Introducing a new Japanese challenger with 15 years experience in the Japanese drag race scene including a claim to fame as the record holder in the Pro-stock class. Not satisfied with this Ando-san has started on the journey to set records in time attack racing as well! He has already cemented his place as one of the quickest competitors around Tsukuba Circuit and has now turned his attention to the world stage. Despite being an AM driver, much like his peer Under Suzuki he has entered World Time Attack Challenge in the Royal Purple Pro Class. We check in with Ando-san on his journey to WTAC 2017!

WTAC: The Escort Evo is one of the quickest time attack cars around Tsukuba circuit with a 53 second lap time. Tell us about the journey to building one of Japan’s fastest Evo around Tsukuba.
Ando-san: Originally I was active mainly in drag racing for about 15 years but one of the initial reasons I switched to time attack is that the the main dragway in Japan was closed indefinitely after the earthquake disaster. So I turned my interests to time attack racing which runs a one lap challenge. It is a similar philosophy to drag racing with corners thrown in and now I am hooked. I have the desire to be number one and will push toward this goal. 

WTAC: What are you changing about the car to prepare for WTAC this year?
Ando-san: First of all, the aero specification currently being developed follows a similar style to the winning Tilton Interiors team Evo, with a few improvements to the latest generation designs for maximum downforce.
The first change is the under panel on the car has been changed from half flat floor to a full aerodynamic flat floor, and the width of the front wing has been widened to the maximum regulation sizes. We also have some new designs for the rear wing and plan to bring both single and triple wings style to swap according to the engine output power. I hope to be able to select a rear wing that can be matched to the course only by the flow of air movement, result without increasing the drag by rear single wing style if possible.

WTAC: Can you tell us about about the motor in the car?
Ando-san: The engine in the car currently still the 2.2L motor we have run in the car previously. Because of a variety of reasons we had some issues with engines blowing up last year, so we have gone to a lot of effort to strengthen the motor for the WTAC event. Team Escort have rebuilt the motor with specially selected USA-made parts and now the engine runs without any problems what so ever. They requested specially made connecting rods capable of 1500 horsepower based on their drag racing engine build experience. With their long history and their many friends in the USA they know exactly how to get the best of the best parts made specifically for this application. The engine also uses a large amount of Nitrous Oxide on a full attack lap. 

WTAC: The car runs Voltex aero that is similar to WTAC winner Tilton Interiors. How important is aero to the car build?
Ando-san: I believe that development of the aero elements of the car is very important, but an unbreakable engine is also absolutely mandatory. The car needs to be balanced between these two elements – 50% engine, 50% aero, they are both equally important. I’m sure aerodynamics gains in downforce are just as important as suspension to convey the power of the engine to the road surface.

WTAC: You came to the WTAC practice day last year. What were your impressions of the Sydney track and Australian conditions?
Ando-san: My first impression of the Sydney course was a lot of fun. The course seemed a little bit bumpy but that may have just been the set up on my borrowed car, so it may have just felt that way. In my case, regardless of where I run, its kind of strange to everyone but I always felt same driving feeling no matter any kind of course layout. I feel like Sydney Motorsport Park is quite similar to Japan’s Sugo circuit. Certainly the up and down hill part of the course are very unique and remarkable to the joy of time attack at Sydney Motorsport Park. I was surprised that the size of the pit was very cozy, but I’m sure everyone also had the same situation. So I was glad that I was able to experienced how to work and prepare efficiently in the pits in advance of this year’s attack.

Additionally to the above, I love the culture of Australia from the trend of drag racing and I went around various shops in the Sydney area where I had communication with Aussie people who were very nice and easy. The meals were also delicious and I could snap into it!

WTAC: And as the owner and driver of the car are you looking forward to pushing the car to its limits around Sydney Motorsport Park?
Ando-san: 2017 is the first step. This year myself and the pit crew will be getting familiar with the event and pushing hard to get onto the podium. But we also have a plan going forward to 2018. We currently have in the build a second car, an R35 GTR which will be shooting for outright victory in next year’s WTAC event. 

As for how the current Evolution fared at the time attack event in Japan, it was straight into attack without any practice day, so I think that I want to improve various parts around that situation. The plan for WTAC 2016 was only looking at the course layout, then after running on the course with only a single out lap, I started to understand the road conditions which where not evident from just looking at the course layout. So I was just about getting my head around it and adjusting it in real attack conditions. This time however I also plan to do a lot of simulation practice and become comfortable and familiar with the track before I go to Sydney.

We originally wanted to race the R35 this year, but due to a delay in the production schedule of our custom-made transmission there is no way that car can compete this season. But when I got an invitation from Mr Ian Baker to compete this year, I saw it as a great opportunity to get out the Evolution on the track and see it’s maximum potential. It will also give the team a chance to accumulate the experience of the event and schedule and build my connections with equipment suppliers for our 2018 first-place push.

My R35 GTR will be a specially made vehicle made solely for the purpose to compete and win at the WTAC event and attack for first place.
Although it is an unknown factor to how much power we can push through the tires with the radically modified  engine, we are currently working to a power output of 1200 to 1500 horsepower. We have come up with various conceptual designs which are completely new with never seen before full aero designs and fighting power. Everyone is working hard together towards the goal of winning the new lap time record in this R35 GTR next season.

WTAC: What are your goals for WTAC 2017 and who do you think is your biggest rival?
Ando-san: Since the first goal of WTAC 2017 for us is first to acclimate the team to the environment of WTAC and establish ourselves as a competitive team, we are not particularly focused on any team as a rival. Rather we have a target time which is our goal. We are aiming to beat Under-Suzuki’s 2016 time as our initial goal and we will work forward from there.

Car Specs

Engine 2.2 litre Escort/Magnus Motorsport
Turbo Garrett/GCG
ECU Motec
Power 750hp+ (in WTAC trim)
Transmission Holinger Sequential
Aero Voltex
Suspension Ohlins
Brakes Endless

 

Check out Ando-san and the Escort Evo in action at Tsukuba (This is an older video they have gone much faster since then!)