Event: Energy In Motion – Tsukuba Attack Championship 2020

The energy that the time attack community in Japan has for this motor sport is unmatched by any other country, and I can say this with the utmost confidence.  It’s a source of propulsion for the entire attack community and something that I feel has a positive impact not just in Japan, but throughout the world.

Racing is a sport that comes with a very costly price tag, and I don’t just mean financially.  Being a good driver means making sacrifices.  Building a proper car means foregoing life’s seemingly endless ventures.  It means abandoning new experiences in favor of skill.  Those that are truly dedicated to motor sport relinquish everything that they could have in life in pursuit of greatness on circuit – and for what?  It’s a lifestyle that can drag you down to places you never thought you could be.  It can leave you lost, without reward or fulfillment.  It will kick you when you are down, and often times leave you cursing your involvement.  However, how would we define our highs without first experiencing our lows?

Because, believe me when I say this, racing can also bring you to the mountain top.  It continuously redefines achievement, happiness, recognition.  We see it time and time again, those who finally get a taste of the podium, at long last crowned champions – “…this is the happiest day of my life.”  We hear it time and time again.  These words aren’t a premeditated standard; they are said with conviction, with honesty.  They are words shared with a world that is set ablaze with inspiration.  Words that set new highs, partially due to the forfeitures that came before them.  It takes a special kind of energy to count yourself among this group of individuals.  It’s the same energy I see visiting the many tuning shops throughout Japan.  It’s an energy I feel when I talk to those who have dedicated their lives to going faster.  It’s the spirit I feel while walking through the paddock of Tsukuba Circuit.

It’s an energy that resonates throughout all of Japan.  And speaking honestly, I’m not sure I would still be doing this if it weren’t for that energy.  This isn’t something I need to be doing.  It’s a conscious decision of mine to to use my time to try and provide the best coverage of time attack in Japan that I can.  And, while it’s taken me a few years to realize it, I think I do it all so that I can share this energy with everyone.  That alone is the driving reason why I do my best to share it with our audience globally.  It can be difficult sometimes to write about the same thing time and time again with the same sincerity and thoughtfulness, but I find that if I take a step back, something always presents itself.  This time it was in the form of individual enthusiasm.

It’s easy to say, because it’s so prominent in Japan, that this sort of dedication is written into their DNA.  While that may partly be true of their culture, saying such a thing discredits the hard work it takes to be that way.  I wrote of it in the past, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again.  I don’t mean to make this sound overly dramatic, but in some cases it is very much a dramatized aspect of life.  Our pursuits are how we each define importance and thus are naturally surrounded by the drama of the reciprocating highs and lows.  At any rate, Japan is a shining example of everything I enjoy about time attack and consider myself lucky to be a part of helping it grow and sharing that growth with everyone reading.

And with all that being said, I also enjoy the good looking cars…

Early (and I mean early) Friday morning I left Yokohama and began making my way to Tsukuba Circuit for the Zummy Racing Family event that traditionally takes place the day before the Attack Tsukuba Championships.  Sekinei once again was kind enough to loan me one of his shops Daihatsu Hijets to make the drive in – this one happened to be purple with a yellowish beige stripe, so we drove it in honor of Kobe.  My friend Jay was accompanying me for the drive, as he was here on a vacation and was kind enough to help out at the booth during the event.  Coincidentally, David Kim was also arriving to Japan that same day, so I made a slight detour on the drive and picked him up at Haneda airport.  It was nice to have company for the drive considering as of late I’ve been doing these treks on my own.  After a gas stop and several snack stops for the kids, we ended up at Tsukuba Circuit mid-morning.

We stayed for the entire Zummy event as I had individual photoshoots spread throughout the day.  By the time the sun set I was exhausted.  The guys at Garage Work had extended an offer for me to come down and check out Tokui’s new build, but by the time we hit the road our ETA to Ichihara would have been close to 8pm – a bit later than Kubo and the boys wanted to stay at work.  So I postponed for next month (thanks to covid-19 that trip was cancelled), and we headed to the hotel for the night.

