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.
There is a good chance that if you’re browsing this website, you’re familiar with Aoki-san of Ready GO Next. Not only does he have a successful shop catering to RX7 tuning, but he is among the masterminds associated with the creation of Attack; Japan’s most renowned time attack event.
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.
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.
Attack Tsukuba marked the return of Oya G, ‘The Prince’, back to the circuit in his newly rebuilt EVO 5. Backed by Koyo KBC, the car is back better than ever with a brand new engine to power it around the track.
Attack Tsukuba is one of the most anticipated time attack events of the year in Japan. NDF was on hand to to provide a walk through of the paddock area, an overview of drivers and cars, as well as on track action during super lap at the famed TC2000 course at Tsukuba.
The day before the Attack Tsukuba Championship event at TC2000 (February 21, 2020), the organizer Zummy holds an event that allows competitors the ability to practice and get their cars set up properly for Attack. A lot of times the event is just as exciting as Attack and this year was no exception.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently read a somewhat contradictory article published on a popular website that surmised that there were no longer interesting cars in Japanese time attack, and how there has been a split in interest as nobody wants to build record setting cars any longer. The article goes on by saying that while there are still plenty of mid-50 second cars at Tsukuba (ahem, breaking records), this lack of general interest in being the fastest is allowing companies to take advantage of a new market that caters to the hobbyist. Of course this is an opinionated perception, albeit factually incorrect, and naturally everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it takes just a few minutes to see the holes in this side of the argument.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen Suwa on track. In fact, the last time I saw him wasn’t at the circuit at all; it was at Umihotaru of all places. When we held our last Winter Cafe back in 2014, he stopped by to say hello. For the past 3 years he’s been laying low, driving in choice attack and one make races, enjoying life and little by little improving his AE86. You can read a little bit more about here, but it seems like quite a bit has changed in the past couple years. If I get the time, I’d like to reach out again to see how everything’s been going.
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.
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.
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.
Once every year, on July 7th, tuners and enthusiasts from around the country celebrate Mazda’s shining triumph of engineering. The RX-7, to many, is so much more than a car; it’s an engineering marvel. The unique rotary motor a triangular pariah in a sea of ordinary, piston driven combustion. The chassis of the FD so perfectly geared towards time attack, has become a symbol of the sport in Japan. On this date, thousands will come together in honor of this car worldwide, with the epicenter being Tsukuba Circuit.
Really nice S14 that was lapping around TC2000. The interior was very clean and had a very well constructed roll cage with gusseted B-pillars. The owner was lapping in the low 1’01.xx range throughout the morning.
In the furthest Southeastern part of the Saitama prefecture lies the small commuter town of Misato City. The suburb that serves as home to many employees of Tokyo, also serves as the headquarters for CCE; a fairly new, by some standards, tuning shop that offers a one-stop option for a variety of cars. The president, Yoshihiro Nakamura, chose this FD3S to serve as the companies flagship build. It’s gone through minor changes each year for the past several years, but I think that it’s current state is one that strikes a good balance between street and track; a goal that many enthusiasts in Japan strive for.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had a couple more shots Sekinei sent over from the Attack event last month that I processed real quick; thought I’d just clump them together in a bonus gallery to start your week off on the right foot. Probably should have just included them in one of the two posts, but I think I may have gotten side tracked haha. Don’t want them to go to waste, so click past the break to see the gallery.
We pick up at Tsukuba right as the green flag for the first session drops. I’ve always thought the anticipation of a Time Attack event is second only to the time the cars take to the track. The consuming sound of the high reeving engines, late breaking into corners, the snapping of the cars as they oversteer out of the turns; it’s almost too much excitement to handle. Let’s head track-side for the second round of Monday’s coverage; click the break to see the action.
Sekinei caught this Porsche 987 in the paddock waiting for the rain to cease. The 997 GT3 front end, and plethora of aero parts give this Cayman a wildly unique look.
Attack season in Japan officially kicked off with the first Attack Fever event being held at Tsukuba’s infamous TC2000. The event drew a good amount of participants, no doubt eager to start racing once again. While the weather ended up taking a turn for the worse halfway through the morning, there was still enough time for a handful of ideal laps to be thrown down.
Shaft Auto Service, a small outfit in Hachioji that specializes in four door Skylines. Foremost a car dealership that holds inventory in a wide variety of Skylines, the owner, Shibuya Taro, offers many ancillary services ranging in everything from fiberglass work, to engine tuning. Usually a company that stays off the grid, you’d easily recognize their work with the D1 Blitz R34 that Nomuken drives; as Taro-san has a very good relationship with Blitz. This year they decided to try their hand with a certain take on Time Attack; in steps the Shaft ER34.
I’d say that, after three years of attending Evome, the one thing I really get excited for is seeing everyone again, as well as meeting new friends. The privateer ‘Attack’ season in Japan is such a short lived experience each year that my time with the drivers is fairly brief. This is somewhat of a Catch 22 because while it does make each encounter much more special, I end up having to divide my time between talking to people and photographing the hour long event; and with just 3-4 Evome events a year, my time becomes very limited (especially not living in Japan).
sakakibara-san’s creation has pulled mid 55 second lap times around TC2000 – arguably one of the fastest privateer cars on track.
I know I’ve posted a couple shots of this car in the past (in a bit more comprehensive write up), but I was combing through some Evome coverage from the beginning of the year and came across a ton of material I never posted. Among them were shots of the AutoBahn Soarer that, unfortunately, didn’t make it around the track much this event.
As I sit in front of my gate at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, with the hopes (although very little) of catching an earlier flight back to California, my mind can’t help but wander back towards days that I enjoy more than those of which I spend inside the depths of US airports; which I relate now more or less to that of a colony of bees. Filled to the brim with people going about their every which way, connecting to cities across the expanse of the Earth, each with a unique task to complete (varying in importance). The days on my mind? Those of which are spent in Japan, at the circuits which I’ve grown all too comfortable being at…
59.051 seconds is what it took Iida-san to pilot his Elite Racing Company built FD around the 14 turns of Tsukuba’s TC2000. It’s no surprise though, knowing ERC’s knowledge of rotary tuning, that Iida had the capability of achieving such a time. The Saitama based shop, run by Ohya Masaatsu is not only one of the leading shops in rotary tuning, but they can also boast for having literally the most amount of random links on their website that I have ever seen. Click past the break for more shots.