Event: SUGO Season Opener – Attack Tohoku 2020

The new season of Attack kicked off on the weekend of October 25th with the always anticipated Attack Tohoku event at Sportsland Sugo; a track that, with it’s lush forested backdrop, and unique layout, has quickly become among my favorites in Japan.

This year’s event held a similar scope in drivers as last year’s event did, as Sugo’s expansive 2.1  million square meter design comes with the added distance from major cities.  Located North of Fukushima in the Miyahi Prefecture, the road course is situated about 5 hours above Tokyo.  All things considered it’s not a horrible drive, but for teams that also operate shops, it takes some dedicated scheduling.  As a result, we tend to see some regulars at Sugo that span from drivers that love the course, and cars from shops a bit closer to Miyagi.  There is no way around it though, Sugo is very much a drivers track.  Ask anyone in the paddock and they will undoubtedly express their love for the course.

The paddock at Sugo was abuzz with activity early on Sunday morning with drivers and teams offloading and prepping their cars for the first Attack hosted event of the year.  With Round 3 of the Super Formula series having hosted their event the weekend prior, the Attack drivers were excited to have their shot on track.  Having such a world renowned series run the weekend before is no doubt very motivating for everyone; I wasn’t even driving at it was for me.  Last minute adjustments and inspections, installing tire warmers, checking fluids, and all the other customary best practices that go along with racing were being played out in precise regularity.

Kaminari-san tinkering with the carbs of the SA22C.

Ryo arriving on scene in Japan’s coolest transport.

All eyes were on Ando and Team Escort leading up to race day as he had a chance to once again top his record breaking lap from last year; the blistering 1’18.529.  The team were prepared to take an entire second off that time with the off-season improvements and data they’ve collected from new testing.

Unfortunately for the team and their fans, mechanical issues plagued the EVO early on, and they weren’t able to put down a time.  In early testing the crankshaft had a balancing issues that all but put the car out of commission, turning it into an exhibition for the weekend.  Although now in writing, Shiobara and the team seem to have sorted any leftover demons because Ando has gone on to break the Okayama Circuit record.

Unfortunate, but with this team’s incredible resolve I have no doubt they’ll be back this season to get that 1’17.

With the arrivals and preparations complete, the drivers meeting, led by Aoki, was concise and comical per usual.  After the formalities, it was time for the traditional group photos on the front straight.

Thankfully, Japan hasn’t seen a resurgence in the amount of COVID cases and has managed to stave off the spread rather well.  One of the main reasons this event had such a good turnout despite restrictions on staff and spectators.

Despite the forecast calling for rain showers in the late morning, the sky was mostly blue with the expected amount of cloud cover for Japan.  The windy, heavy air held the weight of excitement for the day, and the racing that was to come.

With Escort out of the picture, the story turned to whether or not Hokkaido’s Car Shop Dream FD to reset the fastest rotary lap. Expectations were high, with their off-season program having the car running perfectly.

The first session is often the most ideal in time attack events because at this level track temperature, ambient temperature, and overall forecast play such a huge roll in the driver’s ability to utilize the most of the cars grip and power.  The colder air carries a density to it that quickly fades as the day progresses.  Knowing this, and that their was an inevitable rain cell headed towards the track, Tetsuhiro pulled the FD out on grid with full determination to hit his target.

This car has come a long way since we began to follow it’s progress, watching the team check off one accomplishment after another has been a lot of fun and very inspiring.


And today they were set to check one more of those boxes.

The first session proved very successful for the cars setup, and Tetsuhiro was able to drive the car at it’s full potential.

Full throttle headed into Hi-Point Corner.

And ripping down the back straight, all 800 horsepower being commissioned.

Stopping the clock at 1’21.447, a new personal best for the team and fast enough to take home the title of fastest rotary at Sportsland Sugo.  It would have also been the fastest time of the day if it wasn’t for the powerhouse Friends Racing S15.  Despite some early day setbacks, Inose and the team found the tenacity to bounce back and take home the fastest of the day.

Looking for a bit of redemption from their 2019 performance, the team was in full gear the morning of the event.  Friends Racing has always given off the vibe of a very serious team, focused on success and success only when at the circuit.  The car clocked a 1’21.533 in 2019, far from it’s intended goal of a 1’19.

