Tag: Narita Dog Fight

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Event: Final Bout – Special Stage West V.2

Picking up from where we left off in Portland, coverage in V2 will review the remaining teams that were competing over the weekend.  I gotta say though, the first article on Final Bout was so wordy that I really don’t have much to say for the follow up; I kind of broke the dam gates on that one.  For those who missed it, to get an overview of the event check out the first article published last week.  If you’ve done that already, I won’t put you through it again – so let’s jump right into some photos.

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Event: Final Bout – Special Stage West V.1

There’s something to be said about those who go out of their way for the preservation of ideas.  These people, when sensing a degradation in quality or process, will consciously take on the role of safeguarding origins.  There are quite a few of us who, in our day to day, fail to see the importance of upholding certain ideologies.  While the majority of us don’t fall into this category, it’s safe to say that those who do, have the ability to carry many.  To them the priority lies in guidance.  It’s about the teaching and the development of a new generation.  A generation that may not be exposed to the superior pedigree of the past, but hold with them a desire for growth.  Having spent the lesser side of a week with a few of these individuals, I can tell you it is a rare quality they possess.  It is their calling, and they answer to it; and how they’ve answered has ignited a world-wide call to arms.

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Feature: Less is More – Makoto’s Garage Work EK4

I messaged Makoto today to catch up and inquire about some things I’ve been waiting on from Garage Work.  I realized that, out of all the spotlights on Garage Work cars I’ve posted, I never really posted much about his EK4. We got to chatting about his car and what he’s working towards with it.  As you would imagine, his build is another prime example of the ‘less is more’ mentality that comes out of the Chiba outfit.

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Close-Up: Mr. Orange’s Orange DC2

Self-proclaimed amateur time attacker ‘Orange-san’ has made quite the impact in the small world of Tsukuba time attack.  Not only because of the bright orange accent color of his DC2, or his youthful, comedic track side manner; who jokes that his main support comes from Yahoo Auction and Super Viva Home Kasukabe (think Japanese Home Depot).  While those qualities alone would make people gravitate towards the Integra in the paddock, it’s what people see up close that garners the most attention to the DC2.

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Feature: Everything’s Fun – Masao Otani’s 180SX

The beauty of being involved in a global hobby is that you get the opportunity to connect with a multitude of awesome people.  I’m fortunate that the majority of them come from simply supporting the website; I need not travel further than my inbox to find a handful. I try to answer everyone in a timely manner, but sometimes I get really backed up.  It just so happens though, that this week I’ve been held captive in my own home due to knee surgery.  While the inability to move has it’s downsides, it has allowed me to catch up with correspondence.  This weekend I was able to chat with Masao Otani, a resident of Chiba who happens to be associated with a mutual friend of mine.  I’ve been following his build for awhile now, but until we talked, I had no idea just how parallel his mindset was with that of NDF.

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Encounter: The Fuji Blues – Esprit’s New Look

The Kakimoto NSX wasn’t the only Honda at Fuji this month that’s received a facelift; Esprit was on hand with their NSX, now in special blue edition.  Like so many other competitors this day though, they were not to see any track time around the Speedway.  Inclement weather doesn’t bode well for fast track times, and certainly doesn’t allow opportunity for accurate testing.  So Esprit let their car rest in the paddock, devoid of canards and engine cover, while they waited for the weather to pass.  Sekinei strolled over to their garage to snap a few shots.

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Encounter: Yusuke Hoshino’s Unlimited Built CT9A

At the beginning of the year, after seeing Yusuke at both Evome events, I had realized that I never really posted much of his EVO.  We chatted a bit after the second event, and he mentioned that the car had been acting less than ideal.  Which shows in the lap times; nearly a full second off his January time.  Still, he’s come a long way with his build and it was Kaz at Unlimited Works that set him on the right track.

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Encounter: Winds of Change – Kakimoto Racing NSX

Even at first glance you can see that Kakimoto’s one-off NSX has gone through quite a lot of change; on the surface at least.  The once, somewhat rough, unrefined exterior has been transformed into a more sleek, elegant looking exotic.  Make no mistake though; despite it’s newly refined look, the car was still bred for the circuit.  Sekinei caught the NSX sitting in the paddock of Fuji, longing to hit the track at last weekends Motor Fan Fest.

