Three years ago when Yoshiki ‘Fire’ Ando and the expert team at Escort set out to claim the tuning car record at every international circuit in Japan, they knew it was a challenge that would demand perfection in all aspects of their operation.
Between the amount of traveling I’ve done early this Summer (Japan’s record temps in June), our new focus on growth, and the recent heatwave here in the West, this years off-season has developed a sense of eternity to it. Even now in September, as people are gearing up to race again, the idea of heading out to the track for testing alludes me.
About a week after arriving in Japan, I received a message from my good friend Tsubaki. Since I photographed his S15 for Import Tuner back in 2014, we’ve always made sure to stay in touch as the years pass.
In this video we visit Skyline tuning masters Racing Factory Autobahn, deep in the countryside of Ibaraki. Kawai-san shows us some of the newer builds and I take a walk around the shop.
This past weekend I headed to Nagano to photograph my friend Tsubaki’s new S15 delivery. He had the car fixed and fitted with the new Garage Mak Type 6 front end. While I was there, we take a close look at Amemiya’s 1,000+hp S15 at the shop, and I also took some photographs of our friend Masato’s DIY S13.
Before I take off for Japan for the Summer, I was lucky enough to have one more opportunity to take the ISF to the track with all the tire issues finally sorted out. I wasn’t able to get the stiffer springs on in time, however that may have actually worked out better for the baseline testing.
Growing up with his father, Akira, Yusaku Shibata was embraced with motor sport from the moment he arrived in this world. His life would see him behind the wheel of numerous race cars throughout a number of series, and eventually coming full circle to own and operate the tuning shop his father founded in 1985; ARVOU Motor Sports Service.
Self-tasked with building the fastest Civic in Japan, Asai-san and Sapporo based shops GNR Racing and Rise-Up Garage, are constantly modifying the setup on their flagship EK9. Their hard work is paying off as they close in on the FF NA Record at TC2000.
With time attack in Japan being dominated mostly by an older generation, modern government regulations, and a waning interest in automotive culture in Japan’s urban centers, it often leaves us questioning if the allure of motor sports is bright enough to draw in new participants. There are arguments that can be made on both sides, however, we tend to agree that it is as bright as ever, and conversing with individuals like Shoya Okumura only helps to solidify our feelings on the subject; and we’re not alone.
There is a good chance that if you’re browsing this website, you’re familiar with Aoki-san of Ready GO Next. Not only does he have a successful shop catering to RX7 tuning, but he is among the masterminds associated with the creation of Attack; Japan’s most renowned time attack event.
After an arduous and rather busy off season, we’re finally back behind the wheel of the ISF for more testing. Scaling up the company this past year had unfortunately pushed this project down on the list of priorities, but we’re excited to be able to post some updates again.
To describe the RA-R Spec STi as rare would be somewhat of an understated representation of the chassis. In 2006, Subaru made just 300 units of the specially tuned GD based STi for the Japanese market; that accounts for less than 1% of Impreza’s manufactured in this generation.
The ‘Kagayaki’ (かがやき) is a high speed train service that operates between Tokyo and Kanazawa on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line. It is jointly owned by JR East and JR West, and is the fastest train on this particular line reaching speeds of up to 260kph. It also served as the inspiration for the livery and overall appearance of Oya-Ji’s widebody Evolution 5.
Within Japan’s small group of elite tuners, there lies a select few who continuously take it among themselves to set the bar higher; taking their chosen projects and transforming them into something more akin to a factory backed race program. The team at M’s Machine Works, led by Takayuki Mizumoto, are a shining example of this, and exactly why they were chosen to be featured in 80R Volume 3.
We’ve all experienced the ebb and flow of motivation; the slow, but seemingly permanent, oscillation of decline and growth in development. Albeit difficult to admit it for the majority of us, as time passes, our incentives naturally change. That is, until we come across a new catalyst that stokes the tides in the favor of progress. Such was the case with Hiroki Sakamoto.
I had the opportunity to see what was left of Tokue’s EK shell during my last trip to Garage Work early in 2019. Iwata didn’t want me to photograph it, for various reasons, but for a fan of the Honda Civic, I can only describe the scene as melancholy.
It’s always a pleasure seeing the regulars at Attack events around Japan season after season. Those drivers and shops that form the foundation of our community, that attend not just to drive, but to uphold the responsibility they’ve given themselves to push the sport forward.
Attack Tsukuba marked the return of Oya G, ‘The Prince’, back to the circuit in his newly rebuilt EVO 5. Backed by Koyo KBC, the car is back better than ever with a brand new engine to power it around the track.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.