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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I first became acquainted with Masao Otani back in 2014 when he attended our Attack Meeting in Doitsu Mura, Chiba. He had brought his 180 to the gathering which, 3 years ago, looked much more tame than it does now. That was back when the Attack community felt a little tighter knit than it does today, given the recent popularity increase. Which isn’t to be taken as a negative; with growth comes sacrifice in some areas, and the truth is that there are a lot more people involved in the sport today. Later that year, Masao and I had the fortune of connecting again through some mutual friends, and actually began talking quite regularly.
RS-Takagi is a tuning shop that specializes in Nissan applications, namely the 180 and Skyline, that’s based in the Gifu Prefecture; just Northwest of Nagoya. Their demo cars range from extremely high powered drag cars, to very well-balanced time attack cars – they even assist in some drift events. The owner states that no customer request is too big or too small, and that they are able to tailor projects to meet any customer’s needs.
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.
To say that Takumi Hayashi has an affinity for the Toyota AE86 would be a rather dramatic understatement. The peppy, 130ps 4A-GE motor combined with the car’s FR drivetrain became an instant hit with not only himself, but many other tuners in the mid-80’s for that matter. It didn’t take long for the Corolla to be a favorite worldwide, and Japan was no doubt leading the pack in motor sport development of the chassis.
I posted a picture of Tadashi’s S14 on our Instagram account yesterday afternoon and it got a lot of positive feedback. It may be the very interesting combination of exterior parts; what looks to be an M-Sports front, Vertex sides, and Car Modify rear. Or perhaps it’s just a great example of an s-chassis time attack build. Nakamura built the car in conjunction with No-Mark, and completed all the body work himself at his sheetmetal and paint shop. The 470 horsepower SR packs quite the punch on track. Check out a few pictures past the break.
This 280ps K-powered EK9 from GNR traveled a long way from home to run at the Attack event at Tsukuba this year. The owner, Yasuko Asai, hails from the northern island of Hokkaido; needless to say he doesn’t get down to Ibaraki very often. At his local circuit, Tokachi International Speedway, the car clocks a 1’24.666 on the Clubman course configuration. An extremely respectable time when you consider that a Super Taikyu Porsche GT3 ran literally the same time.
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.
If you had the opportunity to meet Masumoto just once, then it would go without saying that he is the definition of someone who lives for circuit racing. The energy that he resonates around the track is that of true happiness and excitement to be doing what he does. Over the past few years he has helped the Attack series grow into something much more than just a private, invite only track event. The fact that Attack is now a recognized championship series throughout Japan is thanks in part to Masumoto-san’s hard work and dedication. His personal GTR build has paralleled his work with Attack, and provides him the outlet he needs to channel his energy.
For over 30 years now, Eiichiro Sawa and the Auto Select staff have been tuning and racing cars throughout Japan. Using the knowledge they gain from track events, they’ve been able to succeed in developing quality parts that work well alongside their OE companions. Over the years Auto Select has made a niche for themselves in the GTR market and, as a result, have several demo and customer cars that frequent time attack events regularly. This gives them the ability to collect a wide-range of data from cars built in varying degrees; from street cars to dedicated track cars. All of which they can take back to their headquarters in Osaka, and use in development of their future services.
Something happened last month that honestly didn’t get the recognition it deserved; at least from publications that I frequent. In hindsight I probably should have made it more of a priority to highlight the news on my end other than social media, but in my defense I was busy with work and part of me wanted to wait until I talked to a few people about it. When a guy like Suzuki Under breaks records it’s, because of his amassed following, it’s pretty easy to hear information about it. I remember when he clocked the 50.746 back in December everyone I knew was talking about it; and rightly so, it’s amazing. So when I heard that during last month’s Attack Tsukuba Championship, Yusuke had broken the 57 second barrier to clock a lap time of 56.748 I thought the internet would explode.
Esprit has always been a shop that prides itself on building cars of all varieties. Regardless of the make or model, they will take a customers idea, or a demo car, and make it into something that excels in both performance and aesthetics. So when Sugimori Takuya propsoed the idea to build a JZA80 strictly to attack Suzuka Circuit, the shop embraced the challenge with open arms. The end result is a 2900 pound, 800 horsepower power house that runs 2’04.4’s at Mie’s home track.
I almost didn’t recognize the Step-Up Z33 without it’s massive rear diffuser and front splitter attached to it’s exterior. The car in this state takes on an almost street car look, aside from the chassis mounted GT wing. It wasn’t running in the Attack event, but was there supporting other drivers. I would have liked to see how it performed around Suzuka in the wet compared to some of the other similarly powered RWD cars. I included a video of a hot lap around Suzuka below.
No-Mark may not be a household name in the Japanese tuning industry, but they’ve been around long enough to hold their own against some of the best. Native to the Western area of Japan, it’s not uncommon to catch Maeda Yukio and his white S15 around tracks like Takasu Circuit, Suzuka CIrcuit, and Central Circuit every so often. The Silvia, a decade long build, has slowly grown from a lightly tuned street car, to a street car that pushes the boundary between comfort and performance.