There are a select few cars that, despite my frequency in traveling to Japan, always seem to elude me. Most of the time it’s due to a geographical hardship, as I’m often in the same parts of the country time and time again.
As the day wore on, and my duties track-side came to a close, I was afforded more time to spend wandering around the sea of RX-7’s on the other side of the grandstands.
This 1995 Mazda RX-7, owned by someone choosing only to be referred to as ‘The Temple of Buddha’ (or something like that I don’t actually know), is so far off the grid that I normally operate on that when I saw it at Fuji the other week, I had to take a closer look.
A prominent influence in the Mitsubishi tuning domain, Garage G-Force has spent the last decade fighting to solidify a name for themselves as the number-one Evolution tuning company in Japan. That fight, however, hasn’t been easy.
The title sponsor of this year’s Attack Tsukuba event was Goodride Tires; a company that has it’s hand in a variety of motor sports, but up until recently was most known for it’s involvement in drifting.
The past 2019 season of Attack marked Kunihiko Bando’s achievement of his long sought 53 second lap around TC2000 (53.680). This, in and of itself is a remarkable achievement, however it also comes along with the promise of more.
Tajima Hirotsugu embodies the traditional spirit of a motoring enthusiast. With his first venture to the circuit taking place back in the late 1990’s, he’s been driving in time attack for the better part of 20 years.
Takanori Seyama has never been one to turn away from a challenge; choosing to define himself by his hard work and willingness to sail through uncharted waters on his own. His hard work has proven itself in the fabrication of his GTR32, which has crowned itself among the fastest Skyline’s in Japan.
As per the norm, Tsukuba Circuit was rented out by various hosts the day before the main event of Attack Tsukuba, allowing for the Attack competitors a chance to test and tune car settings. In this case, Sato-san from Unlimited Works hosted the first half of the day, and Takeo Fukazumi from Zummy Racing Family took on the afternoon.
Every once in awhile a car comes around that emanates a youthful disposition throughout the paddock. A somewhat adolescent, not yet fully refined look alludes to the driver being in more of an exploratory phase of driving; a stark contrast to those that have been driving for decades.
The evolution of time attack builds in Japan is, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport. The dedication of the teams and the drivers to improve performance each season typically results in a year over year change in the appearance of the cars. Especially given the fact that most of the Attack competitors are ghosts on social media in comparison, it’s always a surprise to see what they unveil at the start of each season.
It takes a dedicated enthusiast to consider time attack a spectator sport; and trust me, I don’t say that lightly. I’ve spent almost a good portion of my life promoting the sport, the last thing I want to do is discredit my own work. That’s not my sole opinion though, it is simply a statement that is rooted in factuality. Unlike other mediums in motor sport, time attack is more of an intrinsic, individual type of racing when compared to wheel to wheel events. It’s something you’d rather be doing than watching. At the top levels, the tracks are somewhat deserted in order to give the driver a clear shot in getting the fastest lap possible – having no traffic is essential.
In my attempt to promote the next Volume of 80R, I’ve been doing my best to collect video from each dedicated photoshoot. Unlike it’s precursor, Volume 2 will contain media that has not been published anywhere else. The innagural issue was a great starting point, but if I have an opportunity to improve upon it, I am going to take it. So, if I’m unable to immediatly share with you some of the content, I can at least provide an alternative; video was a great solution.
As I continued to sift through the coverage of Central Time Attack Challenge, I realized that there were a noticeably less amount of cars in attendance this year compared to last. No doubt in part due to the weather, which sort of goes to show the challenges with hosting a once a year style event in a country that has such unpredictable weather patterns. It’s really something places like Southern California don’t have to deal with, and we often take for granted.
