Night Shift: VTEC Clubbing in the Dark
Text and photography by Luke Munnell
If something you’re doing for fun seems like a big obligation or commitment, you might be doing it wrong. Case in point: track days. Sure, there’s the inevitable amount of preparation and best-effort feeling that should come with doing it right, but you should enjoy putting in the work, and it shouldn’t feel overbearing before you even get to the track.
VTEC Club’s first few years squeezed two seasons into each spring-to-fall calendar, which was great for accommodating a wide range of enthusiast drivers’ schedules, but that was kind of a big commitment to competitors who had to keep their cars running and schedules open around full-time jobs and assorted other daily obligations.
We’re not sure if 2018’s more relaxed spring-to-winter, six-event schedule is right in that Goldilocks zone for track days and enthusiast competition, but one thing is certain: each round this year has been a blast. From a wet and wild Round 1 running Willow Springs’ Streets of Willow circuit in the traditional clockwise configuration, to Round 2 at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in the searing-hot California desert, to Round 3 at Buttonwillow in reverse (counter-clockwise), and back again with more planned, it’s been a great ride.
For VTEC Club’s Round 4 competition, Honda time-attackers visited Streets of Willow for the second of two stops on the 2018 calendar, this time also running the course backwards from its traditional clockwise configuration, and partly at night.
This was a welcome change to the schedule as the later starting times mean cooler temperatures during the hot California summer, but this is also not without its challenges. The most notable difficulty is that the racers really only got one or two daylight sessions to post their best times before transitioning to nighttime driving which is always fun, but not usually faster than what can happen during daylight hours.
While the darker hours and areas of the track might be more difficult to navigate, it allowed racers’ supplementary lighting to really shine. And since this is a Honda enthusiast track day, that included the tongue-in-cheek addition of plenty of colorful neons and rope lighting!
Most of the serious racing was done in the first session of the day for each of the three run groups, and most of the podium-winning drivers in each class slotted into the very first “advanced” run group of the day.
Was it an Illuminati conspiracy within VTEC Club’s managerial ranks? Probably not. Duane Bada (VTEC Club front man) and Amir Bentatou (logistics and lead driving instructor) make it a point to qualify only the most experienced drivers in the first run group — guys who know how to pass, check their mirrors, stay off apexes when on a slow run, and make the most of their momentum on the “flyers” (a fast lap).
Since no one is born with that knowledge (except maybe Amir), some of VTEC Club’s most experienced drivers are available for lead-follow sessions and one-on-one coaching in one of the two remaining run groups, and want nothing more than to see their drivers become safer and faster.
One of the coolest aspects of VTEC Club’s inviting format is that there’s always a range of machinery to see, including plenty of new and different stuff at each round.
Benjamin Ellsworth’s No. 557 Maxxis Tires S2K Challenge S2000 was one we haven’t seen much of in past events, and held its own around the counter-clockwise circuit, clocking a best 1:29.377 lap to take Second in Group A competition.
Brandon Camacho and his cammed, F22-powered S2K are no stranger to VTEC Club, but he’s missed most or all of 2018 until this event. It was nice to see him back and clocking a very quick 1:25.487 to place Second in Group A2.
Not quite as fast, but every bit as cool for completely different reasons was Alan Lau and his second-generation Acura Legend. Alan’s normally behind the wheel of his track-prepped S14, but on this night just wanted to hang out with his Honda bros.
That underscores the fundamental core of VTEC Club: If you’re respectful and open-minded, and are down for a genuinely good time among fellow Honda enthusiasts (or with experienced wheelmen in general), you’ll find a place here.
As for that competition, it exists within VTEC Club’s five classes, depending on vehicle modification. The fastest players roll in Group A, which was led far and away at this round by Jay Valle in his No. 55 K24 VTEC-powered Honda Civic sedan, with a best lap time of 1:26.564.
But as impressive as Jay’s performance was, he was still only the fourth-fastest driver of the day. All three finishers of the normally not-as-fast Group A2 posted quicker times, led by Steven Kronemberger in the No. 528 FK8 Honda Civic Type R, with a 1:24.436 time—Steven’s second win this season, after cleaning up at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway earlier this summer.
Brandon Camacho followed in his S2K, but right on his tail was John Cruz and his ITB B-series “Goldy” EG hatch, with a ridiculously quick 1:25.877.
VTEC Club leader Duane Bada led Group N1 into the night with a 1:28.736 lap from his stock B20-powered EK hatch, and S2000 hotshoe and VTEC Club driving instructor Alan “AJ” Jaquias took home yet another Group N2 win, with a somehow even-quicker 1:28.500 from his B20-powered Integra RS.
Two more rounds are spread out across the 2018 calendar for VTEC Club, beginning with the awesome Autumn Speed Festival bash at Willow Springs’ Big Willow circuit on November 24th, followed by the season-ending grand finale at a cool (maybe even cold?) Buttonwillow Raceway on December 2nd.
Follow VTEC Club on Facebook for more info, and for more from this latest event, peep our gallery below.