On April 8th, Chuckwalla Valley Raceway hosted the second round of exciting VTEC Club action for 2017. Though further from Los Angeles than most other Southern California tracks and lacking in local accommodations (the nearest hotel is 50 miles away), 47 competitors attended the event. Many drivers chose to drive to the track the night before, braving Friday evening traffic - arriving around 11:00PM, just in time for dinner. In typical VTEC Club fashion, a barbeque greeted the tired pilgrims who made the trek out into the dessert in search of freedom from their 9-to-5 jobs. Having their fill of chicken tacos, the drivers and their pit crews (read: girlfriends) turned in for the night right at the track - laying out folding cots, air mattresses, and making full use of the one feature that defines a Civic hatchback as a hatchback - the hatch in the back.
As the sun rose over the sea of Hondas the next morning, the paddock was alive with the sounds of electric impacts and engines warming up. VTEC Club is usually run with an open track day organization, Extreme Speed; however, this round was a competition only day, reserved for two series, VTEC Club and Roadster Cup, which is a Miata exclusive time attack organization. The combined driver's meeting kicked off the day at 8:00AM, and the track went hot at 9:00 as competitors made their way on track to take full advantage of the cool morning weather.
By the second session, it seemed as though everybody was talking about one particular car in attendance - Philip Robles' EH Civic. The fifth gen. had undergone a significant makeover during the off-season and the K-series, Pandem widebody hatchback on Volk Racing ZE40s and Hoosiers couldn't blend in with the crowd even if it wanted to. It's certainly worth mentioning Philip competes in the California-based series despite living in Arizona, and he does really well, having earned several first-place finishes in addition to setting the fastest time of the day more than once.
Once again, the "low budget" Group N2 class saw fierce competition. Despite engine choices in this class limited to non-VTEC equipped B-series and D-series (in certain chassis), the drivers made the most of their cars. Duane "Baby D" Bada, organizer of the VTEC Club series, took third place in his girlfriend Julie Yeh's ED Civic with a time of 2:07.215. One of the most controversial machines in attendance was Kristian Wong's D16Z6 powered DC2 Integra. This strange pairing proved its lightweight potential once again by setting a time of 2:05.779, securing second place and tying Bada for second place in season point standings. Jose Mejia once again dominated the class in his B20 Integra with a time of 2:04.786, rewriting the class record in the process.
Though only in its second round since being added to VTEC Club at the beginning of this season, Group N1, the only front-wheel-drive exclusive class, had a great turnout, accounting for over a quarter of registered competitors. John Cruz took third place in this class with his Integra Type R, setting a time of 2:08.593. Second place went to Michael "Sassy" Caputo and his B18C powered EJ Civic. Interestingly enough, this car is often street driven and retains its full interior as well as all amenities. Despite the weight disadvantage, Sassy ran a time of 2:05.604. Backing up his Round 1 win, Jason Kim took top honors in N1 once again with a time of 2:04.664 in the Chewerks EH Civic, further opening the gap in season point standings.
Since the introduction of Group N1, Group N has become a predominately S2000 class. Round 2 was no exception, with all but two entries in this class registered to S2000 drivers. Pushing hard to make up for his absence at Round 1, William Jang took home third place with a time of 2:07.249. One and seven tenths seconds ahead of Jang was yet another Team Chewerks driver, Alan Jaquais, who piloted his Relentless Racing S2000 to a time of 2:05.511, earning him second place. The 2016 Group N champ and winner of Round 1, Sean Mulyanto, rewrote yet another record in his S2000, recording a blistering time of 2:01.419.
For those who want to add a facet of strategy to their participation in VTEC Club, Group A2 allows for an interesting option. This class gives the competitors the ability to choose between aerodynamic enhancements (front splitter, GT wing) and R-comp tires (80-140 treadwear). However, this choice is not a season-long commitment and drivers do have the freedom to switch between one or the other depending on track. Gerardo Priento chose aero over stickier tires, and the choice paid off - allowing him to run a time of 2:09.073, just quick enough for third place. An example of a competitor who chose tires over aero was Poncho Ramirez; despite competing in a short wheel-based EH Civic, he was able to click off a time of 2:07.706 - the second fastest time in Group A2. It seems as though a few new faces join VTEC Club with each round, and Robin Roces, in his rookie season, falls into this category. Despite being new to VTEC Club, he demonstrated his driving prowess by taking first place with a time of 2:03.386.
The battle for season championship points had already started to take shape in Group A, the "unlimited" class. Open to cars of any configuration and level of modification (as long as the engine or chassis is manufactured by Honda), the fastest cars and drivers usually compete here. Round 1 winner Bruce Simpson held onto his points lead by securing a third-place finish of 2:05.221 in his naturally aspirated S2000. The two top spots in this class made for a very exciting battle; on one end of the spectrum was an HKS supercharged S2000 on street tires, and on the other was an NA Civic on slicks. Both drivers managed to break the two-minute barrier at Chuckwalla that day, with Amir Bentatou stopping the clock to the tune of 1:59.568 and taking second place. First place went to the Koyorad x BattleCraft "Cool Car Award" winner Philip Robles, who managed to set a time of 1:56.819, also claiming fastest time of day. To put that into perspective, Robles' time was only two tenths of a second away from the overall VTEC Club record at Chuckwalla, which was set by a 500+ horsepower S2000.
As the day came to a close, the awards were wrapped up and the competitors made their way back to the pits, and onto the track on foot. It was time for the "Chuckwalla Track Walk," the unofficial VTEC Club tradition of making a lap around the track on foot, time allocated to giving competitors the opportunity to relax and talk amongst each other before making their way back to civilization. As the sun set behind the mountainous backdrop of Chuckwalla Valley Speedway, the guys and girls of VTEC Club ended the day not as bitter rivals locked in competition, but as a community of enthusiasts.