Tag: tsukuba

Keiichi Tsuchiya is coming to WTAC!

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Almost every country has one indisputable motorsport icon. In Australia the late Peter Brock was our “King of the Mountain”, in the USA it is Richard Petty with a long and colorful career in NASCAR. In Japan there is only one person who can lay claim to such title and his name is Keiichi Tsuchiya.

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When it comes to legends of motorsport in Japan few can touch Tsuchiya-san not only for the number of cars he has driven to victory over the years but the sheer diversity of vehicles he has competed in. His depth of involvement in the auto enthusiast scene as a whole is unsurpassed and just to have him at WTAC as a guest would be an honour.

We can now officially confirm that not only will Keiichi Tsuchiya be attending WTAC, he will also be on track, driving, on both days! Before we go any further though, a little history lesson might be in order.

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Back in 1977 Tsuchiya-san had been honing his skills on the togue courses in the hills of Japan before joining the Freshman series. At this time he also filmed the now famous Pluspy video skilfully drifting his Toyota AE86. Keep in mind this is all in a day and age where in-car video recording was almost unheard of.

It’s believed that these videos along with Tsuchiya-san’s expert driving inspired the whole sport of drift. By the late 90s many ametuer  drift events were being held around Japan and in 2000 Keiichi Tsuchiya together with Daijiro Inada, founder of Option magazine and Tokyo Auto Salon founded the D1 Grand Prix.

This was the first professional Japanese drift series, effectively giving Tsuchiya the unofficial title of the “Founder of Drift”. Amazingly enough, this is only one small part of Tsuchiya’s incredibly eventful career.

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Throughout the 1980s Tsuchiya-san competed in All Japan Touring Car Championship taking many class wins in his famous D2 Toyota AE86. It was during this time that he would  often drift the car around the circuit for the last lap (even when in the lead) to entertain the crowd. This earned him the title of “The Drift King”.

He also competed in Civics, BMWs and Ford Sierras rapidly gaining a reputation as a formidable wheel man. It’s important to note that all along the way Tsuchiya competed against drivers who all came from wealthy backgrounds and thus enjoyed a considerable funding advantage.

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By 1992 Tsuchiya-san had firmly established himself as a top racing driver and his services were in demand. He found himself driving the now famous Taisan GTR in Group A JTCC and was more often than not chasing for the lead. But this was still only a foundation for the greatness that would follow.

In 1994 Tsuchiya-san had received a call from Honda. They wanted to enter an NSX in the Le Mans 24 hour race and they wanted him to be one of the drivers. The team finished a credible 18th that year but returned the following year for a class win. With Tsuchiya behind the wheel, Honda also won the Tokachi 12 Hour race outright and finished 5th in the Suzuka 1000. This kicked off a relationship with Honda Racing that lasts until today.

Over the next few years Tsuchiya-san drove everything from Supras to Porsches and Dodge Vipers in JGTC. In 1997 he returned to Le Mans and qualified 10th in a Japanese-entered McLaren F1 but sadly the car failed to finish the race with mechanical issues, something that would make him a whole lot hungrier the following year.

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By 1998 Toyota had launched a Sports Car development program to try to win in the LeMans 24hr. Despite being built by Team Toyota Europe, the car, known as the GT One, had an all-Japanese driver lineup with Keiichi Tsuchiya selected to drive alongside Ukyo Katayama and Toshiyo Suzuki.  The team finished 9th outright on debut before returning the following year chasing an outright victory.

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Once again Tsuchiya was selected to drive what was widely considered a winning car along with Ukyo Katayama. After battling for the lead with Mercedes and BMW, the car suffered a tyre failure forcing it into the pits. Consequently Katayama was unable to challenge for the lead and finished in second place behind the BMW.

From 2001-03 Tsuchiya-san competed behind the wheel of the Team Arta Honda NSX in Super GT. He retired from professional racing in 2003 but to this day remains heavily involved as the manager of Honda Racing Super GT.

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In 2007 Tsuchiya-san was reunited with the legendary ARTA Honda NSX at Tsukuba circuit for a lap record attempt where he promptly lapped the circuit in 51.6 seconds some 1.2 seconds under the course record at the time.

Just like his Pluspy video 30 years earlier this clip was seen worldwide, this time serving as an inspiration to to the rapidly emerging sport of time attack racing. To date only one team has been able to better this time and that is Suzuki-san in the Scorch Racing S15 (it is worth noting the NSX time was set on slick tyres).  The two Tsukuba champions will meet for the first at WTAC this year.