They would have to be patient though, as an electrical issue prevented them from putting down a time in the first session. It was a bitter pill to have to sit out the fastest session of the day, and if that wasn’t enough, the second super lap session was put on hold due to rain.

Fortunately, the rain was forgiving, and after the track dried the third an final super lap session took place on schedule.  With the electrical issue sorted, Inose pulled the Friend’s Racing S15 out of the garage and onto track as the evening sun began to set in the background.

Coming down the front straight – what a backdrop.

Inose clocked a fast lap of 1’21.219 in his final opportunity of the day.  A personal best for the car, albeit far from their goal.  Given the circumstances it’s a result that the team was ultimately satisficed with.

More data gathered means more opportunity to hit their goal next time.

They also brought out their new VAB build, however it’s ability to run was negated by mechanical issues.  Would have been great to see it out on track, the full Varis kit, modified with one-off, molded vents looks pretty amazing; and knowing the attention to detail that Friends Racing has, I’m sure the build is very extensive.

The EJ20 has been swapped in favor of a 2.6 liter, stroked EJ25 that produces over 500 horsepower.  How reliable that is, well, despite the knowledge of Friends Racing…who knows it’s still a Subaru (haha).

Aside from the RunDuce/Varis VAB, I don’t think I’ve seen another of these Subarus built to this extent.  Hiroki Sakamoto from Sakamoto Engineering was slated to be behind the wheel for this event; not sure if that’s a seat that will be maintained in the future but would be a cool combination.  Hoping to see it in future events!

Continuing the trend of the event with cars that were plagued with unexpected issues, we come to Ryo’s YF/KEW built, TC2000 record holding EG6.  The Kanagawa Engine Works built K20 powered Civic has proven itself all throughout last season as being a reliable and powerful combination.  The fastest NA FF lap at Tsukuba (56.070) was set with this motor – a proven setup to say the least.

Ryo hit a time of 1’27.200 here during his last drive at Sugo, and with the new setup was on track to break into the low 26’s.  Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as the K20 finally gave out at the end of his first stint in session 1.  A blown motor sprayed oil onto the hot manifold and erupted the front end of the car in flames – thankfully right in front of the hot pits.  The car was quickly extinguished and Ryo, surprisingly in good spirits, was safe from harm.

More upset that he was no longer able to set a time, rather than his blown motor, I think is the true mark of a driver.  As of this writing, the car has already been repaired, and his back t testing/tuning.

What with it being his favorite track and all, you know Tajima showed up to fight.  His 380RS clocked a 1’29.950 in December of last year, and he was looking to capitalize on that time.

Glad to see he has yet to paint the carbon front end (haha).

What was to be a good day of racing for Tajima, yet again went south when engine trouble set in during the first session that sent him into a rather dramatic slide out of the final corner, narrowly escaping the wall.  Upon further inspection, one of the connecting rods had failed.  Tajima says that the damage wasn’t as extensive as he had feared.

Yoshitaka’s day started off well in the Arvou built S2000.  With a goal of 1’27 (.7 seconds off his PB), the conditions looked optimal for getting very close to even getting into the 26’s.

However, taking the S Complex a bit too aggressively on the second hot lap damaged the under panel of his car, forcing retirement.  Yet another victim to Sugo’s seemingly menacing day.

Screen/D2 Japan brought out both their turbocharged ZN6 and their new street tuned A90 Supra; which is notably the first A90 to participate in an Attack event.


I had high hopes for their ZN6 to break into the 26’s.  They were on Bridgestone RE12D tires, a 265/35/18 all around; a departure from the typically seen A050.  It’s a compound not offered in the states, and is supposedly than the older RE71R by at least a second, and is, on average, faster than the A050 and A052.  I’m not exactly sure who was performing these tests, or the conditions/baselines involved, but that’s a pretty bold claim given the A050’s dominance in time attack (that is until Hoosier came on the scene with the H7).

The car’s FA20 motor has been stroked to a 2.2 liter and equipped with an HKS GTII8267 turbine, a GTII waste gate, EVC6, Trust intercooler, and 900cc injectors.  At full boost the power output is now over 600 horsepower.

D2 Japan Super Racing Suspension keeps the car stabilized and D2 Japan 6 pot front and 4 pot rear, 356mm brakes get it stopped in time.

