Feature: Phoenix Rising – The Return of Garage Work

I had the opportunity to see what was left of Tokue’s EK shell during my last trip to Garage Work early in 2019.  Iwata didn’t want me to photograph it, for various reasons, but for a fan of the Honda Civic, I can only describe the scene as melancholy.

Here was my favorite EK build in Japan, stripped of its aura and left exposed to the harsh Japan winter.  Devoid of value to the untrained eye, but not yet completely written off by Iwata, the bare shell sat on the dirt patch across the small street from the shop awaiting to be dealt with.  Just a month prior I remember being shocked at Tokue’s post on Facebook:

January 6th, 2019:  “Today, I spun at the final corner of the first week of the final heat. I have crashed the EK4 Civic.  My body is okay for now without much pain. The seat, belt, HANS device and car protected me. Please check again if your safety equipment is properly installed! I’ve been running this Civic for 22 years and haven’t had a big crash. Mr. WORK Iwata and Mr. Kazuya who are making vehicles Mr. HCRYAMAMOTO, I broke my car and I’m sorry. Since we can’t prepare a vehicle right away, it has become difficult for us to participate in Central CTAC / Attack Tsukuba recently. I’m sorry to all the people involved.” – yusuke tokue

Prior to that visit, it had been some time since I had written about Garage Work’s campaign; the start of 2018 specifically at CTAC.  This was right after Tokue’s N/A FF record breaking 56.748 lap at TC2000 and the pressure was on for him to defend that in the upcoming Attack event (since then surpassed by Ryo with a staggering 55.9 – Horiton also surpassed the time with a 56.35) .  Unfortunately, as you now know, the start to the 2019 season did not go well for them.

With Iwata’s EG still under the knife, Tokue’s EK down for the count, and Komiya unavailable to drive his EK, the only campaigned car left in the team was Kubo’s EG.  So for the 2019 season, Garage Work was focused on improving Kubo’s radial times in his updated EG build.  It was a situation that, at surface level, left things pretty quiet at the Chiba based shop.  When Kubo left for Australia to study English in early 2020, the team already had their heads down, busy rebuilding their flagship cars.  Almost two years later, at last weekends Zummy Racing open event at Tsukuba, the products of their invisibility were revealed to everyone in the form of Komiya’s refreshed EK9 and Tokue’s brand new EK4 build.

Yusuke Tokue EK4 (#26), Atsushi Komiya EK9 (#17)

This event marked the first run of the season for both cars, and the team treated it as a shakedown.  Both cars had similar suspension settings as they were prior to the rebuilds (i.e. Garage Work SPL Spec Tein SRC) as a baseline, and Tokue was using an engine that the shop keeps for practice, which is basically a mildly built B18C.  Both cars featured new body work, including one-off front ends and rear overs made by Iwata himself.  The fenders are modified J’s Racing with th addition of the new overs that flow into the widened front ends.

Tokue’s EK still retains the extension after the fender which helps deflect air as well as hide the chassis balanced jack point.

The new front end looks amazing, and functions extremely well given the car has 265 series tires up front with plenty of room to run the intended 295 when the time comes.

Haji was able to chat with Tokue for a bit during the event about how the new build feels – allow me to paraphrase:

“After changing the body, it became a completely different car. Mr. Iwata’s body make-up is very respectful.  Despite requesting a safer body, which would add weight, there is no slow movement and it moves very sharply. We are trying a lot of new things on this Civic, but for now I’ll keep it a secret.”

With the more extensive cage, came the need to cut weight elsewhere.  You can see some of Iwata’s work from inside the engine bay of Tokue’s EK4.

The dash bar of the new roll cage continues through the firewall to the shock towers…

…and through to the front end, which is now essentially completely rebuilt utilizing only the top of the radiator support; the rest made from custom, lighter weight tubing.

The mildly tuned B18 still produces well over 220 hp with the ITB and higher compression.

The interior of the new chassis is as bare as ever, reusing the same dash setup and electronics.

So how did they new cars perform?  Admittedly Tokue wasn’t pushing the car, understanding that the new setup needed some much needed fine tuning.  Atsushi had a similar experience, noting some changes that would need to be made before going 100%.

Tokue put down a lot of laps, but most were around the 1’04/1’05 mark, obviously in an attempt to gather as much data as possible.  Atsushi managed to at least go sub 1, with a 59’801 but still very off pace from his previous times.  Breaking records wasn’t the goal of this trip to Tsukuba for the team though, and I expect that the next time we see them they’ll have started down the path to be in contention to take back their record from Ryo.

Enjoy the gallery!

Photos: Haji, Words/Processing: Sean


  1. rear high-level wings are normally an oddity to me, but these guy make it work so well!

  2. Chris Hecht

    Love seeing time attack Hondas!!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. ‘13 FB6

    Great photography and writing. Awesome EKs.

  4. Pingback:成田ドッグファイトさんに写真や情報を送るようになります | はじログ

  5. I’ve seen lots of your videos online of the paddock walk, and they’re amazing but on Yusuke Tokue EK4 (#26) I’ve never seen those hood vent before or those fender flares/over fenders. Do they make those in the house? If so, I would like to buy some for my Honda.

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