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Encounter: トトまるエボ6 – Pretty In Pink

Don’t worry; I’m still alive.

After the dust had settled from the store opening with the new shirt and pre-sale of the tech jackets,  I ended up taking (almost unconsciously) a week break from the site.  During my absence I was reintroduced once again to just how finite time is.  The few hours a day I had set aside for the website were definitely not thrown into the leisure category; well, maybe a few.  But instead, they were reallocated into a combination of my day job, travel, shop work, my day job (did I already say that?), relationships, and probably a whole bunch of other things that makeup life that I can’t even remember.

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Encounter: Shaft Auto Service ER34 Gallery

Back in November we took a close look at the Shaft built ER34 Skyline at the Attack event at Tsukuba; you can check that article out here.  Being the immense admirer of four-door Skylines that I am, I shot a whole bunch more photos of it at Battle Evome this year.  After talking to Suzuki personally about the car, I gained a whole new level of respect for the build.

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Encounter: Car Shop Dream FD3S

Hailing from the cold North of Hokkaido, FD specialists Car Shop Dream can claim the rights to one of the most unique looking FD’s in Japanese time attack.  As you would imagine, due to the distance, it’s not often that Kurokawa-san and his team get out to Tsukuba.  As a result, they don’t get as much seat time at the track as some of the other locals.  Despite this, Kurokawa has piloted his 600whp build to a personal best of 57.880.  Ultimately, after achieving times more close to the 55 second range at Tsukuba, he’d really like to shoot for competing in WTAC.  The car is an ongoing project, so who knows?  Check out some pictures past the break.

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Encounter: チームT.F.Rスープラ

Senkichi has modified his JZA80 specifically to handle the variety of turns at Tsukuba.  Each modification that he chose was specifically tailored for TC2000.  The engine’s drive-train has been upgraded and the bottom end built to handle the extra boost from the T78 turbine.  Transmission gearing has been modified to put the car in the exact power range needed for each turn.  Check out the results below.

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Close-Up: オートソニックFC3S – The Circuit Samurai

‘Motobei’ jokes that, back when he bought this RX-7 in December of 2007, he did so with the intent of using it as a daily commuting car.  Like so many of us have experienced, our intentions get brushed aside real quick when we start modifying our daily drivers.  As was the case with the Super Now/Auto Sonic FC3S.  A car that, ironically enough, can no longer be legally used on the street.  With a personal record at TC2000 of 56.495, motives aside, there’s no doubt that the path that the samurai has taken with this car has paid off – big time.

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Encounter: Quality over Quantity – Garage Peaks S13

Every once in awhile I’ll come across some new faces at Tsukuba that really catch my attention.  In most cases though, just because they’re new to me, doesn’t mean that they’re new to the circuit.  The Garage PEAX Silvia is one such example and the it’s high 59 second lap times at Tsukuba proves this fact.  Taking a little bit deeper look into the build reveals a car, and an owner, who have been gradually making changes to achieve the goal of a sub-minute lap time at TC2000.

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Feature: Yusuke Tokue’s EK4 – The FF Frontrunner

There’s a small community of time attack drivers in Japan that dedicate themselves to the FF base; a chassis that has, arguably, many more challenges to overcome on track than it’s counterpart.  Despite the handicap that these cars have initially, to the people who have devoted their time and knowledge into producing the best, the joy that comes along with victory outweighs any doubt of potential.  As is the case with all Garage Work cars, and especially so for Yusuke Tokue and his EK4.

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Event: VTEC Club USA – 2016 Season Opener

The last weekend in February marked the start of the new season of VTEC Club at Willow Springs International Raceway.  WSIR was once again packed with some of Southern California’s most dedicated Honda enthusiasts for a full day of track fun.  The local popularity of this series was more than proven last year, and if the first round was any indication, 2016 looks to be on the same track.

