Once upon a time, that notion that a ‘tuning car’ could break the 50-second-lap barrier at Tsukuba Circuit seemed like a fairytale. Last Friday, after a long time trying and coming tantalizingly close on a number of occasions, Toshiki ‘Fire’ Ando did just that in his Escort Racing Evo.
We’ve been following Ando-san’s efforts for a while now, and ever since he ran a 50.233-second lap in late 2021 to eclipse the previously held records (Under Suzuki’s 50.366 lap set in December 2017 in his Scorch Racing Nissan Silvia S15, and then HKS’s 50.259 lap set the same month in their TRB-03 Toyota 86), a 49-second lap at TC2000 only seemed like a matter of time. But the achievement didn’t come easy.
To set any lap record, all stars need to be optimally aligned – the car, the driver, the track and weather conditions. And at this level of time attack racing – the absolute pinnacle of the sport – the tolerance for sub-optimal performance is non-existent; all aspects need to perform at their absolute best.
When Dino caught up with Ando-san and the Escort Racing team at Attack Tsukuba back in February last year and captured these images, the 49-second lap was in sight and hopes were high. Ando managed a 50.342-second lap in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX at the event, another staggeringly-fast blast around Tsukuba but not the number he was hoping for.
After a new engine build and some more ultra-fine tuning in 2022, on January 27, 2023 it all came together for the Escort Racing team, resulting in a 49.897-second lap. The in-car footage, as released by Ando-san today, is absolutely wild. Hit play above!
So where to from here? If you cast your minds back to March 2018, you might remember HKS running a 49.445-second lap at Tsukuba in the TRB-03. The issue for many with that lap time, is that it was achieved using full slick tires – specifically Yokohama Advan A005s – as opposed to semi-slicks, which since the very start of time attack competition have been an important characteristic of a ‘tuning car’. Keeping with tradition, Ando-san’s 49-second lap was set on semi-slicks, namely Yokohama Advan A050s.
Given how quickly he’s now gone on semis, it would be interesting to see what TC2000 lap time Ando-san could achieve on slicks. Previously, it might not have been something he was interested in testing, but with World Time Attack Challenge’s recent move to any production tire being eligible in the Pro classes for the September event and beyond, we may see a shift in thinking. What do you think, though? Should time attack racing be limited to semi-slicks, or should full slick tires be welcomed in a new era for the sport?
Regardless of what time attack’s future holds – either for international events like WTAC or local Tsukuba Circuit gatherings – Yoshiki ‘Fire’ Ando’s 49.897-second lap on semi-slicks will go down in the history book as one of the most important ever. Congratulations to the entire Escort Racing team for this incredible achievement.
For an extended look at record-setting lap, check out Narita Dogfight’s excellent video coverage here.
These cars are now so far away from anything road-going that moving to slicks is the only logical choice. I'd understand a requirement for semi-slicks in more road-related classes, but with cars like this Evo it doesn't make much sense. Plus for amateurs slicks are very cost effective. In Poland non-street classes are allowed to run full slicks. Even used ones bought cheaply from formula cars/touring cars provide more grip than any semi slick available, and at a fraction of the cost.
And on another note, I still admire how fast Fire Ando managed to go in this car. Truly impressive!
When will honesty come back? This is a full on race car, that obviously shouldn't be limited to the delusion of "semi-slicks". That front, the interior, the wang... As if a street car that needs any tire compromise looks and is REMOTELY anything like this rocket. Can we please get heads out of a22es and classify/organize approximately? This isn't a "tuning street" car by any measure, so go wild.
He's finally done it! Ando-san is a madman! Congratulations to all on an amazing achievement!
I think they should follow WTAC even Global Time Attack that allowing racing slicks. Yes it will be different playing field and not a lot to down trying do it with slicks since it's expensive, but always fun to see how seeing the car in full potential.
And if they allow slicks, just keep it on Pro or Unlimited class.
As Time Attack cars have evolved over the years, the true and original concept of "Time Attack" and "tuner cars" has been lost. No longer are modified cars about parts that the average enthusiast can buy, install, and tune themselves (like road-legal semi-slick tyres) before blasting around the track as fast as they could. Now, it's about custom fabrication, aero and engineering - really expensive and far-removed from the off-the-shelf tuner parts of the original concept. The fastest "Time Attack" cars these days are really one-off prototypes, so why not whack on some full slicks.
Crazy achievement by Ando and the team! Truly awesome.
As for the tire regulation change with WTAC, it will be cool to see cars go even faster and break more records. Will be interesting for sure but I think at this time I'd prefer if they kept the tires the same.