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.
Long before this website existed, when I had first started getting into time attack in the mid-2000’s, there was a name I came across often, usually in association with some of the fastest builds of the time. Whether those cars had these parts equipped, or had work done or engines tuned there, Garage Kagotani was a staple amongst the paddock.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the most seemingly small modifications we can do to cars, often have the largest impacts; especially when you’re talking about visuals. The exterior of cars that we build have a direct reflection of our personalities, and are one of the main ways we express ourselves through cars.
It’s always enjoyable when we get to see a variety of car makes at race events across Japan. And while it’s true that domestic built cars dominate the circuits of the island, every once in awhile we’re treated with some love from Europe. Among them, it could be argued that none are more iconic than the cars from RWB.
The energy that the time attack community in Japan has for this motor sport is unmatched by any other country, and I can say this with the utmost confidence. It’s a source of propulsion for the entire attack community and something that I feel has a positive impact not just in Japan, but throughout the world.
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.
It’s been quite some time now since Hara-san of Car Shop Glow has been behind the wheel of his own car, but it looks like the years of not competing have finally begun to take their toll.
A prominent influence in the Mitsubishi tuning domain, Garage G-Force has spent the last decade fighting to solidify a name for themselves as the number-one Evolution tuning company in Japan. That fight, however, hasn’t been easy.
The title sponsor of this year’s Attack Tsukuba event was Goodride Tires; a company that has it’s hand in a variety of motor sports, but up until recently was most known for it’s involvement in drifting.
The past 2019 season of Attack marked Kunihiko Bando’s achievement of his long sought 53 second lap around TC2000 (53.680). This, in and of itself is a remarkable achievement, however it also comes along with the promise of more.
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.
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.
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.