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Interview: Tomohiko ‘Under’ Suzuki – Japan’s S15 Meister

Years ago when Suzuki paired up with Takemura of Scorch Racing, I can’t imagine either of them knowing just how far they’d push the envelope of time attack; not only in Japan, but worldwide.  From making somewhat crude body panels himself in the small garage, to employing the knowledge of Andrew Brilliant, the famous aerodynamicist; things sure have changed in the past few years.  One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Suzuki’s drive to win and his dedication to the progression of his S15.
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Encounter: ハニカミDC2

Not totally unrelated to, but probably unnecessary to explain, the Japanese word ハニカミ (hanikami) is a kind of cute way to describe ‘shyness’.  There’s an old dating show that ran on TV in Japan during the mid-2000’s called ‘恋するハニカミ!’ (love shy).  Think the 1960’s TV sensation ‘The Dating Game’ meets Japan’s incredibly unique sense of humor.  Now, clearly this has nothing to do with cars, or time attack, but it is the nickname of this Evome contendor, so let me do my best to tie this together.

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Feature: Total Car Service Usui Attack NA8C

Central Japan’s Gunma Prefecture is home to a handful of Japan’s well known tuning shops.  There is one in particular, however unique, whose discipline lies in building Mazda Roadsters; a car that, despite it’s nimbleness on track, hasn’t garnered much popularity in the Japanese Time Attack arena.  The tuning shop TCS Usui, nestled at the base of Mt. Akagi (go figure), has been in business tuning, selling and procuring Roadsters and various Suzuki Kei cars for some time now.  It wasn’t until the owner built this demo car that TCS became known world-wide.

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Locale: Lazy Sunday’s at Garage Work

The Sunday after the first Evome event of the year, I commandeered Sekinei’s Nissan Cube and trekked across the Tokyo Bay towards Chiba to visit Iwata and the boys at Garage Work.  Jay came along as well as he’s never been to the shop and wanted to meet everyone.  The plan was to hang out for a little bit, and talk about some pending business stuff, but the shop is such a laid back place that it’s easy to spend hours there hanging out.

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Close-Up: Smoke and Fire – VTEC Club Spotlight

Before I get to processing and writing about the coverage of this past weekends VTEC Club season opener, I thought I’d try out a new idea for these events.  Covering VTEC Club when I could last year was a lot of fun for me.  The committee that puts these events together happen to be not only great people, but good friends of mine as well.  Come to think of it, photographing these events combines almost everything I enjoy in life into one location; perhaps that’s why it feels nothing like work.  Maybe that’s the feeling people get when they do what they love for a career.  Anyway, I’m getting way off topic here.

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Feature: 腹黒 – Sato’s Work built DC2

There is a consistency to the cars that come out of the Work camp.  They most certainly take a different approach to other shops in the same discipline, and I think that that is what sets them apart from the rest.  Mildly modified, naturally aspirated B-series engines that are catered more towards reliability than high power are what you’ll find in nearly every car the shop works on.  Not one for high horsepower builds, Garage Work shines in the area of suspension tuning and chassis modification of their lightweight Hondas. This distinct facet of Iwata’s tuning shows throughout each car he touches.  Sato Kakuchi’s DC2 is a perfect embodiment of the shop’s raw persona.

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Encounter: LM Advance FD3S

I wish I had more to say about this FD, but in all honesty this is my first time seeing the car at any event.  The owner was registered in the Grooving series, which is a series in itself that, as of last year, runs in tandem with the Evome events.  The Grooving events are catered more towards beginning drivers, or those that want to improve their skill on the circuit without having to enter events that host more advanced run groups.  You can read more about it on their website.

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Feature: Purchasing Power – Revolution’s SE3P

With the seemingly never-ending popularity of Mazda’s 90’s classic, the RX7, it’s not uncommon for it’s successor, the RX-8, to get overlooked.  At the time, the newly introduced Renesis engine, while a great performer at high RPM, lacked torque and overall power; mainly due to the extreme efficiency of the engine to meet strictly enforced emissions laws.  Because of this, the naturally aspirated 1.3 liter rotary seemed to always get passed on for it’s older, turbocharged counterpart.  Wanting to prove the RX-8’s worth, and to help stoke parts development of the chassis, Aoki-san at Revolution took on the task of building the ultimate RX-8.  The first step?  Ditching the Renesis motor for a naturally aspirated 20B.

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Event: Battle Evome 2016 – Round 2 Analysis

As we landed back in Narita on the evening of the 12th, I couldn’t help but feel like I hadn’t even left the country.  The sun had just began to set through the scattered clouds on the horizon and the diffused, orange glow of the afternoon’s last rays forced it’s way through the aircraft windows and into my eyes.  It had only been 3 weeks since I was last in Japan, a travel duration that becomes the norm during this time of year; the hectic 3 month period when time attack events are at their peak.  Actually, back in the States, I was so busy with new contracts at work and getting the store up that I hardly had time to post any content on site before heading back.  Nevertheless, I had returned to Japan and first thing in the morning we would make our way back to Tsukuba for the second, and final, round of Battle Evome.

