Tajima Hirotsugu embodies the traditional spirit of a motoring enthusiast. With his first venture to the circuit taking place back in the late 1990’s, he’s been driving in time attack for the better part of 20 years.
Takanori Seyama has never been one to turn away from a challenge; choosing to define himself by his hard work and willingness to sail through uncharted waters on his own. His hard work has proven itself in the fabrication of his GTR32, which has crowned itself among the fastest Skyline’s in Japan.
As per the norm, Tsukuba Circuit was rented out by various hosts the day before the main event of Attack Tsukuba, allowing for the Attack competitors a chance to test and tune car settings. In this case, Sato-san from Unlimited Works hosted the first half of the day, and Takeo Fukazumi from Zummy Racing Family took on the afternoon.
Every once in awhile a car comes around that emanates a youthful disposition throughout the paddock. A somewhat adolescent, not yet fully refined look alludes to the driver being in more of an exploratory phase of driving; a stark contrast to those that have been driving for decades.
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.
Around the backside of Tsukuba on the ‘B’ Paddock area, I had the opportunity to photograph Shoichiro’s GTR32 for Volume 2 of 80R. Shoichiro is a great guy whose car is as expressives as his actions. Despite the fact that he runs a TC2000 lap in the mid-54 second range, him and his car were a must to feature in Volume 2 of 80R. Click past the break for a preview of his Skyline build.
Masao has been hard at work over the past few months putting his skills to the test on his son’s project car. The design that Tani had in mind for this GTR33 would take on a more subtle approach to body tuning than the work that Masao is typically used to being commissioned for. A look that would pull focus to the cars original body lines while still retaining a very street-able appearance. Reserved as a car to occasionally enjoy weekend drives and a general feel of car-life, the Skyline was purchased without the circuit in mind. A purpose that is reflected in the final outcome of the build.
Having always been a very task-oriented person, I often times find myself gravitating more towards the desire of completing a project or event as opposed to the act of simply participating in it. It wasn’t until the past few years in my life that I was taught to be mindful of the present, or, ‘enjoy the ride’ so they say. While the wording of that saying may come off as childish and a bit pedestrian, there is merit to being able to live in the moment. I’ve learned that checking in with yourself existentially every once in awhile can be beneficial.
It takes a dedicated enthusiast to consider time attack a spectator sport; and trust me, I don’t say that lightly. I’ve spent almost a good portion of my life promoting the sport, the last thing I want to do is discredit my own work. That’s not my sole opinion though, it is simply a statement that is rooted in factuality. Unlike other mediums in motor sport, time attack is more of an intrinsic, individual type of racing when compared to wheel to wheel events. It’s something you’d rather be doing than watching. At the top levels, the tracks are somewhat deserted in order to give the driver a clear shot in getting the fastest lap possible – having no traffic is essential.
Friday morning a few other track hosts held open events for those entrants that wanted to do some testing the day before the Attack event on Saturday. Many of the top tier teams took advantage of the time, as did the overseas competitors. Since this day was a little more relaxed, I took some video around the paddock and pit.
In my attempt to promote the next Volume of 80R, I’ve been doing my best to collect video from each dedicated photoshoot. Unlike it’s precursor, Volume 2 will contain media that has not been published anywhere else. The innagural issue was a great starting point, but if I have an opportunity to improve upon it, I am going to take it. So, if I’m unable to immediatly share with you some of the content, I can at least provide an alternative; video was a great solution.
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.
As time goes by, it becomes more and more infrequent that we see a large amount of second generation RX-7s out and about at the circuit. No doubt the popularity of the FC chassis plays a large part in why we still see them at all, but for a car whose newest model would now be a good 27 years old, it is getting more and more rare to spot them at events. Despite their age, however, there remains a large aftermarket support for FC3S, as the style and engine seem to transcend time itself in an attempt to stay relevant in motor sports.
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.
The Speed and Sound Trophy is, all things considered, a newer event held annually at Tsukuba Circuit. Hosted by a handful of well-known media publications that include names like Option, REVSPEED, Autosport, G-Works, and Motor Head, it attempts to bring together all facets of motor sport for enthusiasts of any kind to enjoy equally. The end result is an event that keeps the track busy with time attack competitions, demonstration runs from old and current race cars, guest driver personalities, GT cars, drift exhibitions, and car shows. Of course, what we’re interested in is the Option hosted Superlap competition.
Tsukuba Circuit has always been considered the “Holy Land of Time Attack”.
Drivers flock to the track to prove their skills in a number of famous events, including Option Superlap, RevSpeed and more recently the Attack Championship series. As many tuning cars continue to take on TC2000 it’s not uncommon for times to change very quickly. Below is a up-to-date ranking of the top 50 drivers and their corresponding times at TC2000.
This project has been a long time in the making. If you consider the years of traveling to and from events, the relationships formed over time, the days spent photographing and editing; to think that it was put together over the past 3 or 4 months seems fast in comparison. On behalf of everyone involved in our new venture into print, I am proud and excited to announce the availability of 80R Volume 1: The Story of Japan’s Fastest Time Attack Drivers.
As we draw closer to October, the rush to complete off-season upgrades and get cars into containers bound for Sydney becomes more and more prominent around the globe. The buzz around the community regarding rumors and what each driver has done to gain time grows as the event nears. The growing popularity of World Time Attack Challenge is bringing time attack into the international spotlight and creating yet another outlet for this great motor sport. In Japan, the popularity peaks with the support of the hometown hero, Under Suzuki.
From the time I began to take an interest in Japanese Time Attack, I’ve had the chance to see Takanori Seyama’s R32 evolve year after year, slowly transforming into one of the countries fastest GTR’s. With that one fact being known, you’d think that the car would be a household name for fans of the sport. However, Takanori keeps such a low profile that the exposure of his build doesn’t quite hit the reach that others do. It’s a testament to his humble character that, despite knocking on the door of 53’s, he’s a frontrunner that tends to stay in the shadows.
Among the top N/A competitors in the Japanese time attack scene, exist a niche group of AE86 drivers. Serving as the FR rival of the Honda Civic’s in the paddock, the competition provided by the Toyota pack always manages to provide a subset of antagonism at any given event. Sato Shinetsu and his CBY equipped Trueno did just that at this year’s 10th anniversary Attack Championship at Tsukuba.