Co-founder of legendary Japanese aftermarket parts company HKS, Hiroyuki Hasegawa, left us on November 9th, 2016. He was 71 years old.
Mr. Hasegawa probably grew up like many automotive enthusiasts in Japan did in the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, by marveling at the drivers and machines of formula cars, rally, and possibly even hearing about the crazy nitro-burning dragsters of the era. Early on he worked with Yamaha Motor Company as an engineer. By 1973, he and Goichi Kitagawa began HKS in a dairy farm shed at the foot of Mount Fuji with Sigma Automotive providing the capital needed to fund the company. The goal was to build and design high-performance engines and components that OEMs couldn’t or wouldn’t. Then, in July of 1974, they designed and created the first ever commercialized aftermarket turbocharger kit. Parts development has been at the core of HKS ever since, with electronic turbo timers, boost controllers, suspension kits, and more.
HKS’ main R&D facility still resides near the same dairy farm shed, just much, much larger. Their foothold grew larger, too, under Hasegawa-san’s watch. HKS became a publicly traded company, created international sales and distribution networks, and even founded subsidiary companies in California (HKS USA), Cambridgeshire, England (HKS Europe), and Bangkok (HKS Thailand). Of course, the financial downfall of the late 2000’s hit hard and HKS USA – which was established in 1982 – shut down operations. Now MPort Group imports the brand, while Motovicity Distribution handles US distribution.
Within that same time, there have been many record-setting cars built under Mr. Hasegawa’s engineering prowess. The start was a 5M-equipped Toyota Celica named the HKS M300 in 1983. It was the first Japanese car to break 300-KPH (186-MPH), producing over 600-horsepower. Then there were the drag racing records, like the A70 Supra that was the first to break the eight-second barrier with 7.91-second ET at 1,000 meters. Then came a 1,200-horsepower Nissan 180SX.
Next came the time attack record breakers, the first being the T200 R33 GT-R that ran Tsukuba Circuit in less than one-minute. There was the TRB-01 Altezza, which ran 55.8-seconds but was later “revoked,” which made them come back with a vengeance with the TRB-02 Evolution, and then the CT230 Evolution with the Tsukuba breaking 53.58-seconds. This car held that record until 2012, a full five-years. Finally, we have possibly the greatest creation before Mr. Hasegawa’s death, the HKS GT1000+ R35 GT-R, capable of going over 200MPH and lapping Auto Club Speedway’s roval in 1:33.386 with full windows.
Mr. Hiroyuki Hasegawa – the “H” of HKS – left us with such amazing gifts, knowledge, and engineering benchmarks. From the first ever aftermarket turbo kit to aircraft engines to racing and time attack machines, Mr. Hasegawa will be missed but never forgotten. HKS, the company he helped build, will continue to be a celebration of his life and embody his legacy, producing some of the most incredible vehicles to come out of the foot of Mount Fuji.