It seems like not long ago we were listening to VTEC Club frontman, Duane Bada, then simply a Honda track-driving enthusiast, go on about his desire to create a modern and progressive, Honda-only time-attack competition series with roots in Japanese tuning culture. “Yeah right,” our cynical minds might’ve wandered, but there was something beneath his enthusiasm — some notion of pragmatism or dedication, maybe — that convinced us that he might actually make it happen.
Fast forward some short years to the present day and VTEC Club has taken off its training wheels and asserted itself as the standard to follow in enthusiast time-attack competition series. With the help of Redline Time Attack coordinator Amir Bentatou, BattleCraft frontman and SP Engineering tuner Kristian Wong, and a close few others, VTEC continues to evolve in its mission.
Year over year, its fastest and most capable cars get faster and more capable. Cars in lower classes reemerge after offseason rebuilds to move up in class with lower lap times. And new challengers enter the fray both as beginners, and at the top to give regular hotshoes a run for their money. For shining examples of all this, just have a look at what we saw during VTEC Club’s sold-out Round 1 competition at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.
VTEC Club time-attack championship competition will exist in six events throughout 2019, with an additional “Driving Clinic” event held at Willow Springs’ Big Willow course on 4/20 (created especially for new and improving drivers), as well as an “Open Challenge” event on 12/15 at Buttonwillow where VTEC Clubbers can take on just about any make/model that fits their ruleset.
Even in season competition there are various themes and bonus features to keep things fresh, like the return of canyon-style “Touge Stage” dogfighting (in addition to regular time-attack competition) at Streets of Willow on 5/25, the annual “NorCal vs. SoCal” battle at Buttonwillow on 7/7, a counter-clockwise night race at Streets of Willow on 8/31, a second round back at Chuckwalla on 10/20, and the annual “Autumn Speed Festival” to close out competition back at Big Willow on 11/30.
There are some clear reasons why Chuckwalla has become a favorite track among VTEC Clubbers and graces the 2019 calendar twice. High on that list is its smooth surface and forgiving runoff spaces. It’s a great place to learn the limits of your car, and with VTEC Club’s quick classroom sessions and guidance from experienced drivers, along with lead-follow run groups, it’s a great place to begin your time-attack journey.
Another great reason to love Chuckwalla is that its location, while a bit of an extra hike for LA drivers, isn’t quite as much of a hike as our more local tracks are for competitors in neighboring states. Making the trek out from Phoenix this time around were Brian and Carter Gillespie, and their Hasport / Circuit Monsters turbo K24-powered Prelude driven by none other than ex-Honda Tuning magazine chief Andy Hope.
Phillip Robles also made it out, but his Pandem-flared, Sony GT Award winning turbo K24-swapped EG hatch (which won overall here back in 2016) remained in the pits for the day, with Phillip and the car having some future commitments that couldn’t be jeopardized with track driving this time around.
But while Phillip’s turbo K24 didn’t get a chance to clean up competition, the sequentially shifted, turbocharged K24 Noble M400 of Las Vegas’ Kam Urquhart did. It clocked the fastest time of the event with a 1:55.848 around Chuckwalla’s 17 turns and 2.68 miles, winning Group A competition early in the day but suffering a turbo failure and retiring before it could run even faster.
Possibly even more impressive was that Chris Elders and his turbocharged S2000 nearly toppled the Noble steed, posting a best lap of 1:56.269 to take Second Place in Group A and set itself as a new force to be reckoned with atop the competition ladder … at least when Kam’s not around.
Rounding out Third Place was yet another forcibly induced K-swapped car: Jose Mejia’s Jackson Racing-supercharged, K24-powered DC2 Integra, posting a best lap of 1:59.173 in between mechanical gremlins like suspension woes and even a broken axle.
FK8 Civic Type R owner/driver Steven Kronemberger went faster than Jose yet again to take Second in Group A2, but just barely, with a 1:59.104. With a pending rule change forcing Steven either into smaller tires or up into Group A competition, will we see a blood-and-bolts rivalry emerge between the two?
Two badass S2000s flanked Steven on the Group A2 podium: Kiwook Moon’s no. 14 car in Third with a 1:59.572 and Randy Chen’s no. 315 car winning the class with a 1:58.850 fastest lap. With such a close margin of victory among the top three finishers and extending down the ladder, Group A2 might just prove to be the most exciting class of the season.
Absent from VTEC Club competition this time were 2016/2017 defending champion Matt Rojina and his supercharged S2000, Duane’s “Spec B20” EK hatch (which Duane just didn’t have time to drive), Amir’s awesome turbo K24-powered NSX, and some cars from GReddy which are rumored to be driven by a certain Formula D hotshoe when they make their eventual competition debut. All of which we’re told will be hitting the track as soon as the next round.
And then there were “BattleCraft Kristian’s” EK hatch, and the mean-looking ITB’d B-series EG Coupe of Narita Dogfight’s Sean Lucas, which weren’t yet running but made the trek to hang out with the homies nonetheless. Muoi Tran (Amir’s girlfriend and designer/fabricator of VTEC Club trophies) held it down on the staff front, posting a personal-best 2:04.574 and taking Second in Group N1 from her no. 47 EK hatch, just behind former Turbo Magazine editor-in-chief Robert Choo and the 2:02.328 he coaxed out of a friend’s B18C-powered EK.
Group N2’s top three competitors each finished within a second of each other, with Javier Mora and his no. 156 DC2 leading the pack at 2:10.417, but with newcomer Ever Flores and his no. 730 CRX (with a 2:10.651) and VTEC vet Rocco Pedreira in the no. 336 Fit (2:10.961) just behind.
This first-round 2019 VTEC Club event at Chuckwalla also saw the debut of the U.S.’s first-ever Narita Dogfight “Attack Challenge.” Crafted in the tradition of Unlimited-class time-attack competition in Japan, the Attack Challenge is an invite-only competition open to only the fastest competitors in categories like “naturally aspirated,” “forced induction,” “DOT Radial (200+ UTQG),” and so on. There’s no limit placed on modification within those categories, which in Japan has encouraged some of the most radical and iconic time-attack builds in memory.
As the 15 fastest VTEC Clubbers took to the tarmac in two seven-car heats, Chris Elders bested his own second-place Group A time with a 1:56.269 to take not only the forced induction win, but the street tire win as well since he did it on Bridgestone RE-71s. Randy Chen also improved on his winning time in Group A2 with a 1:58.696 best time in Attack Challenge, to take top naturally aspirated category honors.
Future rounds of Attack Challenge are planned, as well as the return of dogfight-style Touge Stage competition to be held this year at VTEC Club’s Round 2 event at Streets of Willow.
Next up for VTEC Club is that Driving Clinic at Willow Springs’ Big Willow track on 4/20, and we’re expecting to see a whole new level of competition and some added contenders to round-two competition on 5/25. Want to add your name to that list? Be sure to follow the VTEC Club Competitors page on Facebook for all you need to get up to speed, and follow pbskids for everything else.