Ebisu East is a fairly technical course, and the top speeds aren’t all that high. However, it boasts a steep uphill section and a lengthy front straight, so it would make sense that a power advantage is a serious asset here. In this tightly-fought battle between two racing cars with different tire widths, layouts, and power levels, the value of sheer power is put under the microscope and evaluated alongside the other factors which determine overall pace.
Similar Performance with Different Assets
The two cars here, despite competing in similar categories, are built quite differently. Amenbo’s Silvia is outfitted with a modified SR20 pumping out 400 horsepower and twice the torque of the atmospheric STP Civic. However, that turbo power is delivered in one big lump, and is harnessed—somewhat—by a comparatively slow-shifting gearbox.
While the Civic weighs 200 pounds less than the Silvia, its real asset in acceleration is its sequentially-shifted gearbox. With Keiichi Tsuchiya manning that pump-action shifter and dancing on the pedals, the Civic is kept barking in its ideal rev range for more of the time. Additionally, the STP Civic uses Ebisu-specific gearing, whereas the Silvia’s longer ratios don’t match the course as well—though it makes up for that with torque. There’s a theme developing: the Civic does more with less.
These cars continue to differ in the suspension department as well. Not only does the Civic benefit from double-wishbone suspension, but the driven wheels are pressed into the pavement by the engine sitting on top of them. Therefore, the Civic deploys its grunt more efficiently—despite wearing narrower tires—and only on rare occasions does Tsuchiya have to wrestle with torquesteer at the corner exit. The Silvia, in comparison, continually struggles to administer the 360 lb-ft of torque, and Ohi Takashi’s smooth driving isn’t enough to avoid regular countersteering. In fact, the Silvia’s power is enough to light up the rears through the high-speed Turn 7—though that ends up playing into its favor later on!
Deploying Power Neatly
In the infield, the Civic and the Silvia are very closely matched; the Civic stretching the lead slightly through Turns 2 and 3 thanks to better entry speed and good composure through the direction change. However, Tsuchiya does overdoes it out of Turn 3 (2:30), lifts abruptly to trim his line, and puts the car into a gorgeous slide. Only someone with his ability to improvise like that could make it look so effortless and still keep the pace up.
When Ohi deploys that power aggressively at the bottom of Turn 7 (4:12), he exploits the Silvia’s ability to change direction under power and masterfully rotates the rear at high speed. This allows him to straighten his steering quite early and exploit that turbocharged torque which fires him over the hill past his atmospheric adversary.
Finding some extra gusto, Ohi seems to realize the how much faster the Silvia is when driven like a rally car. Hanging the tail wildly out of every successive corner, Ohi streaks away with gobs of wheelspin, and, just in the nick of time, realizes that this Silvia is the kind of old-school bruiser which rewards this sort of macho manhandling.