Kei Attack: Size Doesn’t Matter At Tsukuba

When reporting on time attack, it’s normal to concentrate on the faster cars, their aero advancements, and the consistent push in refinements that helps each car and driver improve with every outing. But all of that is also perfectly applicable to the cars that sit at the very bottom of the time sheets too.

Kei cars may look cute and unassuming, but make no mistake – the ones you see at Tsukuba for events like Attack represent the pinnacle of what can be done with these little 660cc packages.


To prove my point, I spent a lot of my time at Attack Tsukuba 2021 two weekends back – see my main coverage here – checking out the kei cars present. We’ll start with the Mo-FAC (amazing name!) Daihatsu Copen.

This thing is a beast, lapping Tsukuba in under a minute. It’s hard enough for a 600hp GT-R to break to dip under 60-seconds, yet here we have a Copen that ran 59.595!

Power comes from a stroked engine (now 820cc) boosted by a generously-sized turbo, to help the little motor develop 172hp. For a momentary boost of power, there’s an extra 100hp shot of nitrous oxide available, and that’s a big reason why this car managed to be so much quicker than any other kei machine at the event.


If time attack isn’t for you, but you still want some modifications for your Copen, then Mo-FAC is the shop to hit up. They even offer a lift kit for the little Daihatsu, turning it into a proper off-roader. Next time I’m in Hyogo Prefecture I’ll definitely have to pay them a visit.


Tuned by the same shop and really looking the part, this pearl white Copen managed a 1’06″325 lap.


That might be 7-seconds slower, but it was driven by its owner – not a pro driver. Don’t forget that in stock form these cars probably lap Tsukuba in 1″15’000 or thereabouts.


When it came to tire prep, the team was taking things just as seriously as anyone else in the paddock.


Engine-wise, this Copen had the same setup as the Mo-FAC demo car, but with different pistons yielding 880cc, and without nitrous.


The third Copen of the group was this overfender-equipped lime green machine with a Porsche GT3 RS vibe sitting on RAYS Volk Racing TE37Vs, which looked sensational.

Performance-wise, it was second fastest in the Attack kei car class with a 1’03″248 lap.


I really like the front fender treatment on this Copen, especially the way it tucks in aft of the arch. More aero comes courtesy of the carbon fiber front lip and a high-mounted, miniature GT wing.


Next up are a pair of different generation Suzuki Alto Works, this round-light version running widened fenders and having far wilder execution overall.


Again, we find little TE37s and semi-slicks filling up the arches.


Due to space constraints under the hood, bigger turbochargers always end up sticking out of the grille. I’m surprised that no one is playing around with charge coolers to keep the piping as short as possible, but I guess the gold insulation helps a little in that department.


Prior to the track sessions beginning, most cars were lifted up on axle stands and left in gear so their engines and drivelines could be brought up to temp.

The other Alto had a real stealth look about it. Both cars posted best laps in the 1’06” range, which is pretty much what a stock BNR34 Skyline GT-R or Lancer Evo VI used to manage back in the day.


Next up is an amazing example of my favorite kei car of all time – the Autozam AZ-1. I just had to open this post with a shot of the Cara/Decide 226 AZ-1 tackling Tsukuba’s infield hairpin.


Out of the 11 laps it completed on the day, its best was a 1’03″833.

It’s always fun to take a closer look at the various setups owners go for. I noticed this car was running sticky Yokohama Advan A050s up front and Hoosier slicks on RS Watanabe wheels at the back.


The little rear diffuser and center-exit exhaust sticking out at an angle are really cool details.


It was also running a pretty solid-looking rear spoiler.


I was happy to see at least one Suzuki Cappuccino at Attack, and this one looked pretty sweet on another set of TE37s. The best lap time for this car was a 1’07″573.


Check out this kei pairing – an older Daihatsu Opti on the left next to a current-gen Suzuki Alto Works, both modified in performance and looks.


1’07″976 was the fastest lap the Otis could manage, but the best part was the ‘Magician’ sticker on the upgraded top-mount intercooler.


I didn’t get to see what the Alto Works was running under its vented hood, but seeing as it was 2-seconds off the Otis’s pace, probably just a boost increase and general handling modifications.

It’s a good thing Suzuki still makes cars like these. Not only is the Alto Works a more responsive version for those that need to drive a kei car but want something fun, it’s a great entry point for anyone starting out in racing.


Finally, the Honda S660, starting off with this example prepped by Top Fuel.

Honda stunned everyone when it returned to the sporty kei car market by paying homage to the Beat, so it’s not surprising the S660 has had much domestic success, nor that so many JDM tuners have jumped on the model. A 1’05″121 was the fastest lap this car managed.


This gray S660 seemed to be the most modified example in the paddock, both from a performance and aesthetic standpoint. The guys running it managed a 1’10” lap, but unfortunately spent most of the day fiddling around in its engine bay. I think there was a lot more in it.


The Arvou-built S660 had no such issues though. Its driver looked confident, consistently lapping in the 1’09” zone.


Of course there’s an Arvou handling package in play, but it’s still a pretty simple build. It really goes to prove that you don’t need a crazy budget and insane aerodynamics to enjoy a day attacking Tsukuba.


I’ve got one final short post to share from Attack Tsukuba 2021. If you like GT-Rs, you definitely won’t want to miss it…

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: dino_dalle_carbonare



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Awesome article and awesome cars. Now I need a kei-car :p

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks! Everyone needs a Kei car!


Time-attack in a kei car. Mind. Blown.


