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.
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.
Continuing into the new year with our 80R Archive series, I’d like to introduce the Wacky Mate built GTR32, driven by none other than Kato Masayoshi himself. Currently the second fastest R32 at Tsukuba, and what I believe is still the fastest R32 at Suzuka Circuit.
There aren’t many NSX as iconic as Epsrit’s 900 horsepower demo car. A longitudinally mounted C30, with twin turbos, a custom aero package, piloted by one of Japan’s most iconic racing drivers; it’s a recipe that’s hard to beat. That’s why we had planned on featuring it front and center in Volume 3 of 80R.
It’s always exciting to see new builds get unveiled each year. It shows progression of the sport; both in the growth of drivers and the need to increase the performance of their cars. In the case of Kengo ‘Lock’ Suzuki, it was an interesting combination of both that led to what you see here.
I ran into Mitsuyoshi at Suzuka Circuit late January during the Attack event after not having seen him or his car for some time. Having a background in drifting has given him a strong grasp of car control, and now with a car that’s becoming finely tuned, his lap times have been getting very quick.
The end of January saw my return to Suzuka Circuit after a 3 year absence from the international racing course. After 2017, the timing of events in Suzuka were just always out of reach for my current schedule; needless to say, I was excited for my return in 2020.
The day before the Attack event at Suzuka took place, the circuit held an open test day that many of the main participants took advantage of. I happened to time my arrival to the course with just enough time left in the day to grab a few shots before heading to the track hotel.
It’s been a busy couple weeks for me between work, traveling (Google tells me I’ve been to 3 countries, 19 cities and 53 places in January alone), and preparing for next week’s pre-order shipments (yay!). It hasn’t left me with much time to process photos from the first Attack event of the year at Suzuka Circuit.
Take a walk through the paddock of Suzuka Circuit the day before, and the day of Attack Suzuka last weekend. There was an intimate amount of cars for this half day event, which ensured the heavy hitters had plenty of track time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.