With Screen’s own Masahiro Sasaki behind the wheel, the car clocked a somewhat disappointing 1’27.909 in the first session. With the rain in the second session, and troubles in the last, the duo were unable to improve on their overall best time.

Nevertheless, the car is looking good out on circuit.

Staff anxiously awaiting the Masa to emerge from the uphill final turn.

Their new project, the A90, has yet to be fully combed over, but now sports an upgrade in power via a boost-up tune to about 500 horsepower.  D2 dampers valved to Masahiro’s specifications replace the OE suspension, and the Supra also sports a set of RE12D in 285/35/19.


Masahiro working double duty, was able to get the Supra around Sugo in 1’29.724 – about a half second faster than their previous time in testing, and also quick enough to beat their intended goal.  For such a mild tune here is still a lot of potential in this car.

A couple of shots of the Zesty Racing FD3S – you can read all about the cars day in the feature who published a couple weeks ago.

Amazing car…

Another FD that stood out among the entrants was that of Amanuma-san.  The RE heavy exterior of this RX7 is hard to beat, proving that while mixing and matching various body parts can yield amazing results, sticking with the tried and true is a recipe for guaranteed styling.

The very mildly tuned 13B puts out around 340 horsepower, and the car has been stripped to a curb weight of about 1200 kilograms.

On 255 series A050, he was able to clock a 1’35 around Sugo.  Hope to see more of this car in the future – in fact he’s driving at the Tsukuba Zummy event this weekend, so you just may see more of it sooner than later.

The wild Option R32 of Ma-chan was in attendance and was expected to put down some pretty fast times.

With an aerodynamic package that has yet to be fully developed, the car relies heavily on its 700 horsepower RB26.

But yet again, mechanical issues prevented him from putting down a competitive lap time, and he was retired after the first session.

Our good friend Yoshiaki Itagaki was in attendance in the Arios Okuyama RX7 looking to make some serious gains on his 1’28.987 with a goal of breaking into the 26’s.  With the new motor dialed in, and kicking out a very useable 400 whp, he had high hopes.

This car is so red that it’s hard to photograph, if that makes any sense at all.

The unique widebody makes it stand out among even the most aggressive FDs in the paddock.


Unfortunately he could only grab a 1’29.142 in the first session, and back it up with almost the exact same time in the third session.  I’m not sure what the issue was, but he was pretty off pace.

Car looked amazing during the evening hours as the sun was setting behind the hills behind the track.

The street registered Z33 built by Garage Samurai was on Goodyear Eagle RS Sports, and with very little modification aside from suspension, was able to grab a 1’39.627, a personal best.


Nice to see some more Z33’s on track.

The Body Shop Furukawa EF9 was a car I wasn’t fully expecting to see.

Shop owner and driver Furukawa Sadamichi was able to take almost a full second off his personal best at the track with a 1’34.3

The SS Works/One’s supported FD, driven by Kobayashi-san was looking as clean as ever with the meticulously modified and installed TCP Magic kit.

The rear bumper cut makes it look like an entirely different bumper.  Also, interesting choice in not utilizing the side strakes we often see on the TCP equipped cars.

A mild boost up tune kicks the power of the 13B up to 360 horsepower, good enough for a 1’32.654 for the still street legal car.


Good friend of the show, Yabatan Ando as usual was performing at his top level on Sunday.  Right out of the gate on his first heat he put down a 1’28.181, just a bit over 2 tenths from his personal best of 1’27.899

Regrouping during the rained out session 2, Ando dug deep for the final session.


Heading out for one more opportunity as the sun set over Sugo.

Rounding Horseback Corner…

…Ando crossed over the finish line with a personal best of 1’27.430!  Excellent performance for a day that was filled with so many issues.

To end on an even higher note, Nanami-san in the Cement FD, also supported by Scoot Sports, absolutely crushed his previous time at Sugo by over 3 seconds.  His 1’33.899 from last year evaporated into a 1’30.645 in the first session to the cheers of his good friend Ando.

All in all a great day for FD’s, given there were so many of them in attendance!  Several personal bests, and a new rotary course record.

To celebrate such an amazing lineup, click the above image for a 4400x resolution, widescreen wallpaper image.

Congratulations to the Car Shop Dream/KJM/Voltex Team for their record, and to all drivers of the season opener of Attack.

Can’t wait for 2021!

Photos: Haji / Processing/Text: Sean

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