The annual Global Time Attack x Super Lap Battle finals presented by Continental Tire always drum up plenty of interest from Honda racing fans, and because of the large number of aggressive, high-powered Hondas involved, even the street and show crowd take notice of what's happening. Last year was a very big deal for the Honda community because the longstanding FF Unlimited Class record, set and held for many years by Chris Rado and his monster FWing Scion tC, was finally toppled. That epic feat, courtesy of the Spoon Sports USA/GoTuning Unlimited team and their turbo Civic FD, was all the buzz for months and only helped bolster fan interest and anticipation for this year's event.
When Rado shook up the time attack world by capturing the title with a 1:49.703 from Chevrolet/GM's Cobalt SS and its 1:51.381, people certainly took notice. Yes, the Scion was a lot of car with a lot of money poured over it, but the bottom line is that Rado was on a mission, and not only did he earn the top spot, he kept pushing and ended up besting his original record time with a 1:47.703 in 2011. For years that was the standard and it didn't look like the record was in jeopardy. That is, until 2015, when the Spoon Sports USA Civic shocked everyone. You've no doubt read or heard about how the Civic FD experienced exhaust manifold cracks, destroyed its fourth gear, and even burned the passenger side windshield all to hell with the exhaust exiting near the rear of the hood. Track conditions and weather were solid and with Dai Yoshihara feeling the car still had more in it, he was able to blast a 1:45.585 and claim the crown. Bringing up second place was James Houghton in his third-gen. Integra with a 1:49.245 that also eclipsed the previous Cobalt record, and third- and fourth-place finishers included Edo Stepanyan and his Integra and William Au-Yeung with his ninth-gen. Civic coupe.
A Year Of Progression
After the 2015 Super Lap Battle finals, James Houghton and William Au-Yeung continued to develop their cars and progress as drivers, and could be seen at multiple events throughout the year, stacking up a number of wins. Both teams seemed to be on a tear and a showdown at GTA/SLB was to be expected. And while the Spoon FD wasn't guaranteed to make a return to competition early on, that all changed a few months prior to Super Lap Battle 2016.
3rd Place, 1:45.802 - Spoon Sports USA/GoTuning turbocharged Civic FD - @spoonsportsusa /@gotuningunlimited
Having set the new record during last year's event, GoTuning's Aaron Wang and his crew weren't focused on bringing the car back for another battle at the finale. Later in year, the decision was made to make significant changes to the car, which included converting it to a center-seat configuration, replacing the roll cage with something safer and far more rigid, and making a few changes under the hood, including a new turbo manifold and a properly built transmission. Extensive changes typically require extensive testing but time was running out and with minimal seat time, the adjustments were still being worked out just prior to the event.
Thursday's practice runs didn't net the type of results the crew was hoping for, and before Friday even hit the record had already been surpassed twice, and the Civic FD was on pace for a third-place finish, unless something more could be pulled out of the sedan. Most commenting on the car's performance suggested more power, but the Spoon Sports USA/GoTuning crew said that really wasn't the issue, in fact the car was running great. Unfortunately it couldn't muster a repeat performance of the previous year, try as they might. The team had to settle for a third-place finish for the FD in 2016.
2nd place 1:43.559 - James Houghton supercharged Integra Type R - @time_attack_typer
One thing became very apparent during the first day of GTAxSLB; James Houghton, in his K-Tuned-wrapped, K-powered DC2, was in town to kick some ass. By mid-day Thursday, he'd already bested the FF Unlimited track record and was looking to go even faster. That is, until transmission woes cut his day short. I spoke with John Veloso, the genius behind K-Tuned who, coincidentally, traveled all the way to Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Central California to see the action firsthand and support his team, and he mentioned he and the crew were at the track working on rebuilding a transmission until the early morning hours. If you've ever been to Buttonwillow after dark, with no one around, well, it's creepy as hell.
Regardless, John had a hand in actually locating the culprit, which turned out to be a rogue piece of trans internal that was wreaking havoc on everything it came into contact with. With the unwanted item evicted promptly and the rebuilt trans buttoned up, the team was ready to take on day two.
Much like the previous day, the Integra seemed to just get faster and was on pace to present a real threat for the top spot. Another issue occurred during the day and Houghton was forced to utilize an older tire on one side up front, but that didn't hinder performance enough to keep him from snatching a blazing fast 1:43.559, a number that not only shattered last year's class record by a few seconds, but also placed him just a hair short of the new record. With the sun coming down along with track temperature, there was still a chance, but a wiring gremlin reared its ugly head and that was the end of the day and the clock chase for the Type-R.
1st place 1:43.365 - PZ Tuning turbocharged Civic coupe - @pztuningwill
During the 2015 GTA/SLB finals, William Au-Yeung and his Point Zero Tuning ninth-gen. Civic landed in the fourth position, about seven seconds off of the first-place finisher's pace. However, over the last year, he'd made changes to the car, including a switch to full carbon Nomex honeycomb underbody aero, Vibrant's HD clamps to hold everything together, and perhaps the biggest change of all other than the aesthetics via Vibrant Performance's vinyl wrap was the transmission.
With over 700hp on tap, the weak link in just about any high-powered Honda that's been properly built for competition is the transmission. As William seemed to be finding his groove, he was continually sidelined by transmission problems. Having had enough, he took the rather expensive plunge and opted for a Quaife sequential setup backed by an OS Giken Superlock, a limited slip diff he reached for once again after having much success with it previously.
By the end of the first day, William had captured the record and was holding strong as he entered day two. The coupe did experience some cooling issues and was struggling to string multiple laps together, but by this point it simply didn't matter. This seemed to be William's event and he was able to hold off a relentless Houghton by the slightest of margins, taking the hard-fought title with him back to Canada.
2016 was by far the most intense GTAxSLB event for the Honda community. The racing was incredibly competitive, with a razor-close first- and second-place finish in Unlimited FF, and throughout both days Honda racing dominated the conversations around the track. With all of the class frontrunners piloting Hondas, this time attack was one to remember, and if 2017 is at all similar, you need to make your way to the finals next November to see them in person.