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.
I stumbled across this GTR33 built by Decide226 behind Suzuka’s pits. The notable shop, that’s based in Fukuoka, raised to fame years ago in Japan’s drag racing circuit. The RH9 accredited garage specialized in tuning high power, 400m focused builds. Concurrently they also prepped a range of cars for circuit racing; everything from GTR’s to EG6 Civics. This GTR is a great example of the street inspired builds the shop has become famous for.
Without a doubt the most interesting thing for me, in following Japanese Time Attack so closely, is getting to see the progression of builds over an extended period of time. We all know that building a race car isn’t a quick task, and for most people at the grassroots level it’s a trial and error procedure; you find out what works and what doesn’t from your initial base, and head back to the drawing board after each event. Everyone has their own method of going about this, but the common goal for everyone, however, is to go faster.
M’Technic Hyper Circuit Machine Producer is, well, a rather dramatic name for a tuning shop to say the least; but one glance into the type of cars they produce in-house, and the name suddenly doesn’t seem so theatrical. Mr. Tsuchida has had the support of M’Technic throughout the build of his GDBE Impreza, and while still a young build, contains many of the qualities that the shop holds in high regard.
About halfway between Kyoto and Osaka, there’s a stretch of road that houses a handful of ‘under the radar’ type automotive shops. Among the largest is Auto Craft; a rotary specialist shop, that’s slowly turned their focus to a larger population of cars, most notably Toyota’s new reiteration of the 86. While they may be playing to a larger audience these days, they certainly haven’t abandoned their dedication to developing the old Mazda chassis, and their flagship Attack FD is proof of this.
Mie Prefecture is a long way from Yokohama; a lot further than I expected anyway. Whenever I’m planning road trips through Japan I get this false sense of distance because I’m not accustomed to using the metric system. So my brain still equates 60 ‘x’ of a distance to roughly an hour. Because of that drives typically go by quicker than I expect. Well, not this time. Maybe I’m getting used to it, maybe I underestimated the distance, or maybe it was the weather, but Thursday evening when we set out to Suzuka Circuit I had no idea I’d be driving for over 6 hours…
When you think of car tuning in Japan, the last city that comes to mind is probably Kyoto. Well, ironically enough, that’s where Auto Craft Evolution is headquartered; Kyotabe City, Kyoto. Suzuka Circuit, in Mie Prefecture, is a much closer drive than Tsukuba or Fuji, so it’s no surprise to see them attend the Attack events at Suzuka. We spotted this shop car on the backside of the Suzuka paddock as we pulled up in the early morning.
It’s always refreshing to me to see productivity in it’s most energetic form. I think their are many positive effects to being constructive and it seems to me that it is overlooked quite often. It’s an aspect of life that adds a great deal of meaning to what we choose to pursue. Instinctively knowing the difference between being busy and being productive gives us the ability to progress through life much more efficiently; ultimately allowing us to experience more, and get the most out of our time. Ryo Kaneko is a man who knows the benefits of productive living, and it shows through his work on the circuit.
Given our illustrious ability to sleep in on the day of track events, I was surprised that when my alarm clock went off at 4:30am this past Sunday morning, I actually got out of bed. As our routine would have it, I met Sekinei downstairs and we set off for Ibaraki stopping only at the 711 right after the turn-off to Tsukuba. It’s been longer than I can remember that I arrived at the track before the sun came up, but we somehow managed to roll through that little narrow tunnel before daybreak. In fact, we were among the first to arrive meeting Under-san and the Evome staff as we entered. It didn’t take long for the flat beds to start rolling in though, and before I knew it the paddock was full of cars with drivers itching to get out on track before the weather took a turn for the worse.
Friends Racing and their re-purposed drift Silvia have made quite the comeback over the past year or so. Making the transformation from the GReddy backed D1 Grand Prix competitor, to a record chasing time attack build was no easy task for the small Tochigi-based outfit. It took the company a few years to get the car to where it’s at now; a journey that is paying off in blindingly fast lap times.
A couple weeks ago Zummy held one of the first open time attack events of the what is considered the ‘prime’ season at TC2000; temps have dropped, and track conditions are ideal for fast times. Many of the amateur drivers used this as an opportunity to shakedown their summer upgrades. We saw a lot of modifications to existing builds, as well as the debut of many newer entries to the ever-growing niche. It didn’t take long for the returning drivers to see the fruits of their labor, and within laps personal bests were being racked up across the board.
Even in sunny Southern California, the mid-day heat is giving way to brisk mornings and chilly evenings; a sign that Summer has finally, albeit very late, left us. The ushering in of the holidays reminds us we’re already well into the Fall season, and with that comes a time that everyone involved with this website is very excited for; Attack season. Japan kicked off with a rather casual shakedown/practice meeting at Tsukuba this past week, while here in the States, VTEC Club held their first all Honda Autumn Speed Festival. Two strikingly similar events where many personal bests were broken.
About two years ago I stumbled across Morita-san’s EVO browsing through Minkara; although at the time, I only knew him by his internet handle ‘Hanipon’. I had never seen an EVO 6 as aggressive as his, and after exploring his build a little further, instantly became a fan. Suffice to say I was a little shocked when he reached out to me randomly in an email at the beginning of the year. We exchanged a few words, I sent him some decals, and as some things happen to work out, he was able to make the drive down from Saitama to attend our FRSxNDF meeting last month. Never one to pass on opportunity, we scheduled a photo shoot at Fuji shortly after. I was already impressed with the presence of this build online, but it was nothing compared to what the car looks like in person.
