Text and photography: Chris Sullivan
As the sun slowly rises over the paddock in the early morning, a hundred drivers slowly start their preparations for a full weekend of motorsports. To say motorsports alone are what everyone is here for would do a disservice to BingeTokyo Circuit Battle and Japanese tuning culture as a whole.
High fives and smiles all around is what is in store for this weekend of competition. The rumblings of race engines starting, and the smell of race gas only adds to the assault on the senses. The tech line opens and the anticipation builds as drivers line up and get their credentials, others check their lug nuts, oil, and other critical vehicle components.
This paddock experience is familiar, but time attack could be thought of as the distinction. Time attack in the United States is a relatively new sport, but shares so many concepts with many other forms of auto racing. Unlimited class racers will try anything in the interest of going faster, and drivers often lay it all on the line for bragging rights alone, but at this event there was even more to gain.
With $500 for the driver on top of the podium, $300 for second place, and $150 awarded to the third place driver, bragging isn’t the only incentive. Chasing the clock isn’t the only reason that so many drivers made the trek to NCM Motorsports Park, as HPDE drivers will have plenty of seat time to chase their own goals.
Many competitors are familiar with the track but 23 turns over the course is a lot to comprehend no matter how familiar a driver is with a racing circuit. Cars from all corners of the world share the track, and all bench racing claims no longer matter as the times tell no lies.
With a variety of vehicles in competition running wheel to wheel—ranging from a Ferrari F430 Challenge all the way down to the humble NA Mazda Miata—it would be clear that anyone could win the day. Quick adjustments in tire pressures and damper settings are just a few of the checklist items after the practice sessions have finally concluded.
At this event, drivers with skill levels from advanced to novice all share the track. This 3.15-mile road course will provide quite the challenge, for all drivers alike.
With the checklists completed and the fuel topped off, the green flag falls on the first practice sessions of the day. The morning dew on the track quickly dissipates and confidence begins to build as lap times slowly start to fall.
Zac Lovoy’s impressive Ferrari 458 Challenge car drew quite a crowd, as it’s not typical to see a car of this stature at a grassroots time attack event. A common theme across the paddock was that all of the drivers took pride in their cars, and all were very well-kept, which is not always the case.
Freshly built and ready for competition, Peter Collins’s BMW E46—piloted by 365 Racing driver Andy Smedegard—unfortunately had a water pump failure, which took them out of the running early on Saturday. Andy and Peter would not give up that easily though, and had the car repaired by Sunday morning for some shake down laps. Another noteworthy project was the Honda K series-powered Juno, which ran a blistering 1:57 in an exhibition session.
As the flagger dropped the checkered flag on the second timed session of the day, many impressive times were run. During competition, drivers met on hot pit to pose for a photo and to share their own victories and trials.
Aaron Leichty took the first place honors, and the $500 check, with an impressive 2:05.962 in his gorgeous LS V8-powered Miata. Second place on the podium went to Zac Lovoy with his Ferrari 458 Challenge, and the third podium spot was earned by Robert Manouchehri’s less-is-more sub-300whp Mazda Miata. Though the competition drew to an end for the weekend, that didn’t mean that the event was entirely over. Plenty of seat time still remained as the HPDE drivers took to the track.
CircuitBattle 2 was the first step into a time attack-style event for BingeTokyo. Drew Turner of Deft Motion took his passion for Japanese tuning culture and combined that with other subcultures like anime and gaming to give all a common place to exist. Time Attack events on the grassroots level are solidifying the role of Japanese cars in what has not always been a welcoming market.