Car Spotlight>> The Iconic Hks R33 Gt-r


Back in 2002 I witnessed a car that would leave a permanent impression on me. Drag racing was never really 'my thing', but seeing the famous HKS R33 GT-R in person changed all that. Not only was it the long-standing record holder as the fastest GT-R, but it also held the title as the quickest 4WD vehicle in the world. Countless drivers had tried to challenge HKS for the GT-R record, but for five years no one could come close to its 7.67sec run.

There's an air of mystery that surrounds the HKS R33 GT-R. During its reign, many high profile GT-Rs in various countries were trying to challenge the HKS record. HKS were quite guarded about their GT-R's modifications – before it was shipped to Australia for Drag Combat in 2002 they put padlocks on the hood pins – which has led to plenty of speculation about its hardware and setup. Some believe they've raised the front and rear subframes so the R33 sits lower, while some of the more wilder rumors included suggestions that it was using a hidden Nitrous Oxide system. Having seen the plenum off the car I'm quite confident that this ran all-turbo.

Here's the crazy man who steered the car: Tetsuya Kawasaki. On the track, he's absolutely fearless. Drag cars with this much power are a real handful, and Tetsuya had no qualms with keeping his foot flat on the throttle even if it got loose. Off the track, he's full of character. In spite of the language barrier, he endeared himself to everyone and took the time to autograph each and every thing that was shoved in front of him. And he can also drink most people under the table!

Tetsuya Kawasaki with the HKS team at Willowbank Raceway on the eve of the 2002 Drag Combat event.

Up close the HKS GT-R is somewhat underwhelming. Having grown up watching it on scratchy VHS tapes, I was expecting it to be brimming with foreign technology and cutting edge aero. If you were to remove its slick tires and graphics scheme it would be rather unremarkable in terms of appearance. But that's probably why it was such a crowd favorite the world over.

When it raced in Australia, HKS didn't leave anything to chance, bringing their own tires, oil and fuel from Japan. In the background you can see the rolling stock used for shipping: ADVAN RGs and A048 semis. 

Calling them carbon fiber panels isn't really accurate. The HKS GT-R's body panels were more like carbon skins.

As you can see, weight savings were taken very seriously.

Before the HKS GT-R passed scrutineering in Australia, the bolt-in roll-cage had to be welded according to ANDRA specifications.

Check out the Hello Kitty seat cushion.

Tetsuya Kawasaki catching some Zs…

…Actually this is the blind-fold test that was part of his ANDRA licencing process. In this test he must be able to reach all of the controls – in particular the parachute and extinguisher – while blind-folded.

He was then required to perform a half track run before he was given his licence. Perhaps something was lost in translation as Tetsuya Kawasaki did a half-track burnout rather than a half-track run – much to the displeasure of the officials.

The HKS GT-R can switch to RWD to warm up the rear tires before returning to AWD for the launch. The brakes can also be engaged via two buttons on the steering wheel.

In between runs, Tetsuya performed lurid burnouts that lasted the length of the track, purely to entertain the crowds. In broken English Tetsuya called this a 'dry hopp' (I think this is in reference to drag events at Sendai), which you can see in this awesome video clip. This is one very effective way to kill a set of slicks!

Here is an image of the old engine setup, when it used twin high-mount turbos. No exact power figure has been released, but it was estimated to make 1300PS @ 9000rpm.

Here's the revised setup that was used in 2002. Notice the welds on the intake plenum; this 2.8l RB made so much boost that it split the plenum at Drag Combat, requiring makeshift welding repairs. They ended up a few tenths shy of their world record as they had issues with the car bogging down off the line.

The HKS team weren't expecting Willowbank Raceway to be such a grippy – and flat – drag strip. The drag strips in Japan like Sendai are notoriously slippery and bumpy, whereas Willowbank had been prepared with VHT.

Here's Tetsuya Kawasaki in discussions with Australian tuners BD4s Motorsport. Due to the sticky track, custom springs were made locally in Queensland with more suitable rates.

Unlike the other cars in its class, the HKS GT-R drove to the staging lanes under its own power. There was no need for a tow car and nor was there a need for Tetsuya to pull the parachute, even after a 7sec run. He'd simply use the brakes to slow down and then drive it back to the pits.