Central Time Attack is an event that has quickly grown on me in an interesting way; be it the uniqueness of the circuit, the location, or the ‘newness’ of it to me, it’s definitely starting to become something I look forward to annually. Being so far from the ‘hub’ of time attack in Japan, it presents a unique opportunity for me to see builds I don’t typically get exposed to regularly. I had a similar feeling shooting at Suzuka for the first time back in 2017. This was my second consecutive year attending CTAC and while the weather wasn’t particularly cooperating, it was still an exciting day.
I can always appreciate a dedicated race car build that maintains the character of a street car. More than just a collection of parts thrown together, these cars carry with them a certain presence – an appearance that brings with it an almost tangible-like feeling. Arguably, in Japan, the AE86 chassis has the ability to achieve this more than any car out there. Be it due to its history in racing both on track and street, or perhaps its timeless design that attracts shops to continually develop parts for it. Whatever the case, there are some very indismissable examples, and Kenji’s CBY supported build is a perfect representation of this idea.
The Speed and Sound Trophy is, all things considered, a newer event held annually at Tsukuba Circuit. Hosted by a handful of well-known media publications that include names like Option, REVSPEED, Autosport, G-Works, and Motor Head, it attempts to bring together all facets of motor sport for enthusiasts of any kind to enjoy equally. The end result is an event that keeps the track busy with time attack competitions, demonstration runs from old and current race cars, guest driver personalities, GT cars, drift exhibitions, and car shows. Of course, what we’re interested in is the Option hosted Superlap competition.
Tsukuba Circuit has always been considered the “Holy Land of Time Attack”.
Drivers flock to the track to prove their skills in a number of famous events, including Option Superlap, RevSpeed and more recently the Attack Championship series. As many tuning cars continue to take on TC2000 it’s not uncommon for times to change very quickly. Below is a up-to-date ranking of the top 50 drivers and their corresponding times at TC2000.
At some point in time, my friend Duane mentioned to a few of us that, barring interest, he was thinking of starting a spec-B20 class within the VTEC Club events. As you can imagine, it was an idea that didn’t catch on too quick. In fact, anybody we mentioned it to had a decent laugh at our expense. B20’s, in their stock form, don’t have the greatest appeal in the realm of racing Hondas, so the idea that enough people would want to be involved to even warrant it’s own class was comical at best. Boy, were they all wrong.
‘One Perfect Lap’. Described perfectly in the simplest form by the zealous talents behind what is arguably the spearhead of time attack motorsports, World Time Attack Challenge. The art of time attack really comes down to a singular “perfect lap” and consistency in both car and driver is key, but so is luck. A lot of luck. As followers, supporters, and enthusiasts of NDF and the brilliance that is attack, most of you will already know the formula to going breath-takingly fast: boosted power, balanced suspension, immense grip, talent, substantial amount of heart, and gigantic balls of steel. Oh yes, looking aesthetically good-looking and wild for our eyes to behold is vastly important as well! Yet, the elements and timing are really what brings all the hard work and dedication together.
Winning just one first place trophy, for any class, in the World Time Attack Challenge would be a lifetime achievement for most people. Claiming two would be a way to show the world that it wasn’t a fluke. However, taking that top podium spot three times would undoubtedly leave a mark on the time attack world that not many teams can achieve. A true champion can prove that they have what it takes to keep winning; evolving to meet new challenges. That’s precisely what the guys at JDM Yard have done.
Every year, Sydney Motorsports Park (formerly Eastern Creek Raceway) plays host to one of the most anticipated events in the time attack world. An event that decides the most sought after titles in all race classes across the globe. It’s an event that is reserved for the most dedicated drivers and teams from almost every continent active in motor sports. The financial, mental, and physical toll it can play on individuals ensures that only the most dedicated of teams show up to play their hand at becoming the fastest in the world. Given that the teams based in Japan have been involved in this event in some form or another since the beginning, I thought it was long due for a visit to Sydney to support our Japanese constituents.
