Once upon a time, the idea that a “tuned car” could break Tsukuba Circuit’s 50-second lap mark seemed like a fairytale. Toshiki ‘Fire’ Ando did just that in his Escort Racing Evo last Friday after a long attempt and several close finishes.
We’ve been following Ando-san’s efforts since he set a lap time of 50.233 seconds in late 2021 to break the previous record (50.366 set by Suzuki in his Scorch Racing Nissan Silvia S15 in December 2017, and then HKS set a 50.259 lap in their TRB-03 Toyota 86 in the same month), and the 49-second lap time in TC2000 seems to be only a matter of time. But the achievement did not come easily.
To set any lap record, all the stars need to line up in the best possible way – car, driver, track and weather conditions. In time trials at this level – 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 last February and took these photos, the 49-second lap time was in sight and expectations were high. Ando’s lap time of 50.342 seconds in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX was another surprisingly fast blast around Tsukuba, but not the figure he had hoped for.
After a new engine build and some finer tuning for 2022, on January 27, 2023, the Escort Racing team did it all, achieving a lap time of 49.897 seconds. The interior footage that Mr. Ando released today is absolutely insane. Click play above!
So where does it go from here? If you think back to March 2018, you might remember HKS lapping the Tsukuba Circuit in a TRB-03 of 49.445 seconds. The problem with this lap time for many is that it was achieved using full slick tires – specifically Yokohama Advan A005s – rather than semi-slick tires, which have been “retrofitted” since the inception of time trials important features of the car”. As is traditional, Ando-san’s 49-second lap was run on semi-slicks, Yokohama Advan A050s.
It will be interesting to see what kind of TC2000 lap times Ando-san can achieve on slicks, given how fast he is now heading into the semis.Previously, this might not have been something he was interested in testing, but as the World Time Attack Challenge has recently shifted to any With production tires eligible for specialized courses in September and beyond, we may see a shift in thinking.do what you think though? Should time trials be limited to semi-slicks, or should full-slicks be welcomed in the new era of the sport?
Whatever the future of the offense holds – whether it’s an international event like the WTAC or a local Tsukuba track meetup – Yoshiki ‘Fire’ Ando’s 49.897-second lap in the half-skinned car will go down as one of the most important laps of all time recorded in history. Congratulations to the entire Escort Racing team for this incredible achievement.
For more on the record-breaking lap time, check out Narita Dogfight’s great video coverage here.