Bringing Home the Speed: Tsukuba Time Attack
People love to race. Whether in a straight line, up a mountain or around a circuit, it's all about who can go the fastest. On this day, it was all about who could go fastest around the 2 kilometers of pavement known as Tsukuba Circuit.
A Brief History
Tsukuba is the home of time attack, with events held as early as the 1980s. Officially however, the first time attack event was in May 1994. In 2007, Nobuteru Taniguchi set the record for the fastest lap around Tsukuba in his HKS Mitsubishi EVO, with a time of 53.589 seconds. That record was surpassed by Under Suzuki in his S15 with a blistering 52.649 second lap in 2012 and later improved to 51.127 in 2015.
The times are still dropping, and the most recent fastest lap saw HKS once again at the top with Taniguchi driving the Toyota GTS800 TRB-03 (Tsukuba Record Breaker 030), blasting through at 49.445 seconds. However, there is a bit of rumbling about that time since it was set using full racing slicks versus standard semi-slicks.
The day is broken up into several sessions, including Super Lap, free, ladies and sponsor. The Super Lap sessions open and close the event, serving as bookends for the day. All of the other sessions besides Super Lap allow groups of cars on the track at the same time and provide an interesting mix of cars. The only limit on these sessions is time.
The Super Lap sessions are for the fastest cars from the Turbo Class. There is a limit of two cars on the track at any given time, with the drivers given one warm up lap, two laps to get their best time and then one cool down lap. Blink and you may miss it as most of the cars that run in the Super Lap do not run at any other time during the day. That means that at most, they are out for eight laps.
The Classes of Time Attack
The first class up is called Second Class. It contains a wide scope of cars, from mild tuning to full-on time attack spec. The class's fastest lap of the day came from Rasty's wild double winged JZA80 Supra with a time of 57.368 seconds, just outdoing the Bee-R R32. This was also the biggest field of cars with a total of 45 entrants.
The Ladies Class had 12 entrants, with the ZEST Mazda RX7 toping the class with a best time of 1:00.440—a 0.013 second improvement over the previous best time. We were especially fond of Yoko Kobo's RWB Porsche. She can often be seen at the track in either a Porsche or her AE86, which we saw at the most recent 86 Matsuri.
The Radial Class, consisting of 16 entrants, limits the cars to street tires. Even with this disadvantage, the Garage Work Honda Civic EG broke the one-minute barrier with an impressive 59.264 seconds. However, there were still more cars left to race, and the Civic's time was bested by the Autoworks K2 R35.
The NA Class is the all-motor class. It's typically filled with Hondas, so it was a bit of a surprise to see an NA Mazda RX7 sitting on top. The Full Stage RX7 beat its best time of 55.887 seconds by almost three-tenths, leaving the second fastest car, the ASLAN Honda Civic EG, in the rearview mirror by nearly a full second.
The Turbo Class is the fastest and comparable to the heavy-weight class in mixed martial arts or boxing. This is the class that broke the 50 second barrier, an unthinkable feat when time attack started at Tsukuba. Unfortunately, the legendary driver Under Suzuki did not race his S15 to see if he could contend for the new record. However, many new drivers came and brought huge time improvements across the board.
Our friend Mr. Kawato brought his TCP Magic RX7 for a shakedown run and clocked an impressive 56.620. To put that into perspective, it was slightly faster than veteran driver Mr. Ando and his Scoot RX7.
The most impressive time of the day went to the Escort Mitsubishi Evo 9, which beat its lap best of 53.170 with an incredible 51.893. That time is just a hair shy of Under Suzuki's record lap, so it will be interesting to see what happens going forward. We could see a fresh battle.
A New Season
Tsukuba marked the second round of the 2018 Time Attack series, with the first round at Suzuka Circuit already completed. The remaining three rounds will visit Okayama and Tsukuba, before finishing at Tohoku. Visit the official Time Attack website for more information.