I’ve always appreciated the varying degree of tuning style in Kyushu prefecture; specifically the cars that frequent Autopolis International Circuit. From fully dedicated track cars, to light tune approaches, there is something about the cars that standout that’s not quite describable.
Perhaps it’s the distance from Tokyo, or it’s geographical location that puts it at the Southern most part of Japan, that makes the Kyushu automotive life one we don’t get to experience that often. Aside from the more well known groups like Kyushu-Danji, whose cars are predominantly tuned at Tomiyoshi, there are pockets of lesser known drivers that have amazing builds that often go unseen – or at the very least don’t get the recognition they are deserving of.
I’ve been to Kyushu several times, but only twice in the capacity of NDF. I want to make it a point to travel here more often to try and capture some of the differences between Kyushu and what we see in the Kansai or Kanto regions of Japan. This time in particular I traveled to Kumamoto because I had scheduled 3 cars to photograph for 80R Volume 3. My intention is to make a special section of the book highlighting Kyushu’s fastest tuned cars – aside from Hannita’s NSX and Shimada’s EVO that were featured in the previous Volumes. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and 2 of the shoots were cancelled, which is understandable. I’ll just have to make another trip back here for Autopolis Super Lap and hope for ideal weather. Mt. Aso is rather unpredictable when it comes to forecast, and both times I’ve been up the volcano I’ve been met with either rain or snow.
Before I left for Kyushu, I mentioned to my friend Suematsu that it would be fun to throw together a small meeting at Autopolis Circuit for those local or semi-local to the Kumamoto area. While Kumamoto would be considered the countryside, it’s the closest city to Mt. Aso where Autopolis is. I reached out to several shops, and Suematsu made some calls as well and despite the poor weather we were able to put together a fun afternoon in the Autopolis paddock. When I met Suematsu the night before at Starbucks to plan out how the morning would go, he mentioned that Fukumoto from Cleib would make the drive from Fukuoka with his demo car, and Shimada had also just messaged me saying he would tow his EVO from his home in Miyazaki. Suematsu was quick to point out that it’s not often that people come down to Kyushu to visit, so people get excited at the prospect of meetings.
So with the meeting sorted, we also reached out to Toshimasa Maruta, the owner of Maruta-Goya in Asakura, Fukuoka to see if he would also like to attend. This was 1 of the 3 cars I had intended to photograph for 80R and it would be great to get it all done in one day. To my delight he said he would be able to attend – I just hoped for good weather.
The next morning I woke up early, around 530am, made some coffee and headed out to meet Suematsu at the Ozu Roadside Station – a decent sized parking area off the 57 that many people use as a meeting point before driving up the mountain. It’s really close to ‘Milk Road’, the backside touge that leads to Autopolis Circuit.
His FD is the perfect blend of street and circuit, and a car that I use as a baseline for my own FD build.
The newer RE fenders look great in silver amongst the carbon panels.
We left my little rental car at the station and drove in the FD up to Autopolis. The further we got up the mountain it seemed like the weather got progressively worse. Which seems pretty
About 45 minutes later we arrived at the Autopolis main gates and made our way into the large grounds.
Among the drivers that were already there when we arrived was Shuichi and his FD2 Type R. A great example in the less is more mentality, Shuichi’s Civic has an array of parts from the J’s Racing catalog that compliment the other carefully selected parts on the car.
A J’s Racing front bumper is paint matched, giving the front end a little more depth than usual, as most people who have this bumper leave the bottom section black or carbon. Color matching makes the bumper look like it sits a bit lower – a big problem with FD2’s is not being able to go low enough.
Under the hood, the K20 is treated to a set of TODA individual throttle bodies, J’s Racing Valve Cover, J’s Racing cooling hoses and several other accessories from the J’s catalog.
The interior is a good balance for a car that is mainly enjoyed on the street, with weekends spent at the track. Stripped interior, but retains the stock dash with the exception of the display, and still keeps the comfort amenities. A Bride Xero keeps Shuichi stable and gets ride of some of excess weight.
A J’s Racing Hyper BBK is utilized up front for more stopping power and why not when you have every other J’s part on your car. It does go to show though that following a particular brands direction is a generally good way to go.
Masaru Furukawa stopped by to hang out with his incredibly clean S2000. Pressed Double Black TE37 SLs have always been a great compliment to white cars, and Masaru’s is no exception.
Great overall execution on this build, focusing on simple upgrades to compliment the stock bodylines.
The most impressive aspect, however, is hidden underneath the hood. The engine bay is show quality despite being driven quite often.
Not quite sure who this Supra MK4 belongs to but it was looking pretty good sitting out in the rain.