Seeing this car in person – and having its rapid fire exhaust flames lashing at me from just a few yards away – was a truly memorable experience and one that I won't be forgetting any time soon. Sadly Drag Combat 2002 was one of the last times HKS would run the R33 GT-R in competition. Just a few weeks before it was meant to race in New Zealand against the Heat Treatments R32 – the challenger which would eventually break their record – HKS retired the R33, citing that years of drag racing had taken its toll on the fatigued chassis.

A special thanks to Mark Boxer and Boyke Rimanda for the images, many of which have never been seen before. 

- Charles Kha



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Love it! Such a great GT-R!



A great and more importantly factual feature of the car - about time it appeared as it should!

Although its record was finally beaten, its true and lasting legacy is that it did it on petrol which for some, myself included made it extremely special and even harder to replicate.

Equally as impressive is that it was built with everything you could buy from the HKS catalogue at the time - to beat it, just look at what had to be done by HT's awesome machine and all its custom parts, methanol and trick engineering ( not taking anything away from how superb that machine is at all ).

As one of the very few people to have been inside, under and outside of this car in person in great detail, only having seen the 'secrets' can you also appreciate how great it is and how much the achievements mean and just how standard it remains true to the original road car in many respects.

Thanks for posting the pictures up, many of which I have not seen either :)




simply amazing, great pics

been a fan of that car for many years, actually that's why I got to know HKS

may I request, every fucking photo for desktop? sorry, I just drool over this car


A very good article and read...

Good on you Mark and Boyke for sharing this wonderful piece of Automotive history.

I hope HKS will be able to do such wild things with the current GTR.


Good old HKS' epic drag car....I miss that thing.


I always loved owning this car in Gran Turismo.


Awesome work Charles. So cool to see those pics see the light of day again. Being part of that whole event/team is certainly something I'll be telling the grandkids about. Being beaten time and time again in a beer sculling competition by Tetsuya Kawasaki... I'll kee that one to myself.

Good work!


A truly iconic car


Cool story


I remember this from gran turismo 2 :)


I've been waiting to see a feature on this car with proper photographs for years, thank you!

Here's a slightly longer video of the above video link


Need wallpaper on Hello Kitty Seat Cusion


i love this car. would be awesoem if the new hks r35 was this color/graphics scheme... my favorite ever


Truly Amazing machine! i remember this car from many years ago, and its appearance in Gran Turismo 2,

Made me love it even more, the best thing about it which made me love it is that it was just like some kind of beast which had a secret behind it!

Great post! keep it up!


I was gutted that it didnt race in new zealand, oh well atleast i got to see it in the flesh


As event manager for Auto Salon during that time, it was my idea and my responsibility to attempt to bring the HKS GTR to Australia. I can tell you, it certainly was no easy or simple task, and just to get the car to Australia and run down the strip involved jumping through an endless array of hoops and cutting through tons of red tape.

Having the HKS GTR appear in Australia was only made possible thanks to the efforts of then HKS Distributors BD4s Motorsports. It was Paul Brell and Tom Lee who worked tirelessly to convince HKS that dusting the GTR off and bringing it out of retirement was a good idea, as at the time they were campaigning the Supra V8 drag car as their main development vehicle. It was also only possible as BD4s Motorsports could provide the technical support and man power here in Australia.

I spend weeks and countless emails and phone calls between ANDRA, BD4s and HKS Japan in the year prior to the event to arrange the car's visit. The car was never built to comply with ANDRA regs, especially the safety aspect. In fact, the first ANDRA tech to inspect the car on its arrived crawled out from underneath it as said "drivers must be cheap in Japan!"

Internet forums were abuzz with rumors leading up to the event, and many claimed that its appearance was a hoax, so to counter this we decided to hold a press launch at the base of Misses Maqcuarie's steps with the Opera House and Harbour bridge as backdrops. No one doubted the car was here after that, now they just doubted it would run. Bloody internerds... LOL

Quite a few modifications needed to be done in order to allow the car to run in Oz. From memory, many of the bolts in the car were replaced with high tensile units, as we weren't sure the grade of things like retaining bolts of the parachute. A 'taxi bar' was added to the roll cage, which itself had to be welded as it was only bolted in. Arm restraints were also added for Tetsuya in case of a roll over. The carbon fibre firewall, however, simply drew a shrug from the ANDRA techs as they knew that while it didn't meet their specifications (all firewalls must be steel) they also knew we couldn't change it. That ANDRA passed the car is only half as amazing as HKS letting a bunch of Aussies modify it! In the end it was a sign of good faith and great trust by ANDRA that the car was passed to run on Aussie soil.

