Author: Sean

Auto, photography, and Japan enthusiast
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Encounter: Material Auto Factory Supra

During the Option Fuji Superlap, the Supra meisters from the Tokyo based Material Auto Factory had the most prominent display of JZA80’s in attendance.  Some were competing in the main event, others competed in the Hiper Challenge, and some were on display at their booth.  I had highlighted Tatsuo’s Supra in our previous coverage, and a viewer had spotted another of their cars in the background that had piqued their interest.

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Product Spotlight: Honed Developments Adjustable Tie Rod Kit

If you follow the site on Instagram, you’ll have seen that towards the beginning of the year I began working with Grant at Honed Developments in an attempt to better the suspension geometry of my Civic.  Truth be told, I hadn’t spent too much time on this facet of the build, as other more pertinent issues had to be dealt with first.  However, once Grant reached out to me and offered to provide both product and assistance, I jumped at the opportunity to tackle everything at once – I mean, how often do you get two engineers well-versed in Honda suspension volunteering to help you setup your car?

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Close-Up: The Power of K – ASLAN EF9

I’d wager that ASLAN, the Osaka based Honda outfit, is one of the leading shops in the development of K-series Honda swaps in Japan.  Following in the footsteps of America, it didn’t take long for them to capitalize on the benefits of the next generation motor.  Having no adherence to a traditional form of tuning like some shops abide by, Tani-san’s approach to building cars becomes very unique to say the least; giving each a very specific, what I can only surmise as an ‘Osaka flavor’ to them.

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Encounter: Chasing Ghosts – The Kimidori S2000

There seems to be at least one privateer in every class of time attack that is always looming just behind the top teams record times.  They typically don’t have the resources afforded to them from owning a shop, and usually rely on the knowledge of a particular ‘support’ shop to assist them in getting their cars to where they want them.  Despite their disadvantage, they close the gap to the frontrunners of the sport, time and time again.  Yoshitaka Ishii and his bright green S2000 are a prime example of this.

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Encounter: An Absence Justified – The TFR FD Returns

It’s been some time since the paddocks of Japan’s most credible race tracks have been graced with the presence of Ejima Kiyotaka and his TFR built FD3S.  This year, changed all that, as the Attack Tsukuba Championship played host to his return, and the unveiling of his newly rebuilt FD.  I wouldn’t say that Kiyotaka ever cut corners with this car, and it’s performance to date backs that up.  Low 56 second lap times are no joke at Tsukuba; but he wanted more from the car.  To achieve the performance he demanded, he would need to take a step back from competing.

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Event: Driven To Perfection – Attack Tsukuba Championship 2018

The uniqueness of time attack as a motor sport comes in the form of precise continuity.  If the slightest error is made anywhere on the track, the moment of contention is lost.  Many times there exists only one chance, where conditions are aligned, that the drivers who live on the limit are able to achieve record laps.  There is a feeling of tension, exclusive to the sport that makes it so appealing to it’s participants and fans.  Man and machine working together harmoniously, becoming one, in an unforgiving waltz that carries them to the peak of their abilities.

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Feature: Title Fight – The ASM S2000

There are so many cool builds in the paddock of any given Attack event in Japan, that I often fail to acknowledge just how in-depth some of the builds are.  As the sport progresses, and the participants seek to go faster and faster, their machines eventually begin to become a reflection of their drive.  Putting budget aside, I’d have to say that the ASM Yokohama S2000 is one of the premiere examples of this idea.  This particular build, which ASM has been developing for over a decade, all but reached the peak of it’s very active life in the last weekend of February.

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Event: HKS Premium Day 2018 V.2 – Option Fuji Super Lap

There are always the core shops that participate in the Super Lap event at HKS Premium Day annually.  Names like Pro Shop Fukoh, Top Fuel, Garage G-Force, Auto Select, Esprit, Top Secret, Autech and the like; which is awesome because you get to see what amounts to basically a yearly update of how the cars have been getting on.  Development in time attack moves just about as fast as the cars nowadays, so it’s no surprise to see builds looking completely different year over year, as they put more and more research into obtaining as much aerodynamic grip as possible.

