Monday, August 15, 2022

Speed Obsession: Attack Hits Tsukuba

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The evolution of speed at time attack events is something that we’ve probably started to take for granted. When we head to Sydney Motorsport Park for the World Time Attack Challenge and Tsukuba Circuit for a round of the Attack series, we expect to see continuous improvements and therefore quicker lap times from cars that have come up through the ranks. But what I ended up realizing this past weekend, is that it’s sometimes important to reflect on just how crazy-fast some of these cars are regardless of whether they’re setting a new PB or not.

I hit me as I pointed my camera at Fire Ando’s Escort Evo, while he shot for a 49-second lap around Tsukuba. I paused and tried to quantify what a sub-50-second lap at Tsukuba means for cars that aren’t born out of a proper race program. Ando didn’t achieve his goal at this event, but he got ever so close with a 50.342-second lap. That’s within whispering distance of his 50.233-second best, and in itself an amazing feat.

It made me think about the Attack event – and time attack in general – in a different way.


Rather than always expecting the teams at the top of the sport to shave away milliseconds every time they are out, we should appreciate the levels that they have all pushed to.


More than three quarters of the cars at competing at Attack over the weekend were lapping the 2.0km Tsukuba course in under a minute, with a good portion going substantially faster with times in the mid to lower 50-second range. It’s so impressive.


Also impressive is the sheer variety of cars competing at Attack.


Not to mention the surprises, like the newly-built Kazama Auto VR-powered Lexus RC F, the sister car to Andy Gray’s 2JZ-powered machine.


The drift-spec Lexus wasn’t at Attack to set a lap time, but for a shakedown session. Before suspension testing begins, the team are fine-tuning the ECU settings to ensure the dry-sump-equipped VR38DETT up front is running optimally.


This car will compete in the Formula D Japan championship this year, and Kazama-san has hired Ken Gushi to do the driving, so it’ll surely be one to watch.


Walking down Tsukuba’s pit lane and through the paddock is by far my favorite thing to do at these events. It’s always interesting to see the changes made to familiar cars, and to check out the new ones.


The Escort team have pushed their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution to a never-before-seen level. It is, for all intents and purposes, now a sub-50-second car. Ando-san just needs to the stars to align, because extracting every last nth of performance out of the package goes beyond its mechanical ability and his driving skill; the track and atmospheric conditions play a huge part, and these are variables that can’t be controlled.

At this time of the year it’s usually a few degrees cooler than it was on Saturday, and as February ticks on the window of opportunity is fast closing. If Ando-san and his team do manage to get out again, I really hope they’re rewarded with that 49-second lap; they so deserve it.


I always enjoy the import car side of Attack and seeing how Japanese engineering is applied to the different platforms. The Assist BMW M4 looks fantastic on a set of bronze RAYS Volk Racing TE37s, but it also managed a 58.356-second lap, which shows what can be achieved with a street-tuned M-car these days.


Taniguchi and the Garage G-Force team were out with the GR Yaris we saw at Tokyo Auto Salon last month.


The Varis wide-body conversion allows for wide rubber under the fenders, and it’s hard to miss the aero, most notably the giant front splitter and a spoiler and diffuser combo at the rear. Taniguchi lapped Tsukuba in a best of 58.287, which is a pretty good start point for this new build.


It was also really nice to see Trust out at this event with their new GR86 demo car.


Like other tuners, including Auto Garage K2, this platform is seeing  another wave of attention as the face-lifted Hachiroku now runs a 2.4L engine, requiring a whole new development program.


Both new-gen 86s were hovering around the 1:01 mark, which shows that you don’t need to go crazy in order to achieve a very respectable lap time.


The Larck Impreza wagon is living proof of how addictive time attack can be. I remember when this was just a lightly-tuned track car, but look at it now. It’s so imposing with that snow-plough front diffuser and enormous roof wing.


Under the hood, the engine setup is well up to the task of supporting the massive amount of downforce being generated. The Subaru managed a best of 55.071, which is nothing short of ballistic. That made it the 6th fastest car on the day.


It was also awesome to see – and hear – the Y’s Produce FD3S RX-7 again. This is another car that’s come up through the ranks, and it’s always stood out to me for its build quality.


And that’s definitely true of the engine – a custom N/A 4-rotor built by Koseki-san at Scoot. Yuki, the owner and driver, managed a best lap time of 56.872 – an amazing result that justifies all the work he’s put into this project.


Also running in the NA-Class is the wild YF-RKEW Civic. The Honda hatchback threw down a 56.219-second lap, showing exactly what a well set up FF car can achieve when it all comes together on the day.


Right behind Fire Ando and the Escort Evo was the REMS-Barramundi Onevia, which reminds me so much of the MCA Hammerhead in Australia. This S-chassis is a pleasure to watch on track; the speed it manages to carry into the turns defies physics, and at Attack the driver managed to better his personal best with a 54.124-second lap.

While I don’t want to downplay how impressive this lap time is, at the same time it blows my mind that between the Escort Evo and the next fastest car is an almost four-second abyss.


As the pit lane packed out for the first session of the day, I headed off to the paddock.


With 125 cars entered, this is easily one of Tsukuba’s biggest events.


That’s why it’s very much a game of spotting the familiar cars, and then taking note of all the new ones.


One very familiar car is the Admix R32 Skyline GT-R, which was built in collaboration with Voltex. We’ve seen this car competing since the Battle Evome days, but it was far more tame-looking back then.


Now it’s one of the fastest cars on the circuit with a 53.915-second best. Because of the warmer-than-usual temperature, the GT-R’s owner/driver was only able to achieve a 54.279, the 4th best time of the day. Still, that’s absolutely hauling.


After chatting to the owner of the M’s Cayman GT3 at TAS last month, I was curious to see how the car was going to perform with some new upgrades, including Bosch Motorsport ABS. The team’s best lap of the day was a 55.509, which was quick enough for 7th overall, and fastest import outright.


I’ll close out this first post from Attack Tsukuba 2022 with a rear shot of a new build that grabbed my attention as soon as I saw it. I’ll be back with more from the event soon, including a closer look at this badass 911.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare
[email protected]

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