Let VTEC Club USA's most recent competition round go down in history as the battle of battles. What started off as a friendly grudge match between Northern and Southern Californians — with SoCal-based VTEC Club inviting Honda racers from the Bay Area and beyond to duke it out on the roughly equidistant Buttonwillow Raceway — boiled into a full-fledged time-attack war on many fronts as the event waged on.
First: man versus nature. California's largely Mediterranean climate is such that temps never get too cold in the winter, but can be blisteringly hot in the summer. Why more track events aren't run here in the winter is beyond me, and the recent weekend at Buttonwillow seems to prove maybe they should. Ambient temps peaked at 102 F during the event, which put track temps somewhere in the 130-140 F range for most of the day. VTEC Clubbers battling the heat faced down numerous threats like overheating engines (some could only get one hot lap in between warmup and cooldown), shorter-lived tires, generally slower track times, and an annoying degree (pardon the pun) of discomfort whilst waiting around.
Second: man versus self. Buttonwillow is known as the home of time attack in the U.S., much like Tsukuba Circuit is in Japan, or Eastern Creek Raceway is in Australia. Breaking track records or even elevating your personal best time here comes with greater prestige. Despite the sweltering heat, lots of that happened this time around.
Then there's my personal favorite: man versus machine. Heat-related issues notwithstanding, mechanical gremlins reared their ugly heads this time much as any, and many a VTEC Clubber vanquished them as they did — chief among them, Group A mainstay Nik Romano, whose F20C-powered NA6 Mazda Miata suffered a throwout bearing failure early in the day and eliminated all clutch function. But Nik and company soldiered on, push-starting the car and rev-matching up and downshifts on track, and ended up running a blistering (considering) 1:58.633 to take third place in A2 competition.
VTEC Club also partnered with the Extreme Speed Roadster Cup in footing the track rental bill this time around, and while the two groups weren't in direct competition with one another, it did make for some interesting and fun unofficial rivalries between the world's most commonly track-raced car and most commonly modified brand.
And in the midst of all that was the fiercest battle of them all: the title fight. VTEC Club takes mainly to SoCal's Willow Springs, Chuckwalla, and Fontana tracks, and therein lies lots of opportunity for seat time, vehicle modification, and tuning, and overall progress for its participants. NorCal drivers stick mainly to tracks like Laguna Seca, Thunderhill, and Sonoma, which they unfortunately get to drive less often, and never with the tightknit community of SoCal's VTEC Club. Still, the rivalry exists for good reason: NorCal drivers and cars are damn fast.
Just look at the results. Sure, SoCal's Jose Mejia won normally fastest Group A competition from behind the wheel of his no. 69 K-swapped DC2 Integra, but it was Group A2's Gary Yueng out of NorCal who clocked the fastest lap of the event and set a new track/class record in his no. 39 Honda S2000, with a 1:56.151 — an impressive upset, especially considering the blistering heat. And if that wasn't impressive enough, Gary's homie Vuong Tran also ran a quicker-than-Group-A time in Group A2, clinching Second in class and overall with a 1:57.435 from his no. 102 S2000.
SoCal's David Ishida and Sean Mulyanto ruled Group N competition, however, with a 2:01.509 and 2:01.548 from their no. 35 and 73 S2000s, respectively.
Another upset occurred in Group N2, when NorCal's Tim Crane ran even faster than the N1 podium, also resetting the class record with a 2:01.420 with his no. 280 B-series EK hatch. Tim nearly won VTEC Club's inaugural Touge Stage at the previous round against a grip of fast S2000s; it was cool to see him take them all out and alllllmost crack the 2:00 mark, humbly from within Group N1.
But the fight of the day occurred in Group N2. Perhaps in a bid to lift the spirits of his SoCal comrades and embolden their quest for dominance, VTEC Club USA coordinator Duane "The Bod" Bada descended from his air-conditioned, ivory(ish) control tower of Buttonwillow Raceway, where he'd tended to score-keeping and rule-enforcing throughout the event, and reasserted SoCal dominance in Group N2 competition, blasting out a 2:08.216 from behind the wheel of his girlfriend Juile's no. 5 EF Civic hatch, clinching the win and silencing the skeptics. Except for Julie. She laid down a solid 2:09.855 in the car to take fourth in class, and in the dangerous (for Duane) girlfriend-vs-boyfriend battle, seems to be gaining some serious ground on Duane's best efforts. All VTEC Club rivalries considered, this is the one we're most excited about.
If friendly competition is your thing, you drive a Honda-powered vehicle, and aren't averse to things like going fast, hanging out with friends, prizes awarded to race/raffle winners at each round, and bettering yourself and your car in ways you may have never thought possible, VTEC Club USA could be for you. Check out www.vtecclub-usa.com for more info and to get involved, and click through our gallery below for more from the event!