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Event: HKS Premium Day 2018 V.1 – The Paddock

HKS Premium Day has always been a must-go event for me. It’s an all day event held at a track that’s reasonably close to Yokohama. Because of this, I don’t feel the pressure I usually do at smaller events where I’m pressed for time. It’s a lot more fun for me, and typically I end up taking a lot less photos as I have time to just wander around and look at stuff. Since it’s inception, the event has served as the proverbial ‘whos-who’ of big names in Japanese motor sport. HKS always does a great job of ensuring there are plenty of attractions to keep the fans entertained.

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Encounter: &G Corporation Time Attack SW20

Located in central Kasai, in the heart of the Hyogo Prefecutre, surrounded by farmland lies the small tuning shop, &G Corporation.  Specializing in aftermarket tuning of Toyota and Nissan applications, it’s only fit that the car that flies the shop’s flag is this very unique MR2.  The owner and driver, Nakajima-san, has commissioned the car in open events for a very long time now, but for the past few years, the car has been developed rather dramatically.

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Close-Up: Yusuke Tokue – The Vanguard of FF

The Garage Work camp has been hard at work on several of their shop cars for the 2018 season.  Iwata has chosen to put his personal build aside in order to concentrate on the advancement of a few select customers; which is a somewhat noble, but necessary thing to do when you own your own tuning shop.  The dedication is paying off though, as all 3 of the cars they have competing have broken personal records.  One of them stands out among the rest, however, and it all started last year when he broke a very important record at Tsukuba.

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Event: Central Circuit Time Attack Challenge 2018 V.2

Continuing coverage from Central Circuit, we’ll take a look at the podium finishers of the day, and a few of the close runner-ups.  While most everyone in the Vertex classes were quick, I was surprised at where some of the cars landed on the time sheets.  I think my perception of who was fast at Central was a bit skewed from the events held in prior years.  If I’m not mistaken, Iwata took fastest lap a few years ago before he crashed the EG at TC2000.  Seems like the Kansai guys have been doing their homework recently though.

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Feature: HKS TRB-03 – The Tsukuba Maverick

There’s no doubt that, in Japanese motor sport, one name stands out among the rest.  In almost everything they do, they need to be on top.  The fastest, the most advanced.  HKS will stop at nothing to collect these titles, and the TRB-03 has become their newest vessel to achieve them.  The company has enveloped it’s priority in the project with the goal of being nothing less than the fastest around Tsukuba’s TC2000.  It was even re-branded as the ‘Tsukuba Record Breaker’, from it’s original designation as the GTS800; a tip of the hat to it’s capped power level (which is debatable…).  The car has been through extensive testing over the past year, and last weekend at HKS Day, I was able to finally get a closer look at it.

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Event: Central Circuit Time Attack Challenge 2018 V.1

The days leading up to this event were spent in somewhat of a rush to compile my projects at work so I could afford some time to do a bit of research on Central Circuit, and the event itself.  This would be the first time attending CTAC for both Sekinei and I, and I wanted to have at least an elementary grasp of the track layout and event schedule.  It may seem dramatic, but when I’m presented with a finite amount of time to photograph something comprehensively, I get a bit anxious.  With the top class getting 3 sessions comprised of 15 minutes each, you can’t afford to be isolated from the action for even a minute.  With some of the fastest drivers gathered from all of Japan, I was looking forward to seeing what the day had in store.

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Encounter: Advance/Central 20 Fairlady Z34

Sekinei and I just got back to Yokohama from HKS Day at Fuji Speedway, and before we can relax and bask in the satisfaction that is time attack, we have to get ready for work tomorrow; and by ‘we’, I mean Sekinei.  So, while he is outside in the cold, swapping alternators on a Diahatsu Hijet, I’m inside the office, heater blasting, watching Rick and Morty, writing an article on CTAC last weekend.  I came across these photos in my Lightroom library from a recent visit to Advance, so I thought I’d post them up real quick.

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Feature: A Test of Time – Hiroshi Amemiya’s Garage Mak S15

I had the real pleasure of shooting Ame’s car underneath the Yokohama Bay Bridge back in 2014 before the Winter Cafe.  Back then we had talked a bit online, but that was the first time I met him in person, and being a bit humbled at the time, wasn’t really up to asking many questions.  Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to stay in touch, and continue our friendship from a distance. The car has also undergone some fairly dramatic changes, so when I visited Nagano at the end of last year, I jumped at the chance to photograph the car again in it’s evolved state.  This time, I had the intentions of re-writing an article not just about the car, but about the owner as well.