My good friend Nozaki trailered out his FD that he’s slowly been restoring over the last year. It’s been over 4 years since he drove it on track and he’s been chipping away at replacing everything that has deteriorated over that time.
I actually had the opportunity to go for a ride along in this car around the circuit. Even though it was just an exhibition lap, and in the rain at that, it was still really exhilarating to feel what this car is capable of even at a fraction of the throttle. You can check it out in video here:
The FD sports a mix of RE Amemiya and Pan Speed body parts, along with some custom fabricated parts. Craft Square mirrors increase the appeal of the exterior and aid in visibility.
This fabricated side strake gives a bit of depth to the widebody and help in balancing out the overall look of the car.
I first met Nozaki at Rotary Spirit back in 2019 where he made the long drive from Kyushu to Fuji Speedway. His car caught my attention among the top tier Frontrunners because of it’s combination of uniqueness and character. The car is not show quality, but it’s truly a race car.
The body has been fully spot welded to ensure rigidity of the older chassis, on top of a custom roll cage. Quantum Racing dampers in a custom setting are the main feature of the fully renovated suspension. Amemiya stabilizer bars, Super Now pillow ball arms, Amemiya rigid mounts for engine, mission and differential, along with Nagisa rear arms work in conjunction on track to keep the car planted.
The RE Amemiya built 13B has been double-sided bridge ported with ceramic apex seals. A single T88-34D turbo puts out 560ps at the wheels with the help of HKS 1000cc injectors, with SARD and Bosch fuel components. Titanium intake and exhaust pipes increase power as well as lighten the overall weight of the car.
Cooling is assisted by a RE V mount setup, along with 2 Setrab oil coolers, a diff cooler, a trans cooler, a fuel cooler, and a power steering cooler. Keeping temps in check is a key to reliability in racing and 6 external coolers certainly help do just that. The Hewland 6 speed sequential transmission offers mega quick shifting and gives the FD that signature mission whine on track. An OS Giken clutch and super lock 2 way diff ensure everything gets to the pavement.
Bronze ZE40’s in an 18x11j +15 configuration, wrapped in 295 series A050 is the recipe for traction at all four corners. Behind the Rays are Alcon Brakes up front, and AP Racing kit rear with Project Mu two piece rotors and pads. A brake balancer inside the cabin provides Nozaki with finer adjustments during his laps.
Definitely check out the YouTube video to experience what its like driving this car on track – it’s pretty incredible.
To date, Nozaki’s best times are a 58.329 at TC2000, and a 1’57.848 at Autopolis – both were set over 5 years ago.
Our long time friend of the site Shimada-san and his iconic Kyushu Danji EVO made the trek out from Miyazaki to hang out with us. He was going to be driving in an event with his daughter in their daily EVO X down the mountain at the HSR Plaza, but the event got rained out. So as a back up he made sure to trailer the EVO as well to join us at Autopolis.
There isn’t much left to be said about this car that we haven’t covered in previous articles online and in 80R, however he has been working on upgrading the rear aero.
The front end of this car is among my favorite; it has all the qualities I enjoy aesthetically. Black and silver/grey paint, exposed dry carbon, and the blue headlight block offs come together to create something I can’t stop photographing.
The motor is equally impressive. For a full spec list check out the article in Volume 1 80R.
The wastegate pipes sticking out of the hood is a touch unique to Shimada.
My favorite angle of his car…
The new wing and stand setup isn’t yet finalized, but is now chassis mounted through the new carbon trunk that also features a sort of duckbill molded into it.
The wing is much larger, and requires a stiffer mounting point as it would most likely get ripped off the mounts if it were still mounted straight to the trunk. Looking forward to seeing this car and Shimada again at Super Lap this winter.
Meeting Hiroyuki for the first time and getting to see the Cleib demo car in person was another highlight of the meeting. I’ve admired Cleib for some time now in that they’re able to capitalize on a cars performance without completely altering the original spirit of the manufacturer. It’s a style of tuning that I’ve adopted for my ISF and one I’ve come to appreciate over the years as it is not the easiest way to do things.
The Cleib demo car is a bit more impressive than at first look, however, and while the parts list is concise, it is one of quality.
18×10 +44 TE37 and 295/30 Advan A050 sit the car square at each corner.
Hiroyuki offloading the car in the rain.
The 86 (or in this case the BRZ) in general has a nice, balanced look to it, but Cleib has gone one step further in making the car look aerodynamically correct at any angle.
The shop has gone to great lengths to try and not include anything on the car that isn’t a Cleib made original part.
The front bumper, dry carbon hood, doors and trunk, rear diffuser and strakes are all Cleib original parts. With the exception of the Craft Square mirrors and Voltex rear wing, the car is aesthetically all Cleib.
