With the Super GT Championships kicking off each year around April, Tokyo Auto Salon is scheduled at the perfect time off-season for competitors to showcase their 2019 season winning cars, as well as their new 2020 builds. One of the main reasons I attended the Salon this year was to get a closer look.
Let me preface this post by saying that the amount of travel to spend a single day in Japan is surprisingly achievable. It’s not like I would recommend it, there are definitely more efficient ways to go about it, but to say it wasn’t a fun experience wouldn’t be wholly true; at the very least it’s a conversation starter.
This time of year is best spent on reflection (because if not now, when right?). So much is happening during the year, and we’re so busy just living, that we rarely take the time to pause and take stock of what’s been accomplished, remember what we’re working towards, or how we’re handling it all mentally. So, when things start to slow down during this last week of December, I think as a society we traditionally use the time to reflect.
On the last weekend of October, Sugo Sportsland played host to the 2019 Attack event, officially kicking off time attack season in Japan. The event, which typically has a smaller turnout due to location, was paired with the Goodluck Challenge; a local motor sport event at Sugo.
A walk through the paddock at Sugo Sportsland during the recent Attack event. Sugo usually hosts a smaller group of drivers due to it’s distance from Tokyo, but the ones that do attend are very serious. Check out our behind the scenes video of the action…and the downtime.
Every so often I like to check in on cars and drivers that we’ve spotlighted in the past to see how the development of their build is going. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to talk to Tajima Hirotsugu about his Nismo 380RS, but that was months ago and he’s been busy over the off-season.
Haven’t done an Encounter post in quite some time now. I usually reserve them for random cars that I come across that seem worth sharing with everyone. This particular car fit the bill almost perfectly.
In the most recent post about my trip to Sugo I mentioned shooting a little video before I had the opportunity to photograph Escorts EVO 9 – well, here is that video!
Last week, Escort founder and owner Hiroshi Shiobara invited me out to Sugo Sportsland the Saturday before the Attack event to get a closer look at the team’s rebuilt Evo and to get a closer look into their test program. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to see their process in person, I would gladly make the drive to Sendai Saturday morning.
Coming out of a two year hiatus, Justin Yoo returns to CVR for the NDF Attack Challenge hosted by VTEC Club and is met with surprising success.
There is no doubt that the shear excitement of driving a purpose-built race car on the edge is enough for any driver to justify the money and work that gets put into building it. Although, surprisingly there are very few people that understand the actual amount of work that goes into building a race car; Amir Bentatou is not one of those people.
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.
Seeing as he lives all the way down in Kyushu, I consider myself lucky to have caught Nozaki and his FD at Fuji during Seven’s Day. I didn’t get the opportunity to see him at Autopolis Super Lap and was excited to see the build up close.
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.
Rotary Spirit was created in 2018 in an attempt to host the most comprehensive Seven’s Day meeting throughout all of Japan. This year marked the second annual event, and I happened to be at Fuji Speedway when the festivities were going down.
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.
While I was photographing a race at Fuji Speedway, I took some time to record a walk-through of the Seven’s Day event that was going on in the event paddock.
It’s been quite some time now since Hara-san of Car Shop Glow has been behind the wheel of his own car, but it looks like the years of not competing have finally begun to take their toll.
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.
A few months ago we introduced the idea of producing a line of carbon goods under NDF Japan Bodyworks that would help expand our current carbon line of goods.
With the possibility of snowfall around Mt. Aso over the weekend, the likelihood of Autopolis Super Lap being cancelled loomed over me as I boarded my Solaseed Air flight to Aso-Kumamoto Airport.
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.
Without a doubt, Philip Robles has become a household name in the time attack scene around the Southwestern US. Having competed in a wide variety of sanctioned events throughout Arizona and California over the past several years, he has solidified his place among motor sport’s most dedicated drivers.
In the heart of Winter this year, I made the trek down to Kyushu to attend Autopolis Superlap. Unbeknownst to me (because it happened when I was in-flight from Tokyo to Kumamoto) the event had been cancelled due to excessive snowfall in the area. For the past week, the likelihood of the event taking place was always brought into question.
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.
Masao has been hard at work over the past few months putting his skills to the test on his son’s project car. The design that Tani had in mind for this GTR33 would take on a more subtle approach to body tuning than the work that Masao is typically used to being commissioned for. A look that would pull focus to the cars original body lines while still retaining a very street-able appearance. Reserved as a car to occasionally enjoy weekend drives and a general feel of car-life, the Skyline was purchased without the circuit in mind. A purpose that is reflected in the final outcome of the build.
Having always been a very task-oriented person, I often times find myself gravitating more towards the desire of completing a project or event as opposed to the act of simply participating in it. It wasn’t until the past few years in my life that I was taught to be mindful of the present, or, ‘enjoy the ride’ so they say. While the wording of that saying may come off as childish and a bit pedestrian, there is merit to being able to live in the moment. I’ve learned that checking in with yourself existentially every once in awhile can be beneficial.
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.
Friday morning a few other track hosts held open events for those entrants that wanted to do some testing the day before the Attack event on Saturday. Many of the top tier teams took advantage of the time, as did the overseas competitors. Since this day was a little more relaxed, I took some video around the paddock and pit.
If you happen to follow our Facebook or Instagram page, you may have noticed a few images promoting an upcoming event we’re headlining with the organizers of VTEC Club. NDF Attack Challenge is our take on emulating a Japanese style of time attack that is not often found in the States. Naturally, with the countries being almost polar opposites of one another (in both size, demographic, and culture), there are some very notable differences between the execution of the two; the most striking difference being that of classing.
It may be obvious to most people, but after surrounding myself with Japan’s fastest time attack cars, I often times need to remind myself that there are several cars not built to an extreme that are very noteworthy. In fact, sometimes its the cars that are very tastefully modified that stand out the most; as is the case with Yuma Koide’s EK9. While the bright blue exterior is quick to catch the eye of a passerby, it’s what you don’t see that keeps you staring.
As time goes by, it becomes more and more infrequent that we see a large amount of second generation RX-7s out and about at the circuit. No doubt the popularity of the FC chassis plays a large part in why we still see them at all, but for a car whose newest model would now be a good 27 years old, it is getting more and more rare to spot them at events. Despite their age, however, there remains a large aftermarket support for FC3S, as the style and engine seem to transcend time itself in an attempt to stay relevant in motor sports.
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.