As the sun set over the monolithic grandstands of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., VTEC Club's 2016 season two, round two came to a close. This weekend, instead of 68,000 NASCAR fans rushing to make their way from the grandstand to the parking lot, a group of less than 20 leisurely stood around their cars in the shade of the paddock. The award ceremony had ended over an hour ago, many competitors were well on their way home, but those who remained exhibited no signs of haste. Leaning on fenders, sitting on the ground, talking amongst each other in small groups, they enjoyed the company of the same individuals with whom they were locked in battle just hours previous. Somebody had brought over a small personal pizza, which was now being shared between several people; somebody was freaking out to see one of the competitors sitting on the hood of his NSX. The owner of the A2 class-spec NSX explained that considering the beating he had unleashed upon the car earlier, merely resting his weight on the hood was the kindest thing he had done to his car that day.
Moments like this allow us to observe the true nature of VTEC Club. Sure, it's a competitive series home to some of the fiercest rivalries around, as well as lap times that would hold their own in any time attack series, but it's also very apparent that the "club" in VTEC Club is as relevant as it was upon the series' inception four seasons ago. It seems as though with every passing event, a new record is set in each class, and this event was no exception. Despite the sudden heat wave in Southern California that weekend, many competitors were able to adapt to the track conditions quickly and make the best of the situation.
Group N2 is the "low budget," entry-level class - requiring a low output engine with no aftermarket internals, street tires, and no aero. What sounds like casual, low risk, small investment fun is actually one of the most competitive classes in VTEC Club. This weekend, the time difference between first place and third was only 1.5 seconds. In third place with a time of 1:14.73 is Kristian Wong; the master GTR tuner of SP Engineering by day is actually a passionate Honda enthusiast by night (and on weekends). His controversial D16 powered DC2 Integra proved once again to be a serious contender amongst a field of lighter Civics. In second place with a time of 1:13.54 is Jose Mejia; known for his seemingly endless Honda car and part collection, "Type R Jose" was able to mix and match enough parts on his B20B powered DC2 to put down a very impressive time. In first place with the class-winning time of 1:13.27, setting a new class record, is Robert Choo in his D16 powered EG Civic; a veteran in the automotive industry having worked at several parts manufacturers and a magazine, he now runs Chewerks - a race specialty alignment shop in City of Industry frequented by many VTEC Club competitors.
Group N is a step above Group N2 in terms of car preparation, requiring a naturally aspirated non-K series engine that can be built with aftermarket components. However, like Group N2, street tires are required and no aero is allowed. In this class, an insanely close three tenths of a second separated first from third. Alan Jaquias from Team Chewerks took home third place in his S2000 with a time of 1:13.43; his first VTEC Club outing since he suffered engine failure last season at Chuckwalla Valley Speedway, not bad at all for a shakedown run. In second place with a time of 1:13.31 is Clement Kwong piloting his S2000, which he calls "Pacman;" at only 19 years old he is known for being the youngest competitor at most VTEC Club events. Having been a track and field star in high school, Clement is no stranger to holding his own against older, more experienced competitors. Finally, bringing home yet another first-place finish and class record for Team Chewerks is David Ishida in his S2000 - easily distinguished by the large decal on his door which reads "Racing for Christ".
Group A2 is a bit more serious in regard to hardware than the previous two classes, allowing for any naturally aspirated engine built with aftermarket components in any chassis, and the choice between aero and street tires or R comps without aero. This class requires a bit of strategy, with some competitors switching between R comps without aero and street tires with aero depending on the track. The FF drivetrain configuration was well represented in this class by Angelo Marasigan who took third place with a time of 1:12.37 in his B18C powered EG Civic, fast enough to beat out several S2000s and even an NSX! In second place with a time of 1:12.16 is Ballade Sports' Matt Rojana who competed in a loaner street car this weekend while his usual competition S2000 is under the knife for a new and improved engine. Matt is easy to spot at any VTEC Club event; just look for the guy with the freshly ironed racing suit and entourage of serious looking S2000s. Taking more first place in Group A2 as well as setting a new class record is Brandon Camacho with a time of 1:10.95; a veteran of VTEC Club, Brandon took a couple seasons off but has made it very clear that he is in it to win it this season.
Group A is generally considered the "unlimited" class, open to any Honda or any unibody car with a Honda power plant, forced induction, aero and R comp tires. This class is home to the most powerful cars and the fastest times. Once again the competition was extremely close, with less than a second separating first and third. Alex Zhao, owner of Arcane Wheels, brought out his freshly painted supercharged AP2 and clocked a time of 1:11.58, good for third place. Alex is yet another veteran competitor having competed in Group N and Group A2 previously, changing classes to suit the progress of his S2000. Second place goes to Bruce Simpson, also in an S2000, with a time of 1:10.96 - blisteringly fast considering that this car is naturally aspirated. Unfortunately Bruce's day ended early due to a case of rod knock; however, we have no doubt that he will be back faster than ever with yet another engine. Finally, with a time of 1:10.64 - first place in Group A, a new class record, and the fastest time of the day - is Ryan Cubidez in his supercharged S2000; with an output of well over 500 wheel horsepower, this car and driver proved their dominance in the field despite it being their first season of competition in VTEC Club.
As we wrap up another successful round of VTEC Club, the next is coming up quick. The weekend of October 8th, VTEC Club will be at Streets of Willow Springs for Round Three of Season Four (or the second season of 2016, depending on how you look at it). We'll see you there.