Quick note – ever since I prioritized publishing unique content for 80R over the website, I’ve noticed that I’ve stopped covering events in the typical fashion.  I prefer now to focus on individual features akin to a magazine, which has in turn left my ability to post traditional event overviews rather lacking.  As a result, this post will be sort of a mix of both the Zummy event and the Attack event rolled into one weekend of Japanese time attack; with an emphasis on the day of Attack.  Which I don’t think is a bad thing, however the photos just won’t be accompanied by a timeline.  If you’re looking for timing and record of personal bests, I recommend you head over to YouTube and watch the event videos – I’ve included best times for the event, drivers previous best times, and whether or not they achieved a personal best.  Chances are there won’t be a lot of that in here.

On the day of Attack, we arrived at the Tsukuba Circuit main gates early morning and after talking to the staff, parked in the main lot outside of TC2000.  I had a lot of supplies to carry in for the booth we were setting up with Car Shop Glow and wanted to get everything established before taking photos, so we loaded up, locked the car and headed in.

The tunnel leading to A paddock from the parking lot – this tunnel goes underneath turn 1 of TC2000.  Somewhat void of activity this early in the morning – nice and calm.

Beauty display am I right?

Fast forwarding an hour or so, after getting everything setup, I went upstairs to talk to Fukazumi and pick up a media vest for David and I.  As the event grows year over year, the demand for media naturally grows with it – which I’m all for.  I love to see time attack, especially in Japan, grow to be appreciated more and more.  The more (quality) coverage of this event that we can provide for everyone the better.  With that increase in demand though, Tsukuba is often at capacity with what it can handle both in real estate and in safe areas for media.  This isn’t the first time I’ve seen limited media licenses at TC2000, but it is the first time I’ve seen a limit placed on Attack, and the first time outside media has had to apply ahead of time.  This is good!  Regulating official photos helps maintain a high standard for the event while keeping the ability to get them for the approved sources relatively unimpeded.  For everyone interested in attending and getting good photos without a license though, fear not.  TC2000 is setup in such a way that if you want some great photos, you don’t particularly need track access.  However, without it, it is limiting on a great number of corner visibility.  Being the small size that it is severely limits access.

First time seeing a sign like this for Attack.

With all the red tape squared away, I set off to grab some a set of comprehensive photos around the paddock and pit area before the drivers meeting started.  Since the track was still wet from the last night’s rain, the first super lap session that was schedule for the morning was postponed until 11 to allow time for the track to dry.  It was unfortunate, but since the cars that run in that particular session are very dependent on external factors, there really wasn’t a choice.

Kitajo, owner of famed rotary shop Craft Company, and his FD were posted up in front of the Royal Purple booth, unfortunately not running in the event.  He mentioned that he is still testing, and will most certainly be back next year.

Despite not driving he was still in high spirits as usual.  I don’t know why, but I feel like he’s sort of giving off a Jackie Chan vibe right here.

Heading out to the track to experience my personal favorite part of any Attack event – the driver’s meeting.  I mentioned in our YouTube video of the event that this has always been part comedic routine for the guys and for whatever reason I find it very entertaining.  It also plays a large role in establishing the inter-activeness and inclusiveness of the event that I haven’t experienced elsewhere (the closest being VTEC Club, whose staff closely mirrors that of Attack).

Daisuke Aoki, head of Attack, and pioneer of Croc fashion, kicking off the driver’s meeting.

Being the fastest amongst the registered drivers grants you the special privilege of addressing everyone.  Ando talks about track conditions and things to watch out for throughout the day, and provides words of motivation for everyone to go faster.

Group photos – lots of them.  Love the energy.

Masumoto, another staple of time attack in Japan, playing the part of Aoki’s hype man during the meeting.

Along with Mana-P who is usually contracted to vocalize the event throughout the day – seen here leading the charge to personal bests and new records.  Option has great photos/video of these moments as the group charges towards the cameraman.  This is the sort of energy I’m referring to!  It’s very fun.

