A TRIB­UTE TO A LEG­END

HIROYUKI HASEGAWA: THE MAN BE­HIND SOME OF THE GREAT­EST AF­TER­MAR­KET PER­FOR­MANCE PARTS TO HIT THE WORLD

NZ Performance Car - - News - WORDS: JADEN MARTIN PHO­TOS: NZPC AR­CHIVES

Hiroyuki Hasegawa — founder of iconic Ja­panese tun­ing house HKS — has passed away aged 71. We take a look at his life and the huge num­ber of ac­com­plish­ments and ad­vance­ments he achieved, from For­mula 1 to drag and time-at­tack dom­i­na­tion. A true pi­o­neer of the scene, he will be missed, but his legacy will live on through HKS for years to come.

Hasegawa-san founded the com­pany in Oc­to­ber of 1973 along­side Goichi Kita­gawa, and with fund­ing from Sigma Au­to­mo­tive (aka SARD), with the ‘ H’ from Hasegawa, the ‘K’ from Kita­gawa, and the ‘S’ from Sigma Au­to­mo­tive form­ing the name ‘HKS’.

Hasegawa had been a Yamaha en­gi­neer, and his au­to­mo­tive em­pire had hum­ble be­gin­nings in­side a small shed at the base of Mount Fuji in Fu­ji­nomiya, Shizuoka Pre­fec­ture, Ja­pan. His goal was sim­ple — to de­velop an orig­i­nal rac­ing en­gine for the Ja­panese mar­ket — and he set out to cre­ate high-per­for­mance en­gines and com­po­nents that orig­i­nal-equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers could not pro­duce. Hasegawa de­vel­oped his pre­mier HKS-74E en­gine in 1973, but it was never in­tro­duced to the world due to a lack of funds. So he switched fo­cus and, by July 1974, had suc­cess­fully en­gi­neered and built the world’s first off-the-shelf tur­bocharger kit for a pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle. The FET kit was de­signed for the GC100 Sky­line’s L20 en­gine and im­proved stock power by 40 per cent, from 85kW to 118kW. This in­ven­tion shocked the rapidly ex­pand­ing lo­cal car scene and kicked off the Ja­panese turbo era — in a mere five years, most au­tomak­ers had be­gun fit­ting tur­bocharg­ers to their stock ve­hi­cles.

Want­ing to bet­ter the suc­cess of the FET turbo kit, HKS pur­chased a tur­bocharger de­vel­oped in the US, quickly re­verseengi­neer­ing it and im­prov­ing the de­sign to de­velop an all-new orig­i­nal kit. These were fit­ted to car­bu­ret­ted Sky­line L20SUs and 18RG-equipped Toy­ota Cel­i­cas. Since then, de­vel­op­ing tur­bocharger up­grades and bolt-on tur­bocharger kits has be­come the core busi­ness for HKS, and a US sub­sidiary was es­tab­lished in 1981.

The early ’80s saw a boom in elec­tronic fuel in­jec­tion and other com­put­er­ized tech­nolo­gies en­ter­ing the mar­ket, and Hasegawa wanted to re­main on the cut­ting edge. In 1982, he de­vel­oped the first com­mer­cially avail­able elec­tronic turbo timer, the F-Con en­gine­m­an­age­ment sys­tem, and the EVC ( elec­tronic valve con­troller). Hasegawa also played an in­stru­men­tal role in de­vel­op­ing the HKS M300. Based on a Toy­ota Cel­ica XX, the M300 clocked 301.25kph at Yatabe Max Speed — thus be­com­ing the first Ja­panese au­to­mo­bile to ex­ceed the 300kph mark. The en­gine was based on a 5M-G, which un­der­went a lot of trim­ming and fine-tun­ing, and had some down­right magic per­formed on it to achieve the re­mark­able record. The com­pany states that, since then, “Many oth­ers have chal­lenged [ the record] and failed.” With Hasegawa at the helm, the com­pany went on to work closely with au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ers to de­velop en­gines for their motorsport pro­grammes. Of note is the HKS 134E, which was built for Mit­subishi’s Ral­liart Star­ion. The en­tirety of the en­gine, bar the block, was de­signed, de­vel­oped, and built in-house at HKS. It achieved good re­sults, and the HKS 134E went on to con­test nu­mer­ous ral­lies and later ven­tured into drag rac­ing in the US.

