11 Must-See Highlights From VTEC Club’s 2019 Season Opener
Text and photos by Luke Munnell
Of all its achievements over the decades, I think the single quality that’s impressed me the most about Honda enthusiasts and the Honda scene as a whole, has to be its staying power. Through so much time and so many emerging and receding trends, with the shift from Sport FWD drag racing to drifting, to time attack and road racing, Hondas have been able to adapt and remain not only relevant, but downright influential.
VTEC Club is helping add to that legacy by progressing and remaining as influential as ever, and encouraging an ever faster, more capable crop of enthusiast drivers to further push the boundaries of Honda performance and permanence. Here’s what continued to impress us—or completely take us by surprise—and its first round of competition for 2019.
VTEC Club Itself
First and foremost for us is always the organization itself. What began not long ago as a friendly competition among Honda enthusiasts enrolled in Extreme Speed’s “judgement-free” track events grew quickly into one of the Honda community’s most influential Honda-only time attack organizations anywhere.
Available professional driving instruction, lead-follow run groups, and time attack competition classes for stock and even non-VTEC Hondas all the way up to all-out time attack competition machines—not to mention camaraderie in spades as VTEC Club’s owners and operators are all die-hard Honda people—rank it high on our list of authentic track experiences for any make/model.
Chuckwalla Valley Raceway
With its buttery smooth driving surface, challenging double-apex turns and elevation, decreasing-radius angled bowl, forgiving runoff space, and smooth overall momentum, Chuckwalla is fast becoming a favorite stop for VTEC Clubbers. So much so that a second competition round at the facility was added to the 2019 calendar.
Other benefits to this jewel of the desert: It’s located equidistant from L.A., Phoenix and Las Vegas, encourages camping (and tolerates some of its associated debauchery), and provides surprisingly nice bathroom and shower facilities for a racetrack. And while you might not want to stress your car’s faculties in 120-degree heat at Chuckwalla in August, it can provide perfect racing conditions in late winter and fall, as it did here.
Narita Dogfight Attack Challenge
There’s a tendency here in the States to think of time attack as a Japanese creation. While that’s true, the way we organize time attack here often differs from the original Japanese recipe. This is where Narita Dogfight aims to shed some light, by way of its Attack Challenge.
Think of Attack Challenge as unlimited time attack competition in categories such as these: naturally aspirated, forced induction, and DOT radial (tires with 200+ UTQG ratings). In addition to counting as timed runs for VTEC Club competitors, the first two sessions of the day at Chuckwalla served as qualifiers for the first U.S.-based Attack Challenge competition, where the 15 fastest drivers were invited to compete in two Attack Challenge run groups of the day.
As fellow time attackers and friends filled stands, two heats of only seven cars each took to the track (with one car suffering a mechanical issue, unable to compete), spaced evenly apart so as to cut back on any traffic limitations. Drivers had just 10 minutes to clock their fastest lap and when it was over, two drivers had done just that: Chris Elders in the No. 140 turbo S2000, clocking his fastest time of the day with a 1:56.204 to take the forced induction and DOT tire class wins (running Bridgestone RE-71R tires), and Randy Chen in the No. 315 S2000 to take the naturally aspirated win, improving on his VTEC Club fastest lap with a 1:58.696 here.
Turbo K24-Swapped Noble M400
In the nearly 20 years since its introduction (can you believe it’s been that long?!), Honda’s K-series family of engines have earned the lion’s share of the four-cylinder engine-swap market—and not only into other Hondas. Time and again we’ve seen them grace the engine bays of the odd Lotus Elise and Exige, Toyota MR2, Mazda Miata, and even Acura NSX (co-coordinator Amir’s Bentatou car, which we hope to see again very soon!).
The venerable Honda K-series is also a top choice for Noble M400 tinkerers looking for a big improvement in power, weight reduction, reliability, and aftermarket support over their cars’ native Ford Duratec V-6 engine. And for good reason: Kam Urquhart’s turbocharged K24-powered M400 set the fastest lap of the day early on, winning Group A competition in the process with a blisteringly fast 1:55.848 lap. A freak turbo seizure ended Kam’s day early, but with data showing loads of untapped potential, we’re looking forward to seeing even faster results next time.