Hiroyuki says the suspension is full Cleib original, which most likely means custom damping settings and pillow ball arms. OS Giken also made them a custom spec’d differential.
The muffler is made by, you guessed it, Cleib, and fits perfectly above the diffuser.
The interior has a mild circuit aspect to it with a Nardi wheel and Bride carbon seat. A full bolt in roll bar assists in safety and stiffness. The interior has been fully stripped to save weight and a partial dash sits where the OE unit used to, giving the appearance of a stock interior.
The motor remains all but stock, with the exception of some OE upgrades from TRD, along with some cooling modifications.
The car, to date, has clocked a 1’00.910 at TC2000, and a 2’03.986 at Autopolis.
Another Cleib supported car that was in attendance which was essentially a street driven replica of the demo car. This BRZ belongs to Kazuki Ueda and features the entire Cleib catalog.
As you’d expect, being the street version of the Cleib demo car, it does weigh a bit more, and does not run as aggressive a wheel/tire setup. 18×9.5 +45 CE28’s are utilized on this car, along with Endless Zeal two-way dampers with spring rates at a conservative 10k/14k The engine is completely stock with the exception of a Cleib exhaust and OS Giken 1.1 way LSD.
Kazuki has clocked a 2’09 around Autopolis in his car.
The two cars look great parked next to each other, with Kazuki’s stylish rear bumper cuts and Voltex Type 1s being the only difference between the two.
It was honestly hard to not take a photo of the two each time I walked by them.
Ito Shinichi’s FD has made it’s rounds around the internet as of late, as this car has quite a bit of extensive body work done to it – namely the custom hood.
A mix of RE Amemiya Facer body parts and TCP Magic fenders is becoming pretty popular as of late, and shows off well here on this FD. Ito’s car is supported by Esprit, the famous shop in Suzuka city, and the 13B was built and tuned by their engine builders.
A single T04S turbo is mated to the side ported 13B and produces just under 400ps.
Onigiri has been the symbol of rotary enthusiasts in Japan for as long as I can remember. Get it, because it’s shaped like a rotary…
A staggered set of Advan TC4’s in 18×10 +35 front, and 18×11 +15 rear setup the car nicely for driving around on the street, no matter the road condition. With a smaller tire width, he has plenty of room under the wide fenders.
The Esprity 052 GT wing is a hot look. Really will consider this for my own FD at some point.
Nice GTR35, although I did not catch the drivers name.
Long time fans of NDF may remember Shino’s FD from a post we did at Tsukuba back in 2016. This car may as well have been encased in a time capsule because almost everything about it, including the condition, looks practically identical to when we first encountered it 8 years ago.
You can get a better picture of this car by checking out his Minkara page, as he actively updates it. The simple look of this car can be deceiving, because it actually gets down pretty hard on track.
Gozi’s Z33 showed up as well. Supported by Rayra Motor Sports, this car sees a lot of wheel to wheel racing on track. Mostly stock powerplant, with a focus on suspension tuning, make this car seem really fun to drive.
The lighting inside the garages was really inconsistent with the harsh light from the back and the darkness of the closed bay doors on the pit lane side, but it sort of helped capture how pretty the silver color is on Suematsu’s FD.
As I mentioned previously, this car has served as a baseline for my own build and it was really cool to meet him and see the car in person finally. As simple as this street build is, it speaks volumes in it’s reliability and performance.
The car sits on Aragosta dampers with OTS rates, allowing for a comfortable street ride, but sporty enough to be tracked on.
The original 13B has been overhauled by a shop called DeltaSpeed. The stock twins remain in place and boost has been turned up by way of a Power FC and HKS EVC7.
An OS Giken Cross 5 speed transmission is equipped with an ORC clutch and Cusco 1 way LSD.
Full RE Amemiya aero is the perfect match for this car. I’d love to see it with some Ganadors!
Later in the afternoon, a few garages down on the other side of the pits, was the feature car of the day – for me anyway! The newest 80R feature car, Maruta Goya’s S15 flagship demo car.
Unfortunately we can’t give too much information away about this car yet, as it is exclusive to the book, however we can say that they are shooting to break the 1’50 barrier this season at Autopolis. Currently, the car’s best lap is a 1’50.8 in its previous revision.
No doubt that, with the small changes they’ve made, Maruta-san should be able to achieve the goal. I hope to see them at Super Lap as well.
There were a few other cars in attendance that I wasn’t able to get that great of photos of because of the lighting – I hope they understand! Thank you to everyone who was able to make it out to the meeting. I’ll be looking forward to better weather next time I’m in the South although that’s never a guarantee with Aso. One thing I can be sure of however, is that there will always be unique cars to discover. See you all again this upcoming Attack season.