Finding originality among the masses these days seems almost like a lost cause; difficult to say the least. It seems we’ve fallen into an echo-chamber, driven by internet popularity, that promotes the trendy favorable over imagination. Very few choose to forge their own path of innovation and ingenuity, and it’s left us with more ‘inspired by’ designs than one should have to endure. This sheep-like quality is absent in Mr. Jun Tanaka, however, and the S15 that he’s created is unlike any other.
There’s nothing quite like seeing a chassis pushed to it’s very limit. Regardless of make, model and drive-train, watching a car get transformed into a full fledged circuit machine is one of my favorite pleasures in this medium. It’s not something that happens often, and a lot of times (based on a plethora of factors) people end up settling; believe me when I tell you, I know all too well. So when a shop takes the gloves off on a build, it’s something I get excited about. In the case of this RX-8, K2 Racing takes Mazda’s last rendition of the Renesis to it’s peak, and maybe just a little bit further.
The amount of influence that Amemiya-san has in the field of tuning Mazdas, specifically the RX-7, is arguably untouchable. The popularity of his designs and the overall originality of his creations are known not just throughout Japan, but the entire world. Walking through the showroom of Isami’s flagship shop in Tomisato, Chiba, you’re given proof of how much weight the name carries. Trophies from race events, car shows, and manufactuer recognition are plastered from one wall to the other. Momentos of achievement past and present line the glass cases along the walls of the showroom, surrounding the beautiful blue, Super GReddy clad demo car sitting front and center.
This year, the collective minds behind Final Bout set out to unite a country over the sport of drifting; instilling in the nation a certain set of qualities they feel are necessary for the sport to thrive with it’s Japanese roots intact. Each carefully selected location of the Special Stage events provided their own unique characteristics in both venue and demographics that helped define what drifting is in each corner of the nation. Uncovering, and highlighting these places allowed others to experience different parts of the country, both first and second hand, that we wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to. I think this alone is reason enough to undertake a project as massive as Final Bout has been in 2016. This time the crew headed to Canaan Motor Club in central New Hampshire to host the third, and final stage of the trio of special events.
Thursday morning Kayla and I set off to Tokyo via the Tokaido line out of Yokohama Station. I really dislike going into the city with a car, especially to Tokyo. I mean, I’m not the biggest fan of Tokyo in general, and it’s just further compounded when I’m driving there; it’s not so much the driving, but the parking really. We were walking around Meiji Shrine when I got a message from Kubo at Garage Work. He was asking if I wanted to stop by the shop that afternoon. I was literally in Chiba the day before visiting Masao at Technical Motor, and from a fiscal standpoint wasn’t quite in the mood to be going back again, but honestly, I could never pass down a visit to the one shop that influences me in a way no others do.
As the rain faded away, and the afternoon sun burned off the remaining clouds over the Speedway, some people hit the road to head back towards Tokyo. The little award ceremony we had towards the end went well. I’ve never really had to judge, or rank cars before (although we all do it silently), but despite the choices being difficult it was still pretty fun. Everyone was pretty stoked, and it was a good way to wrap up the meeting. Before everyone had left, we were able to gather some of the main FRS members and take some photos closer to the track. Hope you liked the coverage, and I look forward to holding a couple more of these in the next couple months. Enjoy the photos ~
About halfway through our meeting, while I was across the lot taking some individual photos, I had heard an incredibly loud, distinct sound coming from off in the distance. As it grew closer, I got up and turned around to see a white S15 absolutely screaming down Fuji’s access road. I instantly knew it was a naturally aspirated SR because, well, there is really only one sound like that; it’s that perfect combination of awesome and obnoxious.
I’m finally back home, and had a chance this evening after work to edit another group of photos from our gathering at Fuji Speedway. You can check out the first post here if you missed it. Basically we wanted to try to create a more intimate approach to car meets; less hype, and more conversation. I think it turned out rather well and am already looking to organize another one when I return to Japan in the coming month. Like I mentioned in the previous post, getting the opportunity to chat about each build was pretty neat, and I walked away learning more than I’ve had in the past with hundreds of cars on the table. This way it gave the opportunity to for everyone to play the host role, and made for an overall more fulfilling time.
It’s interesting to see how an individuals ambitions, and desires transform over time. As we experience more and more of life, and slowly grow to accept who we are, it’s not uncommon for our thought process to undergo a change that not necessarily limits our goals, but makes them more specific. It’s something I’ve been experiencing myself for the past year or so, and there’s a subtle satisfaction from it. I’ve seen a lot of those new attributes show themselves on this very site; for me it’s predominantly been an increase in the value of time. I suppose it’s common knowledge that the more time you spend getting to know someone, the more notable that time is. I’m pulled in a lot of directions when I’m in Japan, and believe it or not, it’s taken awhile for that simple concept to soak in.
This past week a couple good friends from Japan came to Los Angeles to visit; two of them for the first time ever. Among them was my dear friend Takashi Sekinei, someone who’s helped me countless times during my time in Japan. We were all pretty excited to finally introduce them to everyone here in Southern California, especially since most of the guys from the shop have talked to Sekinei one way or another online. Jay and I put together a little pot luck at our shop and invited a couple people over for a low-key Sunday evening. After cooking I snapped a couple pictures I thought I’d share.
Despite keeping myself busy with work and travel throughout this Summer, there’s part of me that can’t help but feel like these middle of the year months have just dragged by. In the website’s perspective, time may as well have stopped altogether. I suppose if there’s one downside to running a niche website, it’s that for a good portion of the year not much is going on. Typically I’m able to head out to Japan for a few weeks in between Attack seasons, but this year, much like the last, has been way too busy.