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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the very end of last year I had posted a few photos of the build progress of this car on the website. Since then, aside from social media and the release of 80R, I haven’t really gone over this car in detail yet because I wanted to save the main reveal for the book. Now that the last of the books that have the feature are slated to be dispatched next week, I figure now is a good time to release some previously unseen photos of the car right after it’s completion.
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.
As we draw closer to October, the rush to complete off-season upgrades and get cars into containers bound for Sydney becomes more and more prominent around the globe. The buzz around the community regarding rumors and what each driver has done to gain time grows as the event nears. The growing popularity of World Time Attack Challenge is bringing time attack into the international spotlight and creating yet another outlet for this great motor sport. In Japan, the popularity peaks with the support of the hometown hero, Under Suzuki.
It was at the end of last year I shot these photos of Kemritte’s Corolla with the intentions of writing a full article on the car. Having just finished the build a few months earlier, I was keen on sharing it with our audience. It was mid-December, right before the holiday rush, and I remember preparing for a few trips to Japan as well as some work trips I had on my calendar.
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.
I don’t think it’s a secret that I prefer racing events to car shows. One look at the past articles on this site will paint a pretty clear picture. I get a lot of questions regarding if I’d ever consider hosting a meet here in the US; and the answer is generally ‘I don’t think so’ (maybe an invite only track event…). Despite it being held almost 4 years ago, the Winter Cafe was overwhelming for just 2 people to manage and I’d hate to run into that situation again. That’s precisely whey we began these little casual meetings between NDF and FRS.
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.
During the Option Fuji Superlap, the Supra meisters from the Tokyo based Material Auto Factory had the most prominent display of JZA80’s in attendance. Some were competing in the main event, others competed in the Hiper Challenge, and some were on display at their booth. I had highlighted Tatsuo’s Supra in our previous coverage, and a viewer had spotted another of their cars in the background that had piqued their interest.
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.
It’s been some time since the paddocks of Japan’s most credible race tracks have been graced with the presence of Ejima Kiyotaka and his TFR built FD3S. This year, changed all that, as the Attack Tsukuba Championship played host to his return, and the unveiling of his newly rebuilt FD. I wouldn’t say that Kiyotaka ever cut corners with this car, and it’s performance to date backs that up. Low 56 second lap times are no joke at Tsukuba; but he wanted more from the car. To achieve the performance he demanded, he would need to take a step back from competing.
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.
HKS Premium Day has always been a must-go event for me. It’s an all day event held at a track that’s reasonably close to Yokohama. Because of this, I don’t feel the pressure I usually do at smaller events where I’m pressed for time. It’s a lot more fun for me, and typically I end up taking a lot less photos as I have time to just wander around and look at stuff. Since it’s inception, the event has served as the proverbial ‘whos-who’ of big names in Japanese motor sport. HKS always does a great job of ensuring there are plenty of attractions to keep the fans entertained.
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.
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.