It's no secret VTEC Club is one of — if not the — hottest competitive track event series for Honda enthusiasts in the nation. One of the reasons for VTEC Club's popularity may be the event is open to everybody, from those looking for a safe and supportive environment to experience their first track day to semi-professional drivers who are there to win and set records. On March 26th, VTEC Club kicked off its 2017 season at Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, Calif., on the Streets Course. The 1.6-mile, 13-corner road course is a favorite for track aficionados; combining tight technical hairpins with long sweepers and lots of elevation changes, there are many ways to describe Streets of Willow but boring is definitely not one of them.
Since the 2016 season came to a close in December, the four-month off-season yielded some very interesting changes to some competitors' cars. Many were upgraded and results after Round 1 reflected those changes. VTEC Club itself underwent some modification as well, namely the addition of the Group N1 class, open to front-wheel-drive (FWD) cars only. Everybody in attendance was visibly excited about the start of a new season and the number of registered competitors was at an all-time high, with 99 drivers signed up for the event.
What could be considered the entry-level class, Group N2 is where most non-VTEC and single-cam Hondas compete. Street tires over 140 treadwear are required, no aerodynamic aids are allowed, and engine internals must be OEM Honda components. While the cost to be competitive in N2 may be within the reach of most, the competition in this class has always been at an extremely high level. This round was no exception, with only three tenths of a second separating second and third place. Kristian Wong of BattleCraft was a solid contender in this class all of last season and started off strong for 2017, recording a time of 1:29.918 in his D16Z6 powered DC Integra built specifically for this class. Just edging out Kristian for the second-place spot was Duane Bada, organizer of VTEC Club — who somehow managed to squeeze in a session piloting Julie Yeh's Civic ED, clocking a time of 1:29.513. With what may be the largest gap in lap time between first and second place in Group N2 history, Jose Mejia took first place with a very impressive 1:26.386 in his Chewerks supported, B20-powered DC Integra.
The new class for 2017, Group N1 saw a very strong start at its inaugural event. Open only to FWD cars, it's a step up from Group N2 in the sense certain engine swaps, such as VTEC equipped B-series engines, are allowed, street tires are still required, and the only aerodynamic aids allowed are canards. Many of the faster drivers who competed in Group N in 2016 transferred to this class to see what they could do without the presence of S2000s in the equation. Michael "Sassy" Caputo took third place in his very mildly modified EJ Civic with a time of 1:26.636 — quite the feat considering this car retains its interior and many factory amenities. Two tenths of a second ahead of Sassy was Brian Salmeron in a ED Civic with a time of 1:26.486, and taking first place in Group N1 was Jason Kim, a veteran driver who has competed in multiple FF Battle events as well as Super Lap Battle in yet another Chewerks car, a B-series VTEC propelled EH Civic pumping out a time of 1:25.437.
Home to some of the fastest non-aerodynamically enhanced S2000s on the West Coast, Group N is also a street tire class with a tire size width limit of 255. With the limitations considered, what the top contenders in this class have achieved is downright amazing. Alan Jaquias ran a time of 1:27.196 is his S2000, securing third place. One of the youngest drivers in the field, Clement Kwong edged out Jaquias by a couple of seconds, taking second-place honors with a time of 1:24.753. Kwong has been a regular at Southern California track events since he was in high school and the experience definitely shows. Sean Mulyanto, last year's Group N season champion, made it very clear he had no intention of taking it slow this year with a record breaking 1:22.535, becoming the fastest Group N driver at Streets of Willow in all of VTEC Club history and locking down first place in class.
In past years, Group A2 has been a battle between S2000s and NSXs for top position — however, with 2016 season champ Amir Bentatou in the midst of rebuilding his NSX, the odds were in the favor of the S2000s competing in this class. Group A2 is yet another street tire class — if you opt to run a GT wing and/or front splitter, this class offers the option of running no aero and utilizing 80 tread wear tires. The maximum tire width is expanded to include 285 width tires and some chassis modification is allowed. On paper it appears as though this class was almost designed to favor factory sports cars, which can take full advantage of the aerodynamic enhancements allowed. As anticipated, Atilla ACS in an S2000 took third place with a time of 1:27.390. What happened next, however, came as a shock to both spectators and other competitors alike. Angelo Marasigan clocked a time of 1:24.844 — blisteringly fast for any car, but Marasigan managed this time in his EH Civic and redefined what should be a Group A2 podium-level car. First place went to another track veteran, Brandon Camacho, who piloted his S2000 to a 1:24.193, besting Marasigan by seven tenths of a second.
To put it simply, Group A is the "unlimited" class of VTEC Club, and as such, serves as a home to heavily modified, high maintenance cars. Many of these competitors found themselves in the midst of extensive off-season rebuilds, and few had their cars ready. Amir Bentatou opted to drive his nearly stock daily driver Integra in this round while his NSX was under the knife to secure championship points, and managed a third-place finish with a time of 1:32.363. Second place went to Zenia Amezquita, who competed in the only non-Honda chassis that day. VTEC Club rules allow for any chassis with a Honda engine to compete in Group A and as such, Amezquita piloted her F22C powered AE86 to a time of 1:28.327. That's especially impressive considering that no settings were changed on the competition drift car aside from the use of Nitto NT01 tires. Top honors in Group A were secured by track-regular Bruce Simpson in his S2000 with a time of 1:25.184.
VTEC Club is off to a great start for the 2017 season and we look forward to even more close competition and broken records as competitors continue dialing in their cars. Follow HT digital closely via Honda Tuning's Facebook and Instagram pages for our coverage of the next round of VTEC Club at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway on April 9th!