Back in the paddock, drivers gear up to head out to track, while others continue to set up and inspect their cars for the day.

Testsutaro is shown above, suited up and ready to take his FD out to circuit.

While everyone got ready I at about 14 France Dogs.

Escort staff discussing the day with a few other drivers – this corner of the hot pit is a popular one with the EVO on display.

Ando was in high spirits from setting a PB during the event on Friday, albeit only 2 tenths faster than his previous time.  He expressed discontent after the lap, but was his usual cheerful self around the paddock.

The car, seen above during the Zummy Racing event, was using a new compound offering from Hoosier, the H7.  As stated above, Ando managed to set his personal best on the tire, a 50.7.  I was talking to Shiobara after the car had come in and they had a chance to inspect the compound – his initial impression was that the compound was too soft.  I think the team had high hopes for getting closer to Under’s time using the Hoosier, however Ando was able to almost match the time later using the A050.  Because it is so new, the similar time could be attributed to car setup and other factors – it’s a little to early to do anything but speculate.

Shiobara casually taking off the rear door of the Evo for refueling.

Always cool to see this car up on the air jacks.

Cute little additions to the front splitter winglets.

Headed out to track during practice looking strong.

Rounding the hair pin…

Powering out the final turn…

…with a little spark action from the side skirt on the ground.

Overall not the worst day for Team Escort but one that ultimately did not meet the team’s expectations.

Kiyo and the TFR FD, a personal favorite of mine.  Early in the morning he was using a space heater to keep the differential and fluid warmed up.

Looks good on TE37 Saga Time Attack edition wheels.

The unique lines of the custom kit look good from any angle.

The TFR FD was pitted next to Ryo’s EG for most of the day which did well to brighten that area of the paddock a bit.

Kiyo reflecting on the day.

Ryo’s EG, the fastest recorded NA FWD car at the event (record holding time of 56.070 at TC2000) was dressed to the nines as usual with his new aero for this season.  The rear of the car has been drastically widened allowing for a larger tire in the rear.

However the car still utilizes a very large staggered wheel setup which gives the car an enormous amount of rake. It’s a look all of us FWD enthusiasts battle with, as it’s not ideal, but it is a small aesthetic sacrifice for performance on track.

The brightly colored, Kanagawa Engine Works built K24 series with custom ITB with custom, hand welded runners makes a healthy 300 horsepower.

It was pretty exciting to see the battle between the front wheel drive, naturally aspirated competitors throughout the day as they were all within at least 1 tenth of each other and in some cases even less than that.  Ryo was able to hit a 57.279 – quite a bit off his record time, and also slower than the other FWD NA cars of the event. Because of the weather, the top teams didn’t really have hopes of breaking any drastic records, so it was nice that the fast Hondas were out fighting for position.

Among them were Ryo’s EG above, Ton’s Aslan built EG, and the GNR Rise UP EK9 driven by Asao.

This car has somewhat exploded over the past few years to become a frontrunner of the NA FWD community in Attack.  Now paired with neighboring Hokkaido shop, Garage Rise Up, the car has closed the gap between the competitors in front of them. With a best time of TC2000 56.799, the outsiders are well within fighting range for the crown.

Splitters make for nice seats when no traditional seat exists.

The EK9’s orginal B-series motor has been scrapped for this fully built K-series that puts out a reliable 300 hp.  The team has set the goal at a sub 56 lap time, similar to that of many of the NA class greats.  During the Attack even Asao ran a 57.100, beating out Ton by just .04th of a second.

Horiton, no stranger to our website or the racetrack, was also in contention for fastest FWD/NA time of the day with a 57.140

However, with a personal best of 56.370, he now stands closest to claiming the record and have it change hands once again.

To add to this little dramatic play, we can count on Tokui from Garage Work being back for next season – actually probably in testing later this year.  And, this is wishful thinking, but it’s possible that Iwata could be back next season as well.  Although every time I ask him about his car he laughs…not the best sign.

