Seeing 155 competing cars fill the Tsukuba paddock and access roads a couple of weekends back was crazy. While idlers may come close to filling up Ibaraki circuit, I’ve never seen quite so many cars lined up to race at one event as I did at Attack.
While it was Speedhunting heaven, it actually made it quite difficult to pick cars to spotlight away from the high-profile machines that always get a closer look (stay tuned for those). I really didn’t want to miss out on the chance to show you a few cars that make you think differently, and I may have just found them in this Honda kei-class pairing.
You see, a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with carbon fiber aero, 1,200hp under the hood and a huge operating budget behind it is going to achieve incredible things. You’d expect it too, and Fire Ando and his Escort Racing team recently delivered, big time.
What you wouldn’t expect is a 30-year-old kei car lapping Tsukuba Circuit in 1’03″630. But that’s what this JW3 Honda Today from Honda Auto Okayama can do.
Under the hood is the original E07A 656cc 3-cylinder engine that powered the various versions of this compact city car. In stock form it made 51hp, however this custom turbocharged example is reputedly good for 250hp. That’s essentially four times the original output, backed up by a cross mission gearbox to make the most of it.
With only 680kg to push around the power-to-weight ratio is impressive.
Honda Auto Okayama have put this thing together so nicely; from the exterior to the engine bay to the interior, it’s all very clean. The cabin retains pretty much all of its trim, plus necessary additions like a roll cage, a race bucket with harness, Momo steering wheel, and all the auxiliary gauges and digital modules you could ever need.
The decision to go with wide steel wheels in white wrapped up in Yokohama Advan Neova A050 semi-slicks just adds to the appeal for me.
This is an impressive build that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Every modification has been made for function, but there’s enough attention to detail that it ticks the form side of things rather well too.
If one time-attacking Today wasn’t enough of surprise, Honda Auto Okayama brought along a second car – a later-model JA4 version.
The engine is the same E07A unit, custom turbocharged too. It’s also a MTREC (Multi Throttle Responsive Engine Control) version, which features individual throttle bodies for each of the three cylinders. Honda used this base engine in the Beat where it was tuned more for a higher-RPM power delivery with a 63hp peak. In the Today it was de-tuned to 57hp, but with slightly more useable torque to aid around-town drivability.
The best this JA4 managed on the day was a 1’07″033, a few seconds off the pace of the JW3 but still a respectable number.
The exterior has been left stock, aside from the addition of the Enkei wheels and a Lexan rear window.
Both cars were set up with generous amounts of negative camber, which allows the wheels and thus tires to generate their highest grip when under high lateral load. Plus, it just looks sick when the cars are sitting still.
I just love the attention to detail, the floor having been painted in the same Tiffany blue as the engine bay and on the cam covers – not to mention the exterior of the other Today parked next to it!
I always love seeing different approaches to car building, and this pair is definitely different. Lesson of the day: don’t underestimate anything in Japan. That goes for kei cars too!
Dino Dalle Carbonare