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Encounter: Shark Attack – Hiroyuki’s Naturally Aspirated FD3S

In a clutch drive at the end of last year, Hiroyuki ‘Shark’ Iiri set a new track record for the naturally aspirated, rear-wheel drive class with a blistering 55.887 lap around TC2000.  Considering that this project hasn’t been in development for very long in comparison to some other builds gives you an idea of both the talent that Hiroyuki has behind the wheel, and the people involved in making this car what it is.  I’m looking forward to getting some time in Hyogo this month to talk to him about the car a little more in-depth.  For now enjoy some photos from the record-breaking day.

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Editorial: 2018 – A Resolution For Growth

They say that the coming of a new year gives us all a fresh slate to work from; a new beginning that allows us a mental reset of our lives.  This is a bit deceiving, as we need not wait until the end of the year to modify our actions, but it does provide an opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months.  As far as time keeping goes, a year is a pretty significant measurement.  We typically evaluate our successes and failures based on what we accomplish within a years time, and give ourselves goals for the new year with the intention of having achieved them in yet another year-long period.  We continue this forecast of achievement year after year, basically for our entire lives.  For that reason alone it’s a significant occasion.

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Close-Up: Takaya’s NDF Japan SPL 180SX

You may remember Takaya’s 180 from our little FRS pop-up meet at Fuji last year.  At the beginning of the year he was involved in an accident at the track that resulted in a necessary rebuilding of his front end.  Instead of going the easy route and buy OTS parts once again to replace the ones he had, he decided he wanted to do something totally different.  A one off kit, hand crafted by his good friend Masao, that would be sure to get the attention of enthusiasts on a global scale.

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Feature: The Future of Time Attack – Yasuhiro Ando’s RX-7

I recently read a somewhat contradictory article published on a popular website that surmised that there were no longer interesting cars in Japanese time attack, and how there has been a split in interest as nobody wants to build record setting cars any longer.  The article goes on by saying that while there are still plenty of mid-50 second cars at Tsukuba (ahem, breaking records), this lack of general interest in being the fastest is allowing companies to take advantage of a new market that caters to the hobbyist.  Of course this is an opinionated perception, albeit factually incorrect, and naturally everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it takes just a few minutes to see the holes in this side of the argument.

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NDF Build: NDF TA Civic Rebuild V.7

It seems like ages since I’ve driven my car, and at the pace that life seems to be moving recently that wouldn’t even be an exaggeration.  It’s been well over two years since I’ve written of any progress (publicly – I keep a notebook), and just about a year and a half since I’ve driven the thing.  I can honestly say, however, that over the past 6 months there hasn’t been a day that I wasn’t focused on finishing this build.  In these past two years I’ve learned more about the nuances specific to building Honda’s than I have in my entire life; from engine building and wiring to fabrication and fluid dynamics.  It hasn’t been easy, but thankfully I have some amazingly talented friends that have helped along the way.

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Encounter: Version 2018 – Suwa Tomoki’s AE86

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen Suwa on track.  In fact, the last time I saw him wasn’t at the circuit at all; it was at Umihotaru of all places.  When we held our last Winter Cafe back in 2014, he stopped by to say hello.  For the past 3 years he’s been laying low, driving in choice attack and one make races, enjoying life and little by little improving his AE86.  You can read a little bit more about here, but it seems like quite a bit has changed in the past couple years.  If I get the time, I’d like to reach out again to see how everything’s been going.

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Feature: Against The Grain – Igarashi-San’s GTR33

Of all the different types of Nissan chassis’s competing in time attack around the world, it’s fairly rare to see the GTR33 among them.  It’s definitely the lesser of the chosen Skyline models for road racing, and if I’m speaking honestly, I’m not overly sure why.  It is a bit heavier than the 32, but not too far off of the 34.  It’s longer wheelbase leaves it prone to a bit more understeer, and some might say it’s lacking in the looks department (now that I list the reasons, I see why).  Perhaps the R33 was just born to be the middle-child; loved, but not destined to be a favorite.  There are some people, however, that refuse to believe the popular mindset, and work outward from the R33’s positive traits to create something so overtly great, you can’t help but like it.