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Close-Up: Masaki Kitajo – Craft Company’s Flagship

I ran into Masaki this weekend at the second round of Battle Evome at Tsukuba Circuit.  He was not driving his shops demo car, however, but his street ‘practice’ Porsche 996.  On radials, he had hoped to get a still respectable 1’05.000 out of the German made sports car (and if I recall correctly he ended up lapping in the 1’03 range).  We made small talk about his drive to Tsukuba from Kobe, and the day’s unseasonably warm weather.  The conversation didn’t linger on the day’s drive for too long though, and I soon changed the subject to that of his flagship build; the Craft Company FD3S.

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Event: Ignition Engage – Battle Evome 2016

There’s a strange equality to winter, I think.  It’s a balance that can only come with the sacrifice of life; a level playing field for all beings; a restart to a long year of effort and hard work of rebuilding from the previous season’s eradication.  It sounds rather bleak, but it gives us, it gives everything, a chance to reestablish a new, improved form.  It provides an opportunity to apply what we’ve learned from the past, to return stronger, an enhanced version, and if all goes as planned, a superior adaptation to that of last year.  And so it is each year for the competitors of Battle Evome.

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Event: The Return to Makuhari – Tokyo Auto Salon 2016 V.3

This week has flown by and I really haven’t gotten a chance to just sit down uninterrupted to edit and write.  All last week I was in Tucson for work, and have been using this week to kind of catch up.  I took the little free time I did have to spend at the shop working on the new motor and to start fabricating my dashboard.  I don’t quite have all the parts collected to finish the head yet, so I should be concentrating on other areas of the car, time permitting.  I have some work scheduled for it mid-February, and hoping to have a few open items finished by the end of the month.  I’ve also been working to restock the site store by, and wrap up the new shirt design – mostly by way of email correspondence!  We should have a few announcements coming within the next week or so.  In the meantime, I managed to finish the edits from Tokyo Auto Salon and have one final post for you – check it out below.

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Editorial: It’s All Been Done

As I stepped outside, leaving behind the warm confines of the heated living room, I could quickly feel the chill lifelessness of the Yokohama winter surround my exposed face; an invisible, biting veil of wind that seems to only exist when the sun is below the horizon. It was just before 5am and the morning sky was still dark, nearly void of stars as they dodged their way in and out of view of the low hanging clouds. With my gloved hand, I shut the front door to Sekinei’s house, and waited motionless on the porch for him to get ready. So there I stood, unseen save for the haze of condensation from each exhaling breath. Giving up the fight to keep my eyes open, I slowly closed them and let my mind wander until it decided to focus on the present.

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Close-Up: G-Force Yamazaki CT9A

Just two short months ago, G-Force took this EVO to TC2000 to let Tanaguchi fling it around some corners during an open test day.  The car ran an impressive high 55 second lap; and I can assure you, it looked nothing like this.  The car’s exterior, then, was clad in a variety of Varis parts, and while it was a bit wider than OE, it was still relatively non-threatening in appearance.  Fast forward to TAS and the car that was displayed at their booth was a new beast entirely.

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Close-Up: 2016 APR Toyota Prius GT300

Among the various Super GT cars on display, APR was one to unveil their 2016 GT300 take on the new Prius.  We got a close look at the previous model a few years back at Fuji Speedway; however, since Toyota has released a newly remodeled production version of the hybrid chassis, it was time for it’s older counterpart to be retired.  Unlike the previous model, which utilized a mid-engine setup (as it was built to the somewhat controversial JAF GT300 rulebook), the 2016 will be using the now mandated front-engine setup, as this is the factory engine layout of the Prius.

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Close-Up: カーモディファイワンダー & ヒマワリ TAS

Car Modify Wonder had several cars on hand to introduce their somewhat new lineup of Glare aero parts, and as usual, they did not disappoint.  It’s refreshing to see a truly unique and creative offering, especially for older chassis’.  It’s a stark contrast from what we’ve recently been used to seeing; which is more or less a cookie cutter approach to exterior styling (I don’t need to say anymore than that for you to catch my drift).  Check out the shots below and let me know what you think.

