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 LegendPicked 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 OneOn 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."