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Close Up: The Forgotten Samurai – Autech’s Flagship GTR

It’s been 3 years since I had the privilege of seeing ATTKD’s GTR  take on the titans of Japanese time attack at Fuji Speedway.  Witnessing the somewhat lesser known car back then clock times within seconds of the fastest at the time was something that really impressed me.  I know it’s not intentional, but when cars like the Top Secret S2000RR and HKS R35 GT1000 take center stage, their opponents seem to get put on the back burner.  When the ATTKD GTR32 hits the track though, it’s performance alone will demand the attention back from everyone in attendance.

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Feature: The Finer Things – Garage Mak GTR35

There are few companies these days that go out of their way to cultivate a culture of quality.  Unfortunately, it’s all too common for people to squeeze out as much profit as possible from mediocre products, sacrificing integrity for a quick buck.  While it may be the more difficult route, those companies that are dedicated to ensuring the experience of buying and owning a product goes further than just fulfilling a desire, are the companies that are likely to be around for years to come.  The Nagano based tuning shop, Garage Mak, falls into this category, ensuring that the reputation of their brand comes before all else.

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Event: VTEC Club – Autumn Speed Festival 2017

This past weekend, Willow Springs International Raceway once again played host to the annual, all-Honda, VTEC Club event; Autumn Speed Festival.  Since the inaugural event last year, it’s one of the only events I look forward to attending here in the US (actually in the past two years it’s the only event I’ve attended).  While VTEC Club usually runs alongside another facilitating vendor to host their normal events, Autumn Speed Festival’s attendance, and management are proof that, time forbidding, the organization can survive on it’s own. With over 80 registered drivers, the pits were packed with Honda driver’s both veteran and new, ready to take on the ‘fastest road in the West’; Big Willow.

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Locale: Garage Mak – Nagano’s Total Tuning Shop

Years ago I had the good fortune of befriending a couple of Garage Mak customers who have close relationships with the Miyagawa brothers; owners of the Nagano based tuning powerhouse, Garage Mak.  Amemiya, Tsubaki, Seki, and others, have become good friends of mine, and have also given me the opportunity to meet, and work with, the two men behind one of Japan’s most comprehensive tuning shops.  This last week I made the drive out to Nagano again to talk to Tatsuhiro and Kazunori Miyagawa about the upcoming Attack season, and get a better look at their new line of R35 GTR aero.

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Locale: Auto House Solid – Gunma’s Engine Cerberus

Tucked away in the Southern countryside of Gunma, situated on a corner just behind a beautifully scarce rice field, in a very cliche Japanese building, lies a haven of meticulously crafted engine bays that rivals that of any other shop in the country.  In fact, if you weren’t looking for it, it wouldn’t be hard to pass it by, writing it off as just another unmarked building in the foreground.  The unassuming tuning shop Auto House Solid, is owned and operated by Hayashi Kazuyaki; the foremost authoritarian on what a clean motor package should look like.

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Site News: Storefront Announcement

In an attempt to expand the communication in regards to storefront opening dates and times, I’ve committed to announcing on the site each time the store is restocked and I plan to re-open it.  I get plenty of emails from people who missed out, or request to be notified each time I open the store; as you know that would be impossibly tedious to individually email hundreds of people.  Instead, the easier solution, is to subscribe to the site via the ‘follow’ button located on all pages, and when I post opening dates you will receive notifications straight to your inbox!

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Encounter: Ziek Power’s SR20 Powered ZN6

I was organizing one of my hard drives making room for the upcoming Attack season and I came across a few shots of the Ziek Power 86 from earlier in the year.  This is one of the more unique 86 builds I’ve been able to see on track, with the main revision being the Nissan motor that now resides under the hood.  Ziek Power has caressed a healthy 500 horsepower from the SR20, which is now 2.2 liter; plenty enough power to get it around any track they choose to in a very respectable time.