“We are both honoured and excited to have Tsuchiya-san at this year’s event,” said WTAC promoter, Ian Baker, “This is a once-in-a-life time opportunity to meet this legendary Japanese motorsport icon and see him in action.”

So what will Tsuchiya-san be doing at WTAC? When we spoke with him he said: I am keen to do anything, as long as it makes the fans happy!” And we intend to give him the tools to do just that! Stay tuned.

Images courtesy of Speedhunters.com


Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge. 14th – 15th October 2016. Sydney Motorsport Park.
Tickets go on sale June 1st. Don’t miss it!

Japanese “Car Shop Dream Lotas 7” RX7 enters Open Class

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With so much of the focus over the years on the Pro Classes we are now seeing increased interest right across the board and in 2016 we will see our first ever Japanese entry in the hotly contested Open Class.

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Team Car Shop Dream Lotas 7 have confirmed their entry in the Link ECU Open Class and have spent the past few months ensuring their Mazda RX7FD complies with the class rules.

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The car’s owner and most of his team hail from Kitami, a small city on the East coast of Hokkaido. The city is covered in snow for almost half of the year with temperatures getting as low as -30C.

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Undeterred by the harsh conditions Kurokawa-san and his team of loyal mechanics spend the winter months tinkering away in a heated workshop. Getting the car to the nearest race track involves a 30 hours ferry trip which makes their achievement all the more remarkable.

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The engine is a 13BREW Bridgeport built by Watanabe Shin. Watanabe is a bit of local rotary guru with decades of experience building 7-sec drag racing engines.

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The engine is mated to a Quaife 6‐Speed sequential dog gearbox. Endless brakes  and D2 Japan suspension  complete the package.

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Kurokawa’s chief mechanic, Yamaguchi Koji, also has his roots in drag racing and is no stranger to dealing with high horsepower, highly stressed engines. The engine is controlled by a Link ECU tuned by Kumaki Toru from Top Fuel Racing

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The person responsible for the car’s aero is Osamu Suda, Having previously worked at Voltex Japan, Osamu is no stranger to aerodynamics and plays an important part in the car’s development. The most important task ahead of him right now is to trim the current aero package (so it complies with WTAC Open Class rules) without sacrificing too much of its downforce.

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When it comes to building and racing cars, much like Under Suzuki, Kurosawa-san is very hands-on. He is involved in every aspect of the car, from building, tuning and race preparation to actually driving it. To create this time attack monster the team tried not to rely on factory parts and manufactured most of the accessories in-house.

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They’ve even experimented with their own handmade mini wind tunnel using a 1/12 plastic model of the car with fans and scales below each tyre to measure the downforce created. But don’t let their DIY approach fool you. This is a very capable team and Kurokawa is certainly no novice behind the wheel.

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A local racing celebrity, Kurokawa had dominated the Hokkaido racing scene in the 1990s with a JAF Hokkaido 6-hour Endurance Race trophy and JAF Hokkaido FJ1600 Series Championship under his belt. He was also the first ever Hokkaido-based Nismo pro driver.

In 1999 Kurokawa started Car Shop Dream and formed his Hokkaido based racing team in 2013. Since then the team has been breaking records at Tokachi International Speedway most notably Nobuteru Taniguchi’s Sports Car Class record (set in HKS CT230R) by over a second.

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After shipping the car down to Tsukuba for a shakedown session earlier this year the team managed a time in the 56 second range. Kurokawa-san explained this was simply a test day and they are confident the car will be capable of low 55s by the time it leaves for Sydney. This should put the team well within their goal of a podium placing with a possibility of having a serious shot at the class title.

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The Car Shop Dream Lotas 7 racing team sound like a great bunch of guys and the car is a credit to their ingenuity and perseverance. We are sure they’ll be well received by the Australian rotary fans as they race for the Open Class title in October!

Images: NaritaDogfight.com, Attack – Maximum Challenge and Speedhunters.com
Translation thanks to: Rhett Roylance

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Helpful Links

arrow  2015 WTAC Highlights: Tilton’s Winning Lap
arrow  2015 WTAC Highlights: Open Class
arrow  2015 WTAC Highlights: Pro Am Class
arrow  Understanding WTAC: Rules, aerodynamics and control tyres explained 
arrow  7 Things You need to know about WTAC 2016

Understanding WTAC: History

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Time Attack, also known as Superlap originated in Japan in the 1980s as a proving ground for street-tuned cars built by highly respected tuning companies. Time attack enjoyed a quick rise in popularity and soon tuner shops started developing  purpose-built time attack race cars. Within a short period of time time attack format has spread throughout the world, with USA, UK, New Zealand and Australia all hosting their own national events.

