In the days leading up to our Super Lap Battle finals, the question on everyone's minds wasn't whether HKS would break the overall track record or not, but by how much. This red Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, adorned with flashy, attractive HKS signage-dubbed the HKS Racing Performer CT230R by HKS' engineers-has already broken several records in Japan, and it only seemed fitting for HKS Japan to bring the car here to do the same. But this very extraordinary car couldn't have done what it has with any ordinary driver; this is the reason why HKS placed their trust into a driver who has performed consistently for them over the years. This special individual is Nobuteru Taniguchi, and as you can see, there is no one better for the job.
Creating A Legend
Picked up in '01 to drive the HKS S15 Silvia for the D1 drifting series, HKS brought NOB on board for several other racing projects, including driving the original TRB-02 Evo, the prototype to CT230R. When TRB-02 came out of HKS' R&D department in '04 sporting a tasty black carbon shell, it danced all over the record that HKS set previously with the carbon Altezza. If you can recall, the HKS Altezza was able to pull a 55.85 back in '01, but since the car was built far beyond what the officials considered a true tuner car, the run was deemed unofficial. In an LL Cool J-like "don't call it a comeback" moment, HKS returned to the Tsukuba Circuit in '04 with TRB-02, and in its first run out set its first record with a 55.000 run, then broke it again with a 54.739, the first 54-second lap to be recorded at Tsukuba. Shortly after, HKS took TRB-02 back to the drawing board and decided to improve on the chassis; the end result is CT230R.
Once CT230R was finished, HKS took it back to the track and sent Taniguchi off to break various records across Japan's at some of the most famous racetracks, including Fuji, Suzuka, Tokachi, Okayama, Central, Sportsland Sugo, Auto Polis, and, of course, back to the place where the action really counts: Tsukuba. In the winter of '06, Taniguchi beat the 54-second record he set two years prior with a 53.999, another high point of his career as he becomes the first to break into the 53-second barrier, and a month later, he beats that time with a 53.589, the current Tsukuba track record.
How To Break A Record: Part One
On the morning of the Super Lap Battle practice day, the HKS pit crew unloads CT230R out onto pit area. Small crowds gather; they know what the car is and who will be driving it. Nearly an hour later, a rental van pulls up. It seems like minutes before Taniguchi slides the rear door open for his first look at the Buttonwillow course, but when he steps out, he scans every inch perfectly. HKS' five mechanic team makes its adjustments to the chassis and fires up the 2.3L 4G63 engine; Taniguchi seems unfazed and makes his way back into the van. He's suffering from jetlag but he knows the mission ahead of him is important, so he rests and meditates. An announcement over the loudspeaker then sends him quickly into pursuit mode and the man dons a familiar racing suit, complete with flames on the jacket sleeves. Taniguchi straps himself into the Evo and makes his way slowly to the track's entryway.
Watching the CT230R from the sidelines, it's hard to tell how fast Taniguchi is going, but you can see that his grip racing style is much like his drifting; fast, yet smooth and very controlled.
It's a slower pace than expected at first, but with each passing lap, he becomes more at ease and the speeds are picking up. Once his session is over, I can see the HKS mechanics smiling amongst each other. Something has happened, but I don't understand enough Japanese to catch what's going on (I'm constantly waiting for one of them to say ookii oppai). As CT230R pulls up, it becomes crystal clear: a record has been broken, but it's unofficial. The team decides to pack up for the day rather than push the car before the official game starts. HKS says he was taking it easy anyway; "Tomorrow, he'll go faster."
How To Break A Record: Version 2.0
The next morning, most other tuners and their teams are scurrying to get their cars off trailers and inspected by NASA officials; CT230R rests quietly and HKS gets there in time to send Taniguchi off by the first session. Here's where the party gets really exciting: with the Unlimited class under way, it seems as if Taniguchi really just racing against the clock; as if CT230R was the only car on the track. Things start off shaky when he goes slightly off course, but nobody faults him; it was time for the master to get to work. During this session, Taniguchi came through big time, beating Sun Auto's long standing Super Lap Battle record of 1:48.906 by four seconds with a 1:44.668, which was also good enough to take down JIC's unofficial track record of 1:48.766, which was set earlier in the year. With each session after, Taniguchi broke the record again; in session two, it was a 1:44.610 and in the final, the big one happened: 1:43.523. The other record breakers broke their time in a single attempt; Taniguchi did it three times over in one day (four if you count the practice session). Needless to say, it was smiles all around for HKS.
After the race was over, we had to ask the obvious questions: Did NOB know in his mind that he would break the record by such a big margin with such little seat time on the Buttonwillow course? Taniguchi says, "I'm happy; I hit my expectations and more. It was really hard to hit the 1:44-second mark, but I pushed the car my hardest in the final session, used the more aggressive line and used my secret techniques to run a faster time than expected. Racing on this track is almost like being on a rally-type tarmac while Japan's surfaces are much smoother; I thought Magic Mountain [Lost Hill on configuration 13] was scary and dangerous. During the morning session the track was very dusty, making it difficult to keep traction, so I wasn't able to run at a 100-percent. Also, because the track was a lot bumpier compared to circuits in Japan, I wasn't sure how hard I could push without risking the car. I knew the faster line was there, but I was avoiding it because of the bumps to protect the car. As I ran more on the course, I gained confidence and really started to enjoy the track! Because of my time attack racing experience with HKS and Yokohama Tires in Japan, I was confident I could break the [Buttonwillow] record, but I had no idea it would be such an awesome time. I'm sure if the track were a lot smoother, I could have gone faster, sure."
But there's one great personal story to add on top of the record breaking achievement. The week before the Super Lap Battle finals in Japan, Taniguchi competed in and won the GT300 class in the Super GT series. He noticed, after breaking the Super Lap record, the car number on the side of CT230R; it was the same number as the car he had won the GT300 race in: number 26. Coincidence? Maybe. A good omen-who knows? He smiles and says in very simple English, "Very happy."
HKS CT230R '05 Mitsubushi Lancer Evolution VIII
Owner HKS Japan
Driver Nobuteru Taniguchi
Home Town Fujinomiya, Japan
Daily Grind Parts producer/race car builders power 560ps/ 65kgf/m
Under The Hood 2.3L HKS 63L (4G63); MIVEC with HKS Valcon System; HKS GT3037S turbo, GTII waste gate, 272-camshafts, forged Ni plating pistons (prototype), forged full counter crankshaft (prototype), H-beam connecting rods (prototype), 1.2mm metal head gasket, 820cc injectors (prototype), SUS SPL manifold, S-Type intercooler, SPL oil cooler, Super Power Flow Reloaded, SPL muffler/front pipe
Drivetrain HKS GD-Pro SPL clutch; RALLIART dog type transmission brains HKS F-CON V Pro, EVC and Circuit Attack Counter
Stiff Stuff HKS SPL suspension
Stoppers Endless Racing 6-pot front/4-pot rear calipers, Inch Up System rotors and MA22B brake pads
Rollers 18x10 ADVAN RG II wheels; Yokohama 265/35R18 A048 tires
Outside HKS Racing aero bumpers, over fenders and rear wing; HKS Stinger Red paint; M.S. Revolution graphics
Inside Bride Zeta seat; HKS DB Meter RS (temp, oil pressure); Takata harness
www.endlessusa.com; hksusa.com; mackinindustries.com (ADVAN wheels); noonebetter.co.jp (Nobuteru Taniguchi official site); tein.com (Takata); yokohamatire.com (ADVAN tires)