Video Feature: Fire Ando Breaks the Tsukuba 50 Second Barrier

On Friday, January 27th, on his second session on track, Yoshiki ‘Fire’ Ando broke the 50-second barrier at Tsukuba Circuit with a record 49.897 second lap time.  A truly incredible moment for motorsport enthusiasts world wide and a massive breakthrough in Japanese time attack.

It was just a few months ago that, after Ando had taken the record at Motegi, we had finished writing an in-depth recap of Team Escort’s campaign of taking every international circuit record in Japan.  Remaining on that list was Hokkaido’s Tokachi International Speedway full course, and of course the goal of breaking the 50 second barrier at Tsukuba’s TC2000.  Although not an international circuit, TC2000 has always been considered the home of time attack, and as of the past decade, the sub-50 lap has been observed as a goal of the elite.

When we last spoke to the head of Escort, Shiobara, we were in the engine room of Escort’s first shop.  In the conversing about the motor that was being built for this season, he said:

「今年は筑波49秒に必ず入れます。」
“This year, we will definitely achieve 49 at Tsukuba.”

A man of his word, on the morning of the 27th, on a fresh set of 295 series Advan A050 tires, we saw that statement come true as Ando crossed the line with an incredible 49.897 second lap around TC2000; leaving no doubts about what the team is capable of.  This wasn’t something that happened overnight, however, as Ando and the Escort team have spent an enormous amount of time and money to achieve what was once thought to be unreachable.  In a sense, it sort of makes the 50.366 second lap time that Under Suzuki clocked in 2017 that much more impressive.  It also gives us an idea of just how difficult it is to shave tenths, even hundredths, of seconds off of times this fast.

Check out the full video of the day here:

The dedication this team has to progression in their craft is almost unmatchable – this win is most certainly a big one for them.  With that being said, they wouldn’t be the team they are if they stopped here.  Over the weekend, Shiobara has stated that the next step for them is to beat the HKS TRB-03 time (49.455) on a non-slick tire; most likely the A050.  It’s hard to imagine taking another half second off of Ando’s time, but if anyone can do it, it’s Escort.

Ando has had the support of the entire Attack community here in Japan behind him, and has unofficially become a leading figure of the motor sport.

The founder of Zummy, particularly proud that he was able to facilitate an event to allow the occasion.  I was happy it happened at a Zummy event this year, as they’ve been plagued with terrible weather all season.  I feel like it was a win for the organization as well.

How’s that for good marketing?  This should be good for at least a few free sets, right Yokohama?  Tires are really expensive in Japan, and if you’re going for record times, re-using them each session is not an option.

I was really curious about the sector times, and (you can see in the video), I asked Zumi-san and Ando if the print out was done so we could see.  That sector one time of 20.888 marks the first ever tuning car dipping into the 20 second range. Also worth nothing that his maximum speed of 253 km/h is nearing Super Formula speeds.  I was impressed with his Sector 3 time as well, the speed that the car takes the final corner in are massive.  In regards to the lap, Ando was on record as saying:

「スローイン、ファストアウトの基本は前と同じですが、前回50.179秒をマークした時とは走り方を変えました。 1時間くらい落とした感じでコーナリングラインが強調されます。」
“The basics of slow-in and fast-out are the same as before, but I changed the way I ran compared to when I marked the 50.179 second lap time last in the prior run.  when i emphasize the cornering line, It feels as if i dropped hours.”

Tsukuba is very much a ‘fast out course’, favoring those with high power.  Ando’s statement sort of affirms that.

As impressive as Ando’s driving is, and was on this day, it could not be possible without the meticulous work of the team behind Escort.  The Evolution that they have produced is awe-inspiring to say the least.  Aspects of it range from completely one-off, hand crafted parts, to large portions remaining untouched from the factory.  The decisions on what to replace and what to leave alone come from decades of experience in high power racing.

I went a little crazy with the over head shots, but the car just looks so great from this angle.  It was also pretty fun to have a good view to watch everyone’s reaction as they came into the Escort garage to congratulate Ando and the team.

If the carbon, aero clad exterior of the Evolution was some sort of mythical beast, then the 4G63 would be the heart – the very source of power.  The 2.2L billet block (one of 4 the shop has) utilizes almost one-off internals, including pistons, connecting rods, and crankshaft; each being made specifically for Ando’s application.  The head is processed by Naprec, the now Tokyo based, high power engine producers.

Tuned with a Motec M150, the fuel system has been converted to E85 ethanol fuel and on 2.8k boost from the GCG 1050 turbo alone produces around 950ps.  With the addition of nitrous, the car is tuned to a power output of over 1050ps.

If you look closely in the video, or in some of our other posts from Escort, you can notice a few unique aspects of the engine.  Shiobara got the idea for the modification around the intake manifold from Indy Car engines.  When building the new engine for this season they improved upon the injector mount position and angle and were able to achieve a power increase of nearly 100ps.

The injectors have been swapped by an almost unbelievable capacity at 4300cc each.  The ignition system is equipped with M&W drag CDI, that achieves more stable ignition by switching to double output when the ECU recognizes that the boost has exceeded 2km . This combination of parts and tuning, along with full utilization of the Motec system creates an environment that provides extremely stable, high ignition output.  Thinking of all aspects of performance and reliability is a daunting task – the ingenuity of the entire package is nothing short of professional.

Shiobara has said that, at the EVO’s current settings, the engine is at it’s limit.  Any improvement beyond this point would be very difficult mechanically.  I suppose that means advancements in lap times will need to come elsewhere?

The Hollinger 6-speed sequential transmission was changed over to a paddle shift operation last year, made possible again by the Motec M150. The speed of shift changes are incredibly fast.

As we’ve seen in the past, the same Endless Monoblock calipers are used for both front and rear brakes. The rotors are custom-made carbon rotors for the front, and Endless two-piece rear.  A Bosch racing system is used for ABS.

The suspension is based on a Magnus subframe and uses original custom arms. The suspension is a special product based on the Öhlins suspension (F34kg/mm ​​R32kg/mm) that was constructed for this car alone.

Another cool aspect of the car, that allows Ando to use such a cool steering wheel, is a special steering shaft that uses a speed increasing mechanism that rotates the shaft 1.5 times more than the amount of input over the original shaft. This allows Ando to concentrate on driving without the need to take his hands off the wheel to reposition, for example in tight turns like the first and second hairpins at TC2000.

The base of the aero package for the EVO is made by Voltex.  Escort then evolved the kit to their specific needs, increasing overall downforce tremendously over the original package from Voltex.


One of the first drivers to congratulate Ando was Yusaku Shibata, Super GT driver and owner of Arvou, and a friend that has been an integral part to Escort’s program.

Tsukuba threw the time up on the big board.


Shameless plug – NDF has been one of Escort’s oldest proponents, as we have been advocating for their program for almost a decade now, providing media whenever possible.  It’s been a fun journey for sure!

And with that, the car is loaded up and we close the book on this chapter of time attack!  We’ve been posting a lot about Escort, but I mean, it’s been warranted this weekend.

We’ll be back later in the week with video from the rest of Friday’s event!  We’ll also be going back and revisiting images and stories from events earlier in the month, as well as Tokyo Auto Salon – almost forgot about TAS.  Thanks for reading/viewing/watching!