Another great memory was the morning of the team's arrival from Japan at Brisbane airport. Paul and I had to get Tetsuya a medical examination before he would be issued with an ANDRA license, so we simply dropped into the local medical centre in Ipswich and had a local GP look him over - pee test and all!

Later that day at Willowbank I was standing with the chief ANDRA tech who was on hand to issue him his license but hadn't done so yet, when all of a sudden Tetsuya fires up the GTR and takes off for the start line behind us. I had to rush the ANDRA tech to the line in a golf buggy and stop Tetsuya as he hadn't done his bind test yet - which explains the eye covers in the photos above. After successfully completing the test (via translator) the ANDRA tech signed off the license right there on the start line and within seconds Tetsuya had shut his door and kicked the engine into life - ready for his first test pass. The ANDRA tech just shook his head in amazement. He’d never seen a 7-second car of this kind before, let alone one that could start and stop, do a pass, and then move around under its own power so casually.

I remember vividly standing back from the car at the start line right at this moment. I'd worked so damn hard to get that car here (as had many, many others), and just to see it launch off the line in anger on a glorious Thursday morning here in Australia was a very emotional moment for me. It didn’t matter if the car never made another pass to me at this point. We’d done it, it was here, it ran!

It remains one of the proudest moments of my life.

Other cool anecdote


Good article and pics although you copied a bit off of this video


great post! many props for a good encapsulating story backed with a good set of pics. This car has a legacy matched by no other


I love you Charles Kha. No homo.


Simple door is amaizing =)


Was present when he performed donuts in the pre stage area the previous day when it had been rained out. Was an awseome spectacle to see and hear the car in person.


Other cool anecdotes?

Well, the event was due to run on Saturday but the rain came (thanks Queensland) but this didn't stop the cars and crowds from coming to see the HKS GTR. We'd decided to postpone the event until the next day and I was in the Willowbank tower with their track manager standing on one side of me and the president of ANDRA (who'd flown all the way from Adelaide to see our inaugural event) on the other side as we drafted up an announcement to tell the crowd to come back tomorrow. The next thing I know Tetsyua rumbles through the staging area in the HKS GTR with the rain still pouring down. He ambles up along the ambulance support track between the drag strip and just within a few meters of the massive crowd and begins shredding the tyres all the way down the support road right in front of them. He then comes back and starts doing donuts in the staging area behind the start line! ANDRA and Willowbank staff were dodging left right and centre as pandemonium breaks out in the crowd.

I turned to the officials standing with me , shrugged, and said, “I swear I didn’t tell him to do that!”.

One of the aims for the HKS GTRs visit was to challenge the infamous GTR owned by Mario Torborac, who’d been building his car with C&V Performance and latter with Croydon Racing Developments in a quest to better the HKS GTR’s E.T. Sadly, Mario wasn’t able to get his car built in time, but he’d been wondering about the HKS GTR’s weight – as had many other people.

Interestingly, during overnight stays at Willowbank the HKS GTR was being stored in the scutineering shed, and one of the bays just so happened to have a weighbridge in it. I was tasked with securing the car overnight and had the HKS guys stick it in the weighbridge bay for ‘safe keeping’. Low and behold, there in front of me (out of sight of the HKS guys) was the car’s weight displayed clear as day. I think I’m actually the only person to have seen this.

While I can’t remember the exact weight today, I can remember that it wasn’t anywhere near as lights as people (especially Mario) had suspected it was. I vaguely remember Mario thinking it may have even been under 1000kg, but it was definitely over that – probably around 1100kg plus driver.

The main event itself was great, with the HKS GTR taking on all manner of Aussie combatants over the weekend and being victorious on every occasion. After trouncing all the locals we had one last surprise for the Aussie crowds. HKS’s team manager had told us the night prior that this was likely to be the last ever appearance of the GTR the World would ever see, as development of parts for the RB26DETT and drive train had all but concluded now. Given this, he stated that if the HKS GTR was still functional and hadn’t broken at the end of the racing that they’d up the boost and rev limit (2.4 bar and 13,500RPM from memory) and attempt a new record. You could have quite literally cut the air with a knife when Tetsuya lined up on the strip late that night, and it was great to see the entire crowd stick around after the racing and finished to see the run, including all the Aussie drivers and crews.