One of the more anticipated cars of this year’s WTAC among fans and builders alike, had to be Beau Yates’ revamped AE86. With Mark Bissett leading the team, the car was built at Hypertune in Sydney, and has been entirely stripped of it’s former drift specification and rebuilt as a time attack car fit for a king; and by king, I mean none other than Keiichi Tsuchiya. Keiichi was slated to drive the car in Open Class this year at Sydney Motorsports Park.
I came across this R32 GTR at Fuji a few weeks ago. It struck me as an almost ideal build; one that looks amazingly well, performs on track, and retains enough comfort to drive to and from the track. The dated body matched with Volk’s updated take on the TE37 works surprisingly well together. Hankook Ventus Z214 S-type tires ensure that the driver is able to utilize the full potential of the GTR. The time sheets indicated that the driver was able to snag a 2’02.xxx around Fuji Speedway. I never had an opportunity to talk to the owner and get more information, so photos will have to suffice. Enjoy.
Since I’ve been back from Japan, I’ve become so absorbed in a new project that I haven’t really set time aside to sort through the images I took while I was there. I was browsing Facebook this evening when I decided to reach out to Asano-san from Techno Pro Spirit to see how the testing went at Fuji Speedway. He and Kumakura were out there testing a few changes to get ready for the upcoming N2 race Hot Version is hosting next month.
Time Attack events typically take a back seat during the scorching hot, humid Summer months in Japan. Track conditions are far from ideal for breaking course records, or setting personal bests, so for the most part the sport lies dormant. Not to mention being strapped into a race car, covered head to toe in protective gear, with 100+ degree track temps isn’t fun no matter how into it you are. Even still, while the frequency of events slows, and major shops take the time to rebuild their demo cars; the sport doesn’t completely become extinguished. A fact proven by events like the Endless Circuit Meeting just last weekend at Fuji Speedway. An event that allows both professional tuners and enthusiasts to get in some track time during the off-season.
From the time I began to take an interest in Japanese Time Attack, I’ve had the chance to see Takanori Seyama’s R32 evolve year after year, slowly transforming into one of the countries fastest GTR’s. With that one fact being known, you’d think that the car would be a household name for fans of the sport. However, Takanori keeps such a low profile that the exposure of his build doesn’t quite hit the reach that others do. It’s a testament to his humble character that, despite knocking on the door of 53’s, he’s a frontrunner that tends to stay in the shadows.
Among the top N/A competitors in the Japanese time attack scene, exist a niche group of AE86 drivers. Serving as the FR rival of the Honda Civic’s in the paddock, the competition provided by the Toyota pack always manages to provide a subset of antagonism at any given event. Sato Shinetsu and his CBY equipped Trueno did just that at this year’s 10th anniversary Attack Championship at Tsukuba.
Easily the most recognizable Silvia in the paddock, the Friends Racing S15 has had quite the journey from it’s roots as a competitive D1 car. The unique build is unlike any other in the field; in both looks and performance. With a best time of 53’821 around the proving grounds of TC2000, Toru Inose is without a doubt among the frontrunners of time attack in Japan. A couple years ago we caught Toru and the team at Tsukuba setting that personal best – but with a new goal in mind, the team has since gone back to the drawing board.
It seems to be about every 2 years or so I have the opportunity to check in with Masaki-san. A staple of the Attack community, Masaki’s FD has served as his test bed and company demo car for nearly a decade, and continues to evolve year after year. I remember seeing it for the first time back in 2012 at Tsukuba during Advan’s ‘Fastest Amateur Tournament’. Back then the car had a full FEED Afflux kit and was comparatively very mild looking. Oh how far we’ve come…
There’s something to be said about the privateers that push the limits of what they can achieve in a street-trimmed car. When it comes to modifying cars, abiding by the restrictions of the state isn’t something most people are looking forward to doing. However, there are those that don’t mind the constraints. Those that look forward to the challenge, and prefer to have the convenience of a street car in addition to a car they can track regularly. Tamiya-san’s entire ethos is to see how much he can push his GTR under these regulations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.