped carry the time attack community to where it is today.  A look into the future of Kazuyuki Takahashi’s FD will be coming up shortly., along with V.2 of Attack Tsukuba.