A Blast From Japanese Drag Racing’s Past

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve shown you an array of cars that competed at the recent 2022 Option x G-Works Super Drag Festival. From Corvettes to RX-7s, the Japanese drag racing scene is as interesting as ever, despite today being a shadow of its former self.

Those striving to keep drag racing alive in Japan are completely dedicated to the cause, and they’re bringing some serious quarter mile hardware out to play at every Japan Drag Championship round opportunity. At Central Circuit last month, a very special machine was amongst them, although I’ll admit that I didn’t know what I was looking at until after the event.

The Japanese tuning powerhouse that is HKS certainly needs no introduction. Next year they’ll celebrate their 50th anniversary, and over the past half-century they’ve built some amazing demo cars, many of which have reset records in their respective disciplines. One such machine was the HKS Drag GT-R, which at a time when the Japanese tuning scene was going zeroyon mad, blew the competition out of the staging lanes with a 7.671-second ET at Sendai Hi-Land Raceway. For a long time, the iconic HKS-striped R33 was the quickest all-wheel drive car on the planet.

But AWD wasn’t HKS’s only focus. They also dabbled in FF and of course FR, the latter producing cars like the HKS Drag 180SX – a tube-frame Prostock build from the late ’90s that ran low 7-second ETs. Following on from that car, in 2001 HKS pulled the wraps off something even more serious – a full tube-chassis Toyota Supra powered by a twin-turbo 3UZ-FE V8 engine pumping out 1,400ps.

The HKS Drag 80 Supra was engineered for 6-second passes, and set up to race in the USA. It achieved its goal when it ran a 6.893-second pass at 193mph at Englishtown Raceway in New Jersey.


As with many famous demo cars, the HKS Supra kind of faded into oblivion after its return to Japan, but it was re-powered by a 2JZ engine and, potentially (information is thin on the ground) ran a 7-second pass before HKS retired, and ultimately sold the car.

I’m sure you can guess what you’re looking at now…


The ex-HKS Drag 80 Supra has for many years now been known as the First Way Racing Supra. It’s owned, maintained and driven by Koji Yamaguchi, another OG of the Japanese drag racing scene.


In Yamaguchi-san’s hands, the Supra has continued to be evolved, and so far run a best of ET of 6.83-seconds in the Pro Turbo class. It still features its original Jerry Bickel Race Cars chassis and stroked 3.2L 2JZ-GTE, although the engine setup and driveline has seen a number of changes over the years.


I would’ve loved to have spent some more time with the Supra in the Central Circuit pits, so you can be sure I’ll do just that the next time I make it out to a Japan Drag Championship event and Yamaguchi-san is back behind the wheel of this true blast from Japanese drag racing’s past.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_



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Amazing this car is still active to this day. I'm more perplexed how an HKS demo car of this caliber was sold off to a privateer. Off the top of my head I can't think of any other significant HKS demo car that has ended up in private owners.


Sure a name like Koji Yamaguchi would have some clout with HKS enough to facilitate a sale.


You're right. HKS always keep their race cars in their private vault. This seems to be an anomaly...


This is not the only anomaly, HKS sold their drag tube chassis 180SX to Escort that also build drag cars


Huh, I thought I still see pictures of the 180SX in their storage...


Ah yes the Supra the living definition of a 10 second car (get the reference?)
This shows how big the Supra is in the tuner scene especially on the dragstrip


Englishtown raceway became raceway park. Unfortunately the drag strip was torn down after the last 1320ft top fuel race.
It lives on as a formula drift pad.