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Feature: Bringing The Fire – Yoshiki Ando’s ESCORT Built CT9A

I feel like ever since the Cyber Evo set the standard for what a successful attack EVO should be, Mitsubishi devotees have been trying to redefine the level of what is considered top tier.  Average power levels have risen, aerodynamics play a much larger role now, and tuning has come such a long way in the past decade that it’s almost hard to keep up.  Even the Cyber Evo wasn’t immune to the changes; in the 2011 to 2012 transition, in order to defend their title, Takizawa turned to C-West in hopes of gaining an advantage in aerodynamics without unbalancing the winning formula they had.  Competition in the sport was advancing so quickly that it soon became apparent that if you weren’t improving, you were for sure going to be left behind.

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Encounter: Midship Runabout – Masahide Fukushima’s TPS Tuned MR-S

I guess since we’re on the topic of mid-engined roadsters (although technically only the Elise, not the Exige,  was roadster), rarely seen in the Japanese Attack arena, now would be a good time to post up some shots of this MR-S.  Owned by Masahide-san, and tuned by the foremost MR-S tuners in Japan, Techno PRO Spirit, this is one of the only of it’s type in the Attack lineup.  It’s aggressive exterior is backed up by some pretty formidable times at TC2000; a 59.4 to be specific.

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Encounter: A British Gentleman in Japan – Satoshi Konno’s Exige S

I’ve always viewed the Outer Plus Lotus builds as such a breathe of fresh air in the realm of Japanese time attack.  They’re such a far cry from the norm, and among the only imported cars in the paddock at the grassroots level.  The Lotus epitomizes the gentleman like qualities of motor sport that is sometimes harder to find in Japanese cars.  The Chiba based outfit Garage Shimaya, known for race parts development of chassis’ such as Lotus and Caterham, has been providing their customers with the resources to infuse these British made cars with Japanese style.  With over 20 years of experience under their belt, Kenji Shimakage and his team, are without a doubt the go-to group for people wanting to own and race these cars.

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Product Spotlight: APG Performance Brake Install

This past weekend I was able to knock out a lot of work on the car.  For whatever reason I had this idea in my head that the rest of the build would be smooth sailing after the new motor setup got tuned; boy was I wrong.  Getting the motor running properly was a huge milestone, but it far from marked the completion of the build.  There is still much to do, and among them was to replace the overweight front calipers with a reliable, lightweight alternative – APG Performance answered that call.

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Encounter: Yuji Maruyama’s S2000

I had a handful of message requests on Instagram for more pictures of Maruyama’s S2000 – I had some extra time this afternoon so I scrounged around for some to edit and post.  The car is very well built, and reflects the great balance that you can achieve with a few carefully selected modifications.  It also makes a case for the C-West bumper being among the best looking front bumper choices for the chassis; I think I like it even more than Voltex.

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Feature: Defining Simplicity – Shoutarou’s Attack DC5

In the realm of time attack, most often than not, the phrase ‘less is more’ can be aptly applied in most circumstances (I think power and tire size being the exception). Even those competing in street cars forgo the extra amenities in favor of shedding overall weight in their car; a willing sacrifice if it means quicker times. More and more we see entries into the sport that push the boundaries of limited modifications; some even entering the circuit with untouched motors. Such is the case with Shoutarou and his Integra – a pair that push simplicity to it’s limit.

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Feature: Shinobu Matayoshi – TFR AHW FD3S

One of my favorite things to do on my down time is research time attack builds in Japan.  It’s akin to that of a treasure hunt for me.  I enjoy the prospect of being among the first to find out about certain aspects of the build, and to both share it through the website and take inspiration from them for my own builds.  There is still a large gap between the publicization of builds in Japan versus that of builds in Western countries, and because of this, information can be very difficult to come across sometimes.  I think that’s what makes it interesting for me though; and this same theme plays true in other aspects of life as well.  The harder you work towards something, the more satisfaction it brings you.

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Close-Up: Ready Go Next – 青木FD3S

Since things have been a bit slow during the off-season, I’ve been using the time to try and design a few new products for the site and make some progress on my own car as well.  It’s been a long time coming, but just a few more things to wrap up and it’ll be ready for it’s first startup.  Although the car won’t be completely done for another few months, I’m looking forward to the first shakedown with the new motor shortly after it’s tuned.  I was browsing some shots from earlier this year to gain some inspiration for my own car and came across some shots that Matt took of Aoki’s FD.