I’ve been waiting for what seems like my entire life to get to where time attack began. As like most car enthusiasts of my vintage, we know this circuit and it’s cars extremely well. We've raced this track too; via countless laps on racing platforms such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. I know where the stands are, the exciting corners and where I must see the action from, through watching thousands of hours of Tsukuba Best Motoring and similar videos. What I hadn’t experienced though, is getting my real feet on the real ground of this really sacred place.
This trip to Japan was fairly last minute. With no real idea of what we were getting ourselves into, Damian and I booked our flights a week before and a week after Attack, giving us plenty of time to explore and travel Japan’s many cities, restaurants and tuning workshops.
Thankfully, on the ground, I had a contact by the name of Mitsuhara Motojima of Admix Racing. Through stumbling upon each other on Facebook a couple of years ago, we’ve kept in touch, with the automotive realm, a common interest in GT-Rs and time attack racing bringing us close together, thousands of miles apart.
As a kind gesture, Mitsuhara offered us the use of his Nissan Cube and transport to and from our accommodation on both the race and test days. Which, considering he was running an entire team and four cars, was an incredibly kind gesture. Something I soon would learn the Japanese are incredibly well known for.
After exploring Tokyo for a few days, it was time to make our way to a city named Kawagoe. At Mitsuhara’s recommendation, Kawagoe had a lot more accommodation than anywhere closer to Tsukuba Raceway and is close to his workshop, Admix Racing Service in Saitama. “I’ll pick you up at 4am,” he told us, through the phone.
After an incredibly early-morning collection and meeting, Mitsuhara took us to one of his workshops where a couple of trucks were waiting with GT-Rs on their trays. After swift instruction that I was to take the wheel of the Nissan Cube and follow him in the truck, we made our way to Tsukuba Raceway, sandwiched between two R32 GT-Rs bound for testing.
At this point, the excitement was building. We were now approaching our dream circuit, through the local township. As we neared closer, motorsport-orientated billboards started appearing. This was it!
We parked our Nissan Cube in our allocated parking, then stepped out of the vehicle amidst Tsukuba's infield. Words cannot describe the feelings that moment, as we took a breath of fresh Tsukuba air. It’s incredible. It is everything I had hoped it to be. Alright, let's grab the cameras!
It was snatch and grab time. A technique I named where I run around like a mad man, capturing as much as possible surrounding me in a 30-minute window as the excitement is still within me — as I’m taking it all in for the first time. Straight away, I started noticing cars I have seen online, buildings I have seen on videos and people I had become friends with on Facebook. A dream come true!
Mitsuhara had organised us media vests for the Attack event day, but not the test day. Which for us, was completely fine, as we were mainly focussed on capturing the Japanese flare these cars are known for internationally. “Seyamax!” Mitsuhara yelled, motioning to a truck entering the infield, carrying my all-time favourite time attack machine. Yeah, Mitsuhara knows I’m a major fanboy…
After letting Takanori Seyama unload the GT-R from his truck, I made my way over to take a closer look at his machine. Initial thoughts were that it was black – something I have believed for a long time – but rather, once I threaded on my lenses CPL, I found out it’s rather a matte purple — very tricky!
Clad in brand new Voltex body armour, the sheer presence of this car in person is one of a kind. Its width, length and detail had me drooling.
Takanori Seyama checked over the GT-R while talking to numerous folk that came over to chat with him. The transport coilovers were removed and the circuit coilovers installed. Not an easy task getting something this low and wide to the circuit. I’ll have a dedicated spotlight on this car soon, so don’t worry about the lack of photos.
After drooling over the GT-R for a solid 30-minutes or so, we made our way around the circuit to get familiar with things and make a plan for competition day. On top of the pits, around some of the grandstands and mapping out where the ever so important vending machines are.
Now, it was time to spot some of those famous foreigners, Adam Casmiri and William Ae-Yeung. Many speculated about the times that these boys would lay down on Tsukuba soil. Many even thought there would be a serious rivalry between the pair. The only thing serious between these two is there sense of humor and determination to perform at their peak.
William, who we were excited to catch up with at Tsukuba had already run a 56-second pass by this point in the morning on their first outing, getting familiar with the car.
Adam had too, already besting the time of HKS, which was the goal for the team and on their fourth lap no less. The JDM Yard Honda Civic was sounding angry and the boys were convinced they’d go much quicker through the two days.
After scouting a few corners, we found one we could hang out from without vests. A famous corner for a famous shot, we had to try it out for ourselves. Watching big-power GT-Rs powerslide through the exit of this turn was a sight to behold and proved the challenge these big-power cars have getting power down on such a tight circuit.
What blew me away on this test day was the variety. As you all know, I own an RS200 Altezza and I found this one squeezed in-between a Mazda RX-7 FD and an NSX — all built for time attack. I really enjoyed the simple over-fenders on this and the large rear wing element. I couldn’t see what engine upgrades it had, so hopefully they matched the exterior.
One thing that is evident here in Japan, is that the K20A engine is out in force and in naturally aspirated form too. Both of these Civics – one an EK and one an EG – sounded like motorbikes out on the circuit, with gearing that would be of no use outside of Tsukuba. These machines are built for attacking this circuit and that’s what is so special about Japan.
One thing I learned on my first day at Tsukuba is that the Japanese are incredibly nice and willing to show you their engine bay or setup. Everyone talks to one another, laughs and shares advice. Happiness and laughter were a common sight and leaving the circuit after the first day, I couldn’t have felt happier. If you’re passionate about a certain chassis over in Japan, make that work for you. If you love your unique machine that might not be perfect for circuit racing, carry on driving what you love — take the Autobahn Soarer for example.
If this was only the first day, what was day two going to show me? Well, I was about to find out how hard Japan ATTACKS! Lets go!