February 2, 2023

Honda Challenge Day 3

There were two qualifying sessions on Day 3: a fifteen minute mid-morning outing and a twenty-five race in the afternoon. Neither were as eventful as the previous days’, but problems arose nonetheless.

I arrived during the American Iron morning session, and made it to my chosen turn as they were on their cool down lap. On the way to said turn I ran into another photographer. He informed me that I was going to be kicked off the track because of the color of my shirt. That day I wore a red shirt. He said the drivers would see my shirt and think it was a red flag, and they would stop. I thanked him for his concern, and continued on my way. Thankfully none of the drivers stopped because of my red shirt. I shot more photos of Kris’s camouflaged RSX, and finally got some on track photos of Randy’s.(Click ‘Continue Reading’…)

Speaking of Randy, he was using the early session as a continuation of the morning practice/warm up. He pulled off after a few laps because the car developed a problem. It didn’t want to idle. On the other hand, Kris had an uneventful fifteen minutes lapping the outer loop. Kris and I made our way back to the pits at the same time; however, he made it there before I did because #1 he was in a car and I had to walk to mine then drive back and #2 I shot some photos of the next group as they were taking some of their laps.

Mauricio was cleaning out a sensor off of Randy’s motor when I arrived. It had accumulated some metal shavings during yesterday’s “accident”, and that was the likely cause of the idling issue. A couple of new faces were also in the pit: Fernando, a volunteer from UtahHondas.net, and Eric, the owner of the silver K swapped Civic coupe, both came to help with the effort. Mauricio finished cleaning the sensor, and Crew Chief Eric made fun of my stylish orange photo vest. He went to work on something, while Eric, Mauricio, Fernando and myself went to the Honda Performance Development garage to get some lunch on HPD’s dime. But as the saying goes: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Nando and Eric lagged behind, which gave me and Mauricio an opportunity to get to know each other. Turns out we’ve both been in Honda Tuning; me for some submissions I made for a contest they had, and him for his help with Kiwi Racing’s 25 Hour of Thunder Hill effort. He told me about the rush they had to be in to get the Kiwi car ready. They only had a month’s notice, the car wasn’t tuned when they arrived at Thunder Hill, they got out on the track late, and despite all that they finished. Awesome. He also told me he’s from Southern California, daily drives an Accord coupe on Volk CE28’s while he rebuilds his EG Civic, which sports a B20/VTEC motor and a roll cage. As we were talking about the things that make the S2000 a fun to drive car we made a realization: we had no idea where we were going.

By this time Eric and Nando had caught up with us, and they had no idea where the free food was either. The voice on the loud speaker didn’t give us clear directions, but thankfully a nice man in business pants with a Blackberry got us going the right way. We arrived at the lunch/driver’s meeting/HPD Q&A session, and enjoyed the barbecue chicken and cookies. After lunch everyone except myself headed back to the pit. I wandered around and shot photos of the awesomeness inhabiting the paddock.

The paddock at any NASA sanctioned event is full of dedicated, awesome cars crewed and driven by equally awesome and dedicated people. When it’s a championship event, like this one, the awesome is cranked to eleven. Porsche 911’s are next to Mazda RX-7’s, brand new Factory Five Racing Challenge cars next to E30 BMW 3 Series’s. It’s an amazing amalgamation of old and new, young and old, privateers and factory backed teams, men and women. It’s a beautiful thing. And the noise! Don’t like the sound of Honda’s? Wait two seconds and you’ll hear four American V8’s, a couple of Rotary engines, and a straight six or two fire up. There is something for everyone there. After nearly OD-ing on the mechanical beauty, I made my way back to the pit where I was put to work.

I was given a rag and told to wipe down the cars. Jason Smith, of Innovative Garage, said it was bitch work, but it needed to be done and he was very thankful I was willing to put down my camera and help out. I told him it was no problem, and got to wiping to dirt and grime off the cars. This was something I felt better doing because if I screwed up, the car would just be dirty and not a potential accident waiting to happen. After cleaning the cars were fueled, and made their way to pre-grid. I went the opposite way,grabbed Kel (of Supremacy Racing, whom I told I’d take with me to shoot track side) and we made our way to the access road that would take us around the track.

The race started off well. Kris and Randy were making good progress and turning good times, but then things did what they’ve been doing all week. Randy’s tires gave up the ghost, so he slowed down and finished out the session giving up most of the ground he made. Something “came loose” on Kris’s car so he had to relinquish his progress. And then something truly interesting happened. Twelve minutes into the twenty-five minute session the checkered flag came out. Kel and I made our way around the track, scouting out locations while track officials looked the track over. We made a plan for tomorrow’s championship race, and I dropped him of at his garage.

I beat Kris to the pit, which surprised me because Randy was there, along with Jason and Eric. I asked Jason and Eric where Kris was, and Jason told me his car was in impound. Officials were going to pull his Throttle Body off and make sure it wasn’t ported. This sparked a discussion of cheating (something they wouldn’t do, but I might consider due to my lack of what the pros call “talent” and “ability”), what cars we thought needed to go to impound and have their motors pulled and disassembled, and the next steps to be done to Kris’s car.

The techs didn’t find anything wrong or illegal with Kris’s car, so it was released. Shortly after its arrival I made my departure, saying goodbye to everyone and getting excited for the championship race.

Words and Photos by Michael Chandler

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