World Time Attack Origins

The beginnings of the World Time Attack Challenge can be traced back to a local event, held at Sydney’s now defunct Oran Park Raceway.

Superlap Australia held its national time attack events in 2008 and 2009 but as the interest and participation in the format grew, Superlap’s CEO, Ian Baker saw an opportunity to create a brand new event on a scale previously unseen in the sport of time attack.

A plan was drafted to create a truly international event where the best of international time attack teams are invited compete on the same track at the same time and at the same event. In this format, the teams represent not just the tuning shops behind the car but also their country. All for the glory of being crowned the World Time Attack Champion.

Attack Mode Engaged

The inaugural Yokohama World Time Attack Challenge was held in 2010 at the Eastern Creek Raceway (now Sydney Motorsport Park) and proved to be a huge success. It was the first time the likes of PanSpeed, CyberEvo, R-Magic, Cusco, Hi Octane Racing and Sierra Sierra competed against each other at one event.

The response from the participants, sponsors, exhibitors, spectators and the media was phenomenal and surpassed everyone’s expectations. That year, the event also won the Speedhunters’ Event Of The Year  – a poll voted on by the Speedhunters readers.

Going Global

The success of the inaugural WTAC propelled the event forward with the attendance, participants and fans growing in numbers each year. The event was not only growing bigger but also faster with outright lap records falling every single year. In fact, the outright tin top lap record at Sydney Motorsport Park has been broken at WTAC every year since 2010.

2014 saw the introduction of WTAC Live Stream bringing the event to hundreds of thousands of time attack fans around the world and expanding the WTAC brand across all geographical boundaries.

Understanding WTAC

arrow  Racing Format
arrow  Classes
arrow  Tyres
arrow  Aerodynamics
arrow  Superlap Shootout
arrow  History

 

Closing the gaps

The cars are certainly getting faster but is the competition getting closer or further apart? To find the answer we took a quick look at the gaps between the top players in each class over the last couple of years.

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What we found was not at all surprising; apart from Pro Am class (where Mick Sigsworth put a 5 second gap between himself and the nearest competitor), we saw a tightening of ranks throughout the WTAC classes.

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This was especially evident in the Pro class which for the past two years saw one dominant player set the pace and the real battles being fought for 2nd and 3rd. In 2013 (above) the gap between the first and third was almost three seconds.

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This was not the case in 2014 (above). The outright win was won by the narrowest of margins in WTAC history, and the difference between 1st and 3rd was less than one second. The fact that the third outright fastest was a Pro Am car shows that owner drivers can mix it up it up with Pros given the right machinery.

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If we look at the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placings in Pro Am, the gaps are also very small. Only 1.2 seconds between Sutton Brothers and Kyushu Danji with the Mighty Mouse less than 0.2 seconds behind.

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The Open class is even closer. Only 0.5 seconds separate Steve Ka’s R34 from Denis Resi’s Lightning McQueen R32 and RTR Evo X is only half a second behind. That is less than a second between first and third!

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The trend continues through to Clubsprint class. Only 0.7 seconds between the winner, Dan Farquar and David Lord and a further 0.2 second to Jason Naidoo. A total of 0.9 second between first and third.

Okay, so we have established that the racing is getting a lot closer, but is it faster? Let’s do a reverse grid and start with Clubsprint.

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Dan Farqhuar might not have improved on the Clubsprint’s fastest time but the 2nd and 3rd cars both did better than their equivalents the year before.

While the Clubsprint winning time was 0.7 seconds slower than last year’s, the second and third times were almost a second faster.

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All three top cars in Open recorded faster times than the 2013 top three. This year we might see the Class dip into 1:29s.

In Open class the winning time was 1.3 seconds faster. In fact, all top three cars posted a faster lap than last year’s winning time.

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Sutton Brothers managed to shave one and a half seconds off their previous year’s best.

Pro Am saw the biggest advancement with Mick Sigsworth smashing his previous record by whole five seconds. It’s worth noting that both 2nd and 3rd place cars were about 1 second faster than their 2013 equivalents.