After build­ing a se­ries of suc­cess­ful en­gine pack­ages, HKS took a note out of Ruf Au­to­mo­bile’s book, de­cid­ing to do with R32 GT-Rs in Ja­pan what Ruf was do­ing with Porsches in Ger­many. These GTRs were called the ‘HKS Zero-R’ and packed an im­pres­sive 336kW, with 492Nm of torque — they were al­tered so much from orig­i­nal, that many con­sid­ered the Zero-R to be a new vari­ant in its own right, and the govern­ment at the time agreed. After build­ing four ZeroRs, HKS was re­quired to reg­is­ter them as a sep­a­rate model that was no longer re­lated to the Nis­san brand, which is when things went south. The reg­u­la­tions at the time meant that the cars had to be crash tested to pass ho­molo­ga­tion ap­proval, and the call was made to aban­don the project al­to­gether when costs to­talled up to ¥13M per car, back in 1990! HKS kept three Zero-Rs, and the fourth was sold to the Sul­tan of Brunei. That is, of­fi­cial num­bers only say

four cars, but im­ages have sur­faced show­ing a fac­tory loaded with a few more, per­haps kept un­of­fi­cially by Hasegawa for week­end drives …

Re­gard­less of the Zero-R’s fail­ure, HKS got straight back to work build­ing an en­gine for use in For­mula 1 — a per­sonal dream of Hasegawa’s that was fi­nally re­al­ized in ’92 with the HKS 300E. The 3.5-litre V12 gen­er­ated 500kW, with a red­line of 13,500rpm, on pump fuel. It was tested in­side a Lola T91/50 F3000 chas­sis, although it never did make its way to com­pe­ti­tion use. Nonethe­less, HKS was able to im­prove its en­gi­neer­ing, tech­nol­ogy, and brand value as a re­sult.

In the fol­low­ing years, Hasegawa pushed the com­pany to cover prac­ti­cally all motorsport dis­ci­plines lo­cally and abroad, from mo­tor­cy­cles to drag cars. The A70 twin-turbo Supra be­come the first car to break the eight-sec­ond bar­rier in Ja­pan’s RRC dra­grac­ing se­ries, run­ning a 7.91. HKS also en­tered into the Ja­panese Tour­ing Car (JTC) Group A se­ries with its R32 GT-R, which fa­mously wore the iconic blue, green, and pur­ple–on–black liv­ery that would later be found on nearly all HKS-backed cars.

At this point in the story, we’d nor­mally step away from our hero’s busi­ness achieve­ments to fo­cus on the man him­self, but, although those who knew him de­scribed Hasegawa as a friendly, kind-hearted per­son, he was, fit­tingly, all busi­ness — known to wear the same grey jump­suit that the com­pany’s em­ploy­ees wore to show that he was as much in the trenches as they were. He re­mained staunch about con­stantly bet­ter­ing his pre­vi­ous achieve­ments, and it was com­mon to see the Zero-R, Drag GTR, and HKS Driv­ing Per­for­mance drag Supra wast­ing away on the grounds of the HKS head­quar­ters — this wasn’t mere ne­glect, how­ever. Of­fers to pur­chase the Zero-R from Dave Pankew, for­mer edi­tor of Mod­i­fied Mag­a­zine, were re­fused by Hasegawa, who said, “I would never sell a Zero-R to you, no mat­ter what the price. You are a Sky­line GT-R owner and this old car doesn’t have the per­for­mance ex­pected to­day, and is not re­flec­tive of HKS’s abil­i­ties. It would be a dis­hon­our for HKS to have you drive it in Amer­ica.”

You have to ap­pre­ci­ate the man’s at­ti­tude to­wards devel­op­ment, and you would be hard-pressed to find a sin­gle branch of motorsport that Hasegawa and his com­pany did not im­prove, de­velop, and pi­o­neer in. Credit must be given to him for ex­pand­ing the Ja­panese car cul­ture and the avail­abil­ity of high-end per­for­mance parts to the world. Although he may be gone, pass­ing at 71 years of age, his legacy and com­pany con­tinue to thrive.

Rest in peace, Hiroyuki Hasegawa.

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