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Event: The Return to Makuhari – Tokyo Auto Salon 2016 V.2

I don’t want my last post on TAS to be misconstrued in any way.  I started thinking about it after someone had commented on the Facebook page about it.  I’m not trying to downplay TAS in anyway, it’s a great event.  In fact, many people from all over the world plan their trip to Japan around that show.  I am not in Japan as often as I used to be, and that means choosing dates wisely.  It’s come to the point where the amount of opportunities I have outweigh the time I have to take advantage of them; and that’s something I am very grateful for.  I’ve worked hard over the past years to put myself in that position, and am thankful for the friends that helped along the way.  It would be different if I could devote 100% of my time to the site, but I’m just not in a place where I can make that a reality right now.  I have a self-defined prerogative to share with you up to date information and coverage of what’s happening in Japanese Time Attack events, so naturally those are the events I align myself with.  I’m glad this time I was able to do both, as there was a lot of neat stuff at TAS this year.  I was especially excited about the handful of Super GT unveilings.  If you have the opportunity to go I would highly encourage you to do so, and not to get discouraged by any of my opinions I throw up on the site.  I’d never want to unintentionally discourage anyone from doing what they’ve always wanted to do.  With that said, let’s jump into the second round of my selective coverage from the halls of Makuhari Messe.

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Event: The Return to Makuhari – Tokyo Auto Salon 2016 V.1

I certainly didn’t plan to attend TAS this year.  In fact, It’s been 5 years since I’ve purposefully started avoiding it.  If you asked me why I’d honestly have trouble explaining; it’s a massive undertaking that showcases some of Japan’s best builds…so what’s the deal?  Even as I type that out I’m squinting at the screen, eyebrows furrowed, questioning myself.  Ahhh…that’s right, it’s literally just a giant car show and frankly, car shows are just not my thing anymore.  The first TAS I went to was in 2009 – I went in 2010 too.  2011 was the first year I not only attended, but I covered it for the website as well; and it actually turned out to be my last.  In 2014 my good friend Sekinei was well on-board with NDF and helped source some coverage of the show as he was attending anyway, and in 2015 I basically just didn’t post anything despite having coverage.  I really just wanted to focus on our niche and at the time felt that anything else just contributed to a deviation of that (despite increasing traffic dramatically).  Or maybe I just got jaded that it wasn’t a unique experience anymore; I’m not sure.  So, you could say this year was sort of a fluke.  I was going to be in Japan anyway to attend Evome on the 16th, and I had media passes for TAS on Friday so I wouldn’t really have to deal with hordes of testosterone crazed Japanese men in search of booth girls, and I literally had no plans on my calendar.  Sounds good right? So why not return?

And who’d have guessed it – I had a really good time.

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Event: VTEC Club Season 2 Final Round V.2

With all the running around and traveling I’ve done for the busy holiday I almost forgot I had a couple more shots from the final round of VTEC Club to post up.  After chatting around the paddock area, and bouncing from the beginning of the straight to the end, Duane approached me and asked if I wanted to head over to Cotton Corners.  I gladly accepted because I don’t get to go to the infield at these events too often.  It’s nice to get a different perspective when photographing track events.  As a result though, most of the on-track shots in this post will be from there and may be a little repetitive.

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Event: VTEC Club Season 2 Final Round V.1

It never ceases to amaze me; the successes of hard working people.  The last VTEC Club USA event took place last week, and it’s given me a chance to reflect on the entire season, and everyone that’s been involved in the project all the way from the conception phase.  The individuals who saw the need to fill a missing niche in our world of motor sport, and took the steps to achieve just that.  Even those who had the foresight to see what type of community could be created from a series like this are probably surprised at the outcome.  Starting a new series from the ground up, albeit hosted by a well-known name (Extreme Speed), takes a lot of work and to have it explode in popularity overnight is a testament to how well it’s been organized.  Duane Bada, ‘Tom Attack’, Kristian Wong, Matt Rojana, Yuta, Amir, the sponsors, the media partners, and everyone else that has been involved in making the series what it is deserve a huge thank you from anyone who has participated this season.  I’m definitely looking forward to next year, but first, for the last event of this year, we head over to Buttonwillow Raceway Park one last time for Round 5 of Season 2.