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It’s getting crowded at the top: MCA Suspension were 1.6 seconds faster in 2015 showing that they’re a force to be reckoned with and a serious challenger for the outright title.

This leaves the big guns – Pro class. It’s true that Tilton beat their 2013 record by just 0.014 second but the real gains were recorded in the 2nd and 3rd place. Suzuki bettered MCA’s last year best by 2.5 seconds while MCA beat Nemo’s 3rd place time in 2013 by 2 seconds. Consequently, the distance from 1st to 3rd in Pro class dropped from 2.9 seconds in 2013 to 1.9 in 2014 with only 0.04 second separating the winner and the runner up.

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So what does all that mean? Well, it looks like we have a tighter, closely matched field where a number of teams have a shot at the title in each class and the introduction of Superlap Shootout proves that the final podium place can indeed be decided on the last lap.

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It also looks like Mitsubishi Evos’ grip on all the classes is beginning to loosen up with two rwd Nissans on the Pro class podium, two Nissans on the podium in Pro Am, GTRs dominating in Open and a WRX wedged between two Evos in Clubsprint. So far the mighty Evo claimed five out of five WTAC outright titles. Can a Nissan snatch it away? Only time can tell.

Under Suzuki resets Tsukuba lap record – again!

Just when you thought coming 2nd in the world’s most prestigious time attack event warranted some well-earned rest, Suzuki strikes again. This time at the circuit that many consider the birthplace of time attack – Tsukuba.

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Unstoppable: Under Suzuki in full flight at Tsukuba. PHOTO: Smiley Shot.

For those who didn’t know, Suzuki-san already holds a lap record at Tsukuba with a time of 52:649. To get it, he had to beat Taniguchi’s long standing record, set in HKS CT230R, which he did in 2012.

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Suzuki’s wide body S15 is Japan’s fastest time attack car and it just keeps getting faster!

Seems like Suzuki is the type of driver who doesn’t like resting on his laurels though. Only two short months after claiming the 2nd spot at the 2014 WTAC he was back at Tsukuba attacking his own lap record.

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Powered by his an unsurpassed desire to win and carrying the dreams of privateers world-wide on his shoulders, Under Suzuki showed us a taste of what’s to come in 2015 by setting a new lap record with an amazing time of 52.363 seconds. Click play on the video below and watch the master at work!

Suzuki-san final test at Tsukuba Circuit

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With many of the other teams doing their final shakedown at either Fuji Speedway or Suzuka Circuit it was unusual to see Suzuki-san and the Scorch s15 at Tsukuba Circuit.

“Yes, Tsukuba circuit is not ideal for World Time Attack testing but I am limited in how much time I can have off from my job and Fuji is such a long way away so I have to make do with what I can” said Suzuki-san as he unloaded his S15 for a morning test session.

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What was very evident though was just how serious the aero is on this car now and a lot of this became clearer when we saw American aero ace Andrew Brilliant arrive to assist the Scorch team with their final shakedown.

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“This is a very interesting project and one that has been put together with years of trial and error. I have been employed to fast track them to the next level. What is very interesting is that this car still has no flat floor, and that will be probably the next big step as time and resources allow.” said Andrew Brilliant.

“What you have to remember is that there is no big team of guys behind this operation so it can take a while to make things happen as just about everything on this car is done after hours by Suzuki himself. My thought process is that we can possibly have more down force than most of the Pro Class field as it is and this was all done a lot easier than building a flat floor.”

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“I do not take this project lightly. It is amazing what these guys have done so far but now I see it as changing just about everything about the car. We are working our way slowly up to that and trying to stay ahead of the competition on the way there.”

“Make no mistake, this car will be fast this year, very fast in fact. I would not at all be surprised, if all the ducks line up on the day, that he is right toward the front of the pack.” said Andrew Brilliant.

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The engine is also in higher state of tune running a new spec GCG turbo and several other changes that push the horsepower closer to the 800 mark. It is also interesting to note that Suzuki still uses power assisted brakes unlike most other teams that run a pedal box with dual master cylinders.

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The rear wing was one of the major revamps with much larger side plates and other integrations. It was interesting to hear Andrew tell us they were actually working on frontal down force – something that may indicate this wing is certainly doing its job properly.

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The team did not record any full lap times on the day and were simply doing sector times on certain corners to indicate if they were moving in the right direction. There were, however, smiles all around as they packed up for the day so we can only assume things went very well indeed. Bring on October!

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