Hasport K24 Turbo Prelude
One of the best things about VTEC Club’s Chuckwalla’s rounds is that the track’s close proximity to Arizona tends to bring out a lot of Honda friends who would otherwise be left in the far-off wastelands of Phoenix and Tucson (we kid!). Headlining the bunch that did make it out to play this time were Brian and Carter Gillespie, and their Hasport/Circuit Monsters turbo K24-powered Honda Prelude.
With looks to back up the power of its force-inducted Honda “big block”, and all the go-fast bits expected in a track-dedicated Hasport creation, all were hoping this Honda black sheep could humble the S2000s, FK8 Civic Type Rs, and maybe even the Noble in attendance, especially with hotshoe Andy Hope behind its wheel. But when a brake master cylinder failed early on, it just wasn’t in the cards. Still, it was great to see and hear this thing in time attack competition one last time before it begins its transformation into a full-fledged NASA competition machine.
Jose Mejia’s Supercharged K24 DC2 Integra
Jose Mejia and this Jackson Racing supercharged K24-powered DC2 have been coming a long way as a team in VTEC Club competition. Looking and sounding better than ever, Jose drove the tires almost off of it throughout the day, even while battling a broken axle and a yet-to-be-improved suspension.
Claiming the third place spot in Group A competition, Jose and the DC2 have caught up impressively to, and finished just barely behind, the fastest FWD Honda of the day: Steven Kronemberger’s FK8 Civic Type R (Jose clocking a 1:59.173 to Steven’s 1:59.104). But with a pending rule change forcing FK8 Type Rs into slightly smaller tires, and there being a good two months until the next VTEC Club competition round, is an upset in the works?
Sportcar Motion K24-Swapped S2000
For as good as the S2000’s F20C and F22C VTEC engines have always been, a proper K24 VTEC has always been just a bit better, most would argue. And when you add to that the comparatively easier time K24 owners have in getting parts compared to their F-series brethren, well … you can see why these swaps are becoming more and more popular in Honda’s roadster.
Enter the Sportcar Motion K24-swapped S2000. Also still in development and awaiting some needed fine-tuning, this is another one to watch out for. With driver Howard Cheng flying in from Hong Kong to take the wheel it saw the track only in limited non-timed runs, and only left us wanting to see more.
Spoon Honda Accord Euro R
Hands-down one of our favorite cars of the event. Not because it has Spoon livery or that it’s a TSX (which we strangely love), but because it’s the actual No. 91 Spoon Honda Accord Euro R that’s competed in U.S., European and Japanese endurance racing beginning more than 15 years ago.
Owner, builder and driver William Drees brought it out to its first-ever VTEC Club competition after having spent the better part of two years restoring it to its former glory, from the bolts up. And while he’s admittedly still got a ways to go in suspension and power tuning with its JDM K20 engine, the enduro champ ran all day long without a hiccup, belting out a 2:01.8xxx quickest lap at its first-ever Chuckwalla excursion.
Philip Robles’ Turbo K-series EG Civic Hatch
Three years ago we watched Philip Robles and his EG throw down the fastest lap of VTEC Club Chuckwalla competition (a 1:59.215) to win Group A competition. The following year it was Pandem-flared, cleaned up immensely inside and out, and won the coveted Sony Gran Turismo Award at SEMA in Las Vegas.
This year, looking cleaner than ever and in the greatest state of tune it’s ever been, it did a hell of a job … looking good in the pits. Phil’s got some show/demo obligations and some new parts ahead of him that didn’t make sense to jeopardize with the risk of racing this time, but knowing full well what this proven machine is capable of, we’re OK with that. It was great just to see it—and Phil, too!
Free Friggin’ RAYS Wheels!
Another impressive component to VTEC Club’s overall growth has been the quality of its prizes, both to winning drivers and lucky raffle participants. Highlighting that this time around was the donation of a full set of Gram Lights 57CRs. If you know how good RAYS Wheels are, and how hard they are to get below their MSRP, you know how awesome this is.
What consistently impresses us the most about VTEC Club is its people. The goal here is and has always been to enjoy some friendly competition and personal improvement, in weekends at the track. Whether you need a little assistance in working up that, need to borrow a tool or two to help facilitate it, or just want to celebrate an awesome day with friends and good company at the end of it all, VTEC Clubbers will always be down to help a great time be the best it can be.