One of the low points of Friday’s event was watching the other GNR EK loosing the rear coming out of the final turn and shunting into the pads.  It was right after the session in which the driver posted his personal best, just making it under the 1 minute mark around TC2000.  I saw him cheering really, just hours before this happened.

This is an unfortunate, but great example of what I was talking about in the beginning of this post.  The highs are high, but the lows are gutting.

The good news is that the driver was completely safe and the Tsukuba crew was able to extract the car off track without issue.

I’m also very happy to report that this car was back at Rise Up Garage soon after and being pulled apart to rebuild the front end with a tube chassis.  So the duo will be back soon, better than ever.

Sato, “Tarmac Meister”, has one of the nicest S2000s in the field – and actually one of the only AP1s in attendance that day.  It was weird going to an Attack event at Tsukuba and not seeing Yoshitaka’s bright green S2000 (which recently underwent a full engine overhaul), or Fura’s Imola Orange beast – even ASM has retired their fully built car.  There are rumors that Fura will be back next season with a supercharged version of his current car.

Sooo good…

Kenneth Lau’s DC2 was another noteable NA FWD competitor during the event

Saw this really good looking FEED GT3 kitted FD – although I do not have much information about it.

I’m not sure why Mitsuwo was running in Second Class, possibly because he didn’t have a benchmark for TC2000, but he absolutely crushed it with a 55.628.  He more than proved his skill and I can almost assure that he will be in the super lap class next event.

Old school track cleaning

Even Aoki found time during the day to hit the circuit – he did well too!  After running the event for so many years he’s gotten used to sitting out from behind the wheel to ensure everything goes smoothly during the day.

A 56.379 reset his record on radial tires and improved on personal 55.684 on A050 – great work for brushing the dust off!  It was a highlight of mine to see this car and Aoki back on track.

Felt like I just saw Masayoshi at Suzuka like yesterday when we said our hellos.  His R32 was looking very similar save for a small add on to the front splitter.

He didn’t have the best luck during this event, but with the new additions his current best time of a 55.089 will soon fall into the 54’s for sure.

Another highlight of the event was seeing the Friends Racing S15 again.  I last saw this car in Sugo last year, but getting to take a closer look at it for two days straight was a treat.

Itagaki was super excited to be driving at TC2000 again – as was I because his car is extremely photogenic.

Him and Ando during a little FD walkabout during lunch – it would be amazing to get these two together for a shoot some day.

I really enjoyed this photo, as did Ando when I posted it on Twitter because it marked the day that he clocked a new personal best of 56.566 – bringing him just a bit closer to the 55 club.

Sakurai’s FD looking as beautiful as ever.

The boys at Deep Stage Racing/CSD had a great weekend as they claimed the title of fastest rotary at TC2000.  A title that Hoosier was very excited about.  Check out the video for the celebration.

A car that needs no introduction – the Cayman GT3 of M’s Machine Works – we will get up close and personal with this car in 80R Volume 3 – so please be patient!

Tajima in the N-One 380RS was pumped and ready to hit the track.  On his Facebook profile awhile ago, he made a post about his family making fun of his bumper not being painted, and alluded to the idea of possibly paint matching it soon – if you’re reading this, Tajima, please don’t!  It looks great in the exposed carbon.

Under’s brother, Kengo ‘Lock’ Suzuki, was also in attendance ready to rack up the experience of Tsukuba Circuit and start chipping away at his time.

The matte black car looked great out on track.

I wish I could keep going down the list of amazing cars at this event, but I’ll have to leave you now with my favorite Tsukuba snack – a Glico mint chip ice cream.  I know I missed a lot of good stuff in this post but fear not.  There is a lot more to come from Attack, mostly closer looks at some of the cars included in this post, as well as ones I wasn’t able to get to.  However, given the current situation of our world, and the nature of my day job, it may be hard for me to find the time to get things published timely.  It was even daunting trying to put this together given my constraints!  I will do my best with the time I have!

As always, thank you for viewing.  If you enjoy please be sure to drop a line and tell me what you liked best so I can try to get more of it up.  I appreciate your energy!