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.
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.
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.
Easily the most recognizable Silvia in the paddock, the Friends Racing S15 has had quite the journey from it’s roots as a competitive D1 car. The unique build is unlike any other in the field; in both looks and performance. With a best time of 53’821 around the proving grounds of TC2000, Toru Inose is without a doubt among the frontrunners of time attack in Japan. A couple years ago we caught Toru and the team at Tsukuba setting that personal best – but with a new goal in mind, the team has since gone back to the drawing board.
It seems to be about every 2 years or so I have the opportunity to check in with Masaki-san. A staple of the Attack community, Masaki’s FD has served as his test bed and company demo car for nearly a decade, and continues to evolve year after year. I remember seeing it for the first time back in 2012 at Tsukuba during Advan’s ‘Fastest Amateur Tournament’. Back then the car had a full FEED Afflux kit and was comparatively very mild looking. Oh how far we’ve come…
I’d wager that ASLAN, the Osaka based Honda outfit, is one of the leading shops in the development of K-series Honda swaps in Japan. Following in the footsteps of America, it didn’t take long for them to capitalize on the benefits of the next generation motor. Having no adherence to a traditional form of tuning like some shops abide by, Tani-san’s approach to building cars becomes very unique to say the least; giving each a very specific, what I can only surmise as an ‘Osaka flavor’ to them.
It’s been some time since the paddocks of Japan’s most credible race tracks have been graced with the presence of Ejima Kiyotaka and his TFR built FD3S. This year, changed all that, as the Attack Tsukuba Championship played host to his return, and the unveiling of his newly rebuilt FD. I wouldn’t say that Kiyotaka ever cut corners with this car, and it’s performance to date backs that up. Low 56 second lap times are no joke at Tsukuba; but he wanted more from the car. To achieve the performance he demanded, he would need to take a step back from competing.
The uniqueness of time attack as a motor sport comes in the form of precise continuity. If the slightest error is made anywhere on the track, the moment of contention is lost. Many times there exists only one chance, where conditions are aligned, that the drivers who live on the limit are able to achieve record laps. There is a feeling of tension, exclusive to the sport that makes it so appealing to it’s participants and fans. Man and machine working together harmoniously, becoming one, in an unforgiving waltz that carries them to the peak of their abilities.
There are so many cool builds in the paddock of any given Attack event in Japan, that I often fail to acknowledge just how in-depth some of the builds are. As the sport progresses, and the participants seek to go faster and faster, their machines eventually begin to become a reflection of their drive. Putting budget aside, I’d have to say that the ASM Yokohama S2000 is one of the premiere examples of this idea. This particular build, which ASM has been developing for over a decade, all but reached the peak of it’s very active life in the last weekend of February.
Located in central Kasai, in the heart of the Hyogo Prefecutre, surrounded by farmland lies the small tuning shop, &G Corporation. Specializing in aftermarket tuning of Toyota and Nissan applications, it’s only fit that the car that flies the shop’s flag is this very unique MR2. The owner and driver, Nakajima-san, has commissioned the car in open events for a very long time now, but for the past few years, the car has been developed rather dramatically.
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.