If memory serves me correctly the car fell short of the 7.67 by only a tenth or two, but it did better the car’s previous personal best MPH, proving that HKS did indeed put it all on the line that night in one final quest for glory. Watching that final run in slow motion afterwards showed the car hopping into the air at mid track, which obviously cost it precious time. The crowd went nuts in any case.


Hey MJD, actually I haven't seen that footage for close to 8 years. It's similar because Barry Jacobs, the guy who created that series, was standing naxt to me for most of the weekend :) My ugly head pops up now and then in that clip!


this car.. as we all know is legendary - great read and write up..


Finally, one last anecdote for the die hards.

One the Sunday night all the HKS, BD4s and Auto Salon staff gathered for a big celebratory dinner, and also so that Tetsuya could prove that he drink us all under the table yet again. I don’t know if the team manager was drunk or just in exceptionally high spirits but he stood up in front of the assembled crowd and asked to make an announcement. Everyone fell silent. He then asked for myself and Paul Brell from BD4s to stand up with him in front of everyone. He then said, “to thank our Aussie friend’s Paul-san and Damon-san, tomorrow we will let them both drive the HKS GTR down the drag strip!”

Of course, everyone was shocked, but not as shocked as Paul was by the look on his face. I let the thought linger in my head for a fraction of a second, flattered at the sheer magnitude of what he had just offered Paul and I. After a few seconds I then thanked the HKS manager for his gracious offer but regretfully had to decline on behalf of Paul and myself for obvious reasons. I knew that ANDRA and Willowbank would never allow it to happen no matter how much we would have pleaded them.

It was a wonderful way to end an amazing weekend and one of the proudest achievements of my career.


I used to drive that car in GRAN TURISMO 2 back in the playstation 1 days!

Even in the playstation, I can feel how powerful this machine is.


Mr. Dupriez


Your "comments" are chilling!

The details gave me goosebumps, You are a lucky guy to have experienced such a momentous


The HKS GT-R is a legend forever.

Thank you very much for sharing, speedhunters should add your comments to the article

as it adds much credibility!



Great feature - let down only by the crap speedhunters graphics causing very slow scrolling


Nicely said Damon, will always be something big for me seeing that car run in the flesh... easily one of the best sounds I've ever damaged my hearing with.

Oh, and MJD, that footage from the Serious Biz was actually shot by the Autosalon team and supplied to Serious Biz. Was originally used on the Drag Combat VHS! Talk about old school!


seen the 200m dry hop burnout at drag-combat in 2002? oh wow


My story of that Sunday at willowbank"

9:am on the day before i was up and leaving to go out to the track having to car it was a 2hr train ride out to the trainstation then a 45$ cab fare (one way) only to find out the day was a no go. So another 45$ and another 2hrs on the train back home i was still keen to do that again the next day (boy am i glad i did!).

Same again 9am 2hrs on the train 45$ for the cab and i was there wandering around for the day watching cars on the track finally near the end of the day it was there!

upon seeing the car from the back of the stands driving around the line up i RAN down to the front as fast as i could to get a closer look. i stayed late and got onto the track and had a look around the car. got to look inside and walk around it a few times. if anyone remembers the guy asking to take the cabin / willow bank / hks banners home? that was me!. had to try i guess ;). also sneakily got in a touch of the car for memories!

that day..the sound, the launch the atmosphere ill never forget. the urge that car had to smash down a 1/4 mile was unbelieveable ill neer forget it.

Tetsuya is surely a gentleman signed my bag that was the only thing i had for him to sign as it was totally unexected!.


Interesting read :)

The actual weight of the HKS car is 1050 kilos without driver - I weighed it. We managed to get our car ( FUUJIN ) to 1080 kilos however our rollcage is some what more sustantial than the one in the HKS car as it complies to 7.5 second rules which is why it was a little more.


This is not the fastest AWD drag car.

John Shepard / Buschur racing's AWD Eagle Talon Tsi went mid 7's and 190+ mph too. In a 4 cylinder...


Ah, takes me back! I remember spending some time in the pits at Englishtown with the car and the HKS crew. An iconic car in the history of imports IMHO


Great articles and nice to see new photos of this icon! I seems like it really has made itself into the tuning history and moved many people.


Back in May when Rod and I headed to Australia for the World Time Attack Challenge there were tons of


The island country of Singapore is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia, but something


Epic!!! A simple and clean build but a 1300hp+ record holder for many years. Japan engineering as its best