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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The concept of forming an amateur race team is something that appeals to quite a few of us. Aside from the obvious attraction of building race cars with your friends, there’s the added benefits of friendly competition, commradery and support among teammates; turns out there’s more positives to emulating Initial D than just looking cool. As a result we see attempts of this springing up all over the world – some good, some not so good. While we may have a ways to go on this side of the Pacific in making names for ourselves, no one in Japan does it better than the boys from Kyushu – ‘Kyushu Danji’; quite possibly the most notable and dedicated, time attack team in Japan.
Hiroki Sakamoto may have possibly built, not only one of the fastest, but also the cleanest RX-7 in Japan to date. With a best time of 55.801 around Tsukuba, and a 2’14.399 around Suzuka it can definitely hold it’s own among the frontrunners of Japanese time attack.
While I wait to hear back from a few people in regards to pending articles, I thought I’d throw up some photos of a car that isn’t seen often in the Japanese Time Attack ring. This Huracan ST was at Suzuka a while back running in the Attack series. I’m so used to seeing Japanese builds that the owners have toiled over for so many years that seeing this new, untouched so to speak, Italian race car caught me off guard. It was really quite a treat to see it out on track putting in some impressive lap times.
1990’s motoring in Japan, for a few people, has recently increased in popularity, becoming somewhat of an abstract study into a very unique culture. A lot of what we see today, especially in drifting, is an amalgamation of trends and lifestyle cues from that era; things that we aren’t necessarily privy to (unless of course you were a teenager in Tokyo in 1995). Yuji Hasunuma, owner of Pro Shop Wave, was a prominent figure in the peak times of ‘hashiriya‘; a time where the older generation today, was growing up and exploring the world of motorsports. Despite the change in trends, Yuji and his shop is still around today in Kanagawa, and as a ‘tip of the hat’ to the age his generation loved, he began the Bari Dori Heaven events.
Highend Makers isn’t exactly a household name in motorsports today, and, quite frankly, up until a year ago I wasn’t even aware of the outfit. The shop, located on the northern part of the island of Shikoku, has made a name for itself this past year at the Attack Suzuka events. Being located far from the epicenter of Japanese motor sport, the shop gets few opportunities to test their builds in comparison to shops in the Kanto, Kanagawa, and Kansai areas that we’re used to seeing. It’s a big production for them to have a good showing at time attack events, and a venue like Suzuka is well worth the trip.