When I departed on my return trip to Japan this Summer, I did so with the goal of reconnecting with friends and colleagues after the two years of travel restrictions. For 5 straight weeks I travelled around the country by car, train, and plane, all with the simple objective of ‘catching up’.
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.
With the recent release of the Dogfight SPL ZETA IV, we are excited to officially announce our first collaboration with Bride Japan. Our unique design is the end result of an 8 month project with the Japanese seat manufacturer.
I’ve always appreciated the varying degree of tuning style in Kyushu prefecture; specifically the cars that frequent Autopolis International Circuit. From fully dedicated track cars, to light tune approaches, there is something about the cars that standout that’s not quite describable.
One of the reasons I enjoy visiting Hayashi at his shop, Auto House Solid, anytime I’m in Gunma is that there is always a large variety of tuning cars on hand. Hayashi services a wide range of customers so there is guaranteed to be something interesting in the shop.
At the beginning of my road trip to Mie Prefecture, I decided to make a detour down to the Izu Peninsula to visit my good friend Ando. Ando operates Auto Rescue Izu, a wrecker/tow service in Shizuoka. Over the past 2 years he had built a new shop to house and work on his personal cars.
Last week I made my way down to the Kansai Region of Japan for a few photoshoots I had lined up. Our first stop was at Esprit where I met our friend Sugikou-san. I wanted to photograph his Supra again for 80R because a lot of time has passed since our original shoot at Suzuka Circuit.
Last week we held a small get together at Autopolis International Racing Circuit in the Oita Prefecture of Kyushu. I had 3 photoshoots for 80R scheduled for this particular weekend trip down south, however a few could not make it last minute.
I met Masato during my recent trip to Garage Mak. He and our friend Tsubaki both attended the same engineering school, and naturally became friends over their first year of college. While I was in Nagano, I had the chance to get a closer look at his S13.
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.
Based in Japan’s unrivaled hub of neo-anime culture and unwavering creativity, Sector One turns out some of the worlds most detailed Itasha designs. After 2 months of having their flagship location in Akihabara, I was invited to come take a look at their new demo car; the former RE-Amemiya built LW-7 FD3S.
Late in the month of May, Summer has started to show its true colors in Japan. With temperatures already pushing well into the 30’s, it’s time we say farewell to the cold mornings at the circuit, and face the cold reality that we won’t be racing anytime soon.
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.
This season of time attack has been quite exciting. With events being held multiple times a week leading up to the Attack Championship at Tsukuba, we’ve seen many records being broken, incredible progress on builds across the paddock, new rivalries forming, as well as a handful of new entrants stepping into the ring. The anticipation in the days leading into Attack Tsukuba were as high as ever.
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.
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.
It is very difficult to build a car that is spec’d to maximize performance at a wide variety of circuits. Especially in Japan, where the variety of race tracks can be very contrasting. What works at Tsukuba, would most likely underperform at Suzuka, and so on. When Tamura-san made the decision to start modifying his GDB Impreza, he wanted to ensure that the modifications he made had the greatest impact on his times.
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.
Kiyotaka Eishima had two requirements for the car he would choose to campaign in time attack; it had to be fast, and it had to look cool. So, after purchasing the FD in 2006, every decision he’s made has come back to those two obligations – and it is clear that he has never strayed from that path.
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.
We last updated the Koyorad x NDF ISF project in late January after some testing at Chuckwalla Raceway. In the past 2 months, the car has undergone some pretty drastic, albeit, unseen modifications in our quest to tweak the ISF into the car it should have been from the factory.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the Attack Tsukuba Championship this year, personally, because of COVID travel restrictions. Lucky for us though, we can join my brother Sekinei as he wanders around the paddock checking out some of the cars competing at the event.
This past Friday, the team headed out to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway to drive the Club Racer open test day that took place over the whole of the weekend. Two days of open track was great for dialing in the ISF and I was able to collect more baseline data before the next round of modifications.
In the realm of time attack racing in Japan, when one mentions the Silvia S15, our mind wanders automatically to Under Suzuki and his quest for a sub 50 lap time at Tsukuba. However, with the growing determination of Toru Inose’s campaign, that mindset has slowly been shifting.
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.
The new season of Attack kicked off on the weekend of October 25th with the always anticipated Attack Tohoku event at Sportsland Sugo; a track that, with it’s lush forested backdrop, and unique layout, has quickly become among my favorites in Japan.
When the Good Luck Festival driver lineup was announced towards the middle of last October, I was quite surprised to see the Kurumadoh S2000 on the list. Not that this car is a stranger to the circuit, but that Sportsland Sugo is very far from the shops home base in Oshu City.
Back in June, after several months of owning the car, I introduced the new ISF project and sort of explained the direction I’d be taking the car. After a short Summer hiatus, I’ve accumulated a little more data, or what I’d think is at least is enough, to post an update.
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.
With the down time I’ve had due to an inability to travel, I began organizing my media storage several months ago in an attempt to be proactive in how I store all of the assets I’ve accumulated over the years. What I thought was going to be a simple sorting exercise, turned into an idea to publish a photo book showcasing my time spent around race tracks in Japan.
Despite it’s pivotal role in guiding Lexus towards an evolutionary trajectory of car design, the ISF was a project that was often forsaken in favor of it’s European competitors. However, with over a decade since its initial release, many enthusiasts are finally realizing just how special this car really is.
Since we last spoke in person back in February, Sato has been keeping me filled in on the progress of his FD build over the past few months. Determined to have the car ready for Attack next season, the progression has been rapid to say the least.