Why is the speedhunters van always parked in the same spot in Kyoto?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Because that's where our merch distributor is located. That van gets used on weekends for the various events they display at


The best way to have fun on a budget, take as example the tyres: i bet 4 performance tyres cost as much as a single 20'' one. It's a shame the remaining of the world looks only for max HP (I know we have the new alpine, MX-5, clio RS, Fiestas,... but they are a little bit over-priced in my opinion).
I'm surprised there is no bike engined examples while it's common in European hill climb and almost all of them are using Japanese brands.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah for sure, 4 for the price of one. But each to their own, if you want to set records you have to be prepared to play with the big boys. If you just want to have fun, just get a Kei car and enjoy the hell out of it


This looks like so much fun. Great article Dino!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks Alen!


What time did the AZ-1 get around in?

Dino Dalle Carbonare

It's right there in the story ...


doh, my bad, I was awed by the photos of the car! :D


I always enjoy your articles, Dino. Thanks for being such a great contributor on this site. You, and the other writers here, really make this the best automotive site - bar none. Cheers mate!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Kevin, it's comments like these that make all the work worthwhile. Appreciate the feedback!


I think we need a kei car class for the go kart track
How's that idea?


Best Speedhunters article in a long time, more Kei please!

Dino Dalle Carbonare

haha thanks! Definitely want to drive the lifted Copens that Mo-Fac builds! They are so far though!


Those first pictures though. The car looked as if someone stitched 3 different cars. The body of an S2k, headlights and front bumper of a mini cooper, and the tailights and somewhat headlights like a beetle....Weird but cool. THANKS DINO

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

I got to know who made those overfenders for the Copens.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Liberty Walk

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Oh wow, didn't know they also worked on the Copen!


I am about 100 pounds too heavy for these but I wonder is someone could run a Cappuccino with a Hayabusa engine if it could clear a minute there.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Yeah I'm honestly surprised nobody does these sort of swaps. Mind you it wouldn't be a Kei car any more as they will make you put a white plate on it and re-homologate


But if it clears Tsukuba in under a minute it would definitely be worth it.


Wonderfully weird, cool cars, great pictures, Thanks Dino !
For sure these drivers have lots of fun while no big wallet is required. Just a sidenote, what's confusing me is why displacement over 660cc is obviously allowed by regulations although this is the "Kei limit" (if I am correct)? Generally, would be interesting to have some information about technical rulebooks for japanese time attack series.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

660 cc is the imposed capacity restriction for Kei "lightweight" vehicles. In time attack you are free to stroke them up, but never seen anything above 880 cc so that might be the safe limit


Driving something small and light, you are only carrying around as much as you need to get around the course. The big cars have more horsepower and bigger tires, but going minimal has something of its own to offer. That extra horsepower and tire size on the big cars ends up carting around extra weight and bulk.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

But then again you need weight to put power down, be it static or aerodynamically generated. It's all about finding a balance and a crazy enough driver to rely on it all


Oh my word, that looks like so much fund. And that AutoZAM. What a thing!


Is the purple Copen a 4 cyl? I count 4 ign coils


Yes, Copens have 4cyl engines unlike most kei cars


The Copen is actually a 4cyl not a 3cyl, and that Daihatsu is called the Opti Not the "Otis"


Kei Cars + Time Attack = Pure love <3


Looks like there's a market for rear disk brake conversions for Copens.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Haha so true


thanks for the Nice shoots and articles , Dino san. I remember encountering Speedhunters website more than 10 years ago and this kind of content is the reason the Speedhunters site is the first tab to come up when im online, not to mention your photography style that I use as inspiration and reference for my own skill development. btw , are the older daihatsu miras totally none existent in the motorsports scene nowadays ? thanks again and keep up the good work .

Dino Dalle Carbonare

Happy to hear that! Always a pleasure to get feedback from long time readers. You do see some old Mira's, not at this event though.


Size doesn't matter?

Tell that to the wing on that AZ-1.

Dino Dalle Carbonare

I think he's going for wheelies down the back straight!


Great article and photos, Dino!!

As a famous (but unknown author) saying goes "If size does matter, then the elephant should be theking of the jungle".


A really nice article after a long while


Objectively, the original Mini was probably the greatest car ever made; all things to all people and Kei cars such as the Alto are the real spiritual successors. We are all faced with the reality of environmental pressures that expensive, large, powerful, fuel inefficient cars are a dying breed and that on the public highway it's now more fun to drive a slow car quickly than a quick one slowly. If we want to continue with an ICE, this is the way to go; more Kei car features please Dino.

karishma agarwal

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That car on the front AZ-1 . My coworker when I lived in Japan had it. Mr. Ishikawa. I was probably 19 at the time. Now 46 lol. Growing up in Japan was something else especially during the golden age of Japanese cars. I remember going drifting and drag racing every night lol. I remember seeing a Suzuki Cappuccino with a 13B transplant. When that little car came out it was immediately tunned to the max. People raced against GTR's. People fail to realize as amazing as a GTR is. It takes a crap ton of money to modify vs. a 660CC Kei car with a tiny ass turbo. Even if you upgraded it was still tiny but soon as you pushed the gas . 0 lag turbo kicked in fully. Crazy. They came with dinky plastic blow off valves. Hard to believe I am about to move back to Japan for a job near Tokyo for the Department of Defense in 3 weeks!?! Tokyo Auto Salon will now be a 1 hour train ride?!! Hells yeah. !!!!


I need a Cappuccino and an S660 in my life.


This really makes me wish that Kei cars came with LHD...


Best Speedhunters article of 2021.


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