There isn’t much we can say about VTEC Club that isn’t already common knowledge. If you’re reading this, you likely have an appreciation for motorsports ranging somewhere between casual enthusiasm and rabid obsession. For those who are just joining us, let’s bring you up to speed – Autumn Speed. VTEC Club started as a simple idea by a few diehard track guys who felt Honda enthusiasts could benefit from a manufacturer specific time trial series, an environment to compete against and alongside like-minded individuals, a racing series built from equal parts competition and community. Now in its fifth season, the series is stronger than ever, competition between drivers is only becoming closer, and the events overall popularity is at an all-time high.
Toward the end of the 2017 VTEC Club season, as the weather cooled (slightly) and we set our clocks back an hour, competitors all over California and as far as Colorado began preparing for Autumn Speed Festival, the annual all-Honda event held at Willow Springs International Raceway. Now you may be asking, “All-Honda Event? Isn’t every VTEC Club event an all-Honda event?” Allow us to elaborate upon that; while the competition itself is limited to Hondas and Honda-powered vehicles, VTEC Club is hosted by a full time HPDE organization, which means the track is sometimes shared with other racing series, like Roadster Cup for example, a Miata specific time trial series. Although racing is racing and the VTEC Club drivers get along with the ladies and gentlemen of Roadster Cup just fine, there is something spectacular about looking out over the pits and seeing nothing but Hondas. This year, 80 cars and their respective drivers were registered for competition. Eighty let that sink in for a moment, because the sheer number of competitors at this single event is testament enough to what VTEC Club has created for our community.
In typical VTEC Club fashion, competitors were allowed open lapping sessions throughout the day to record the fastest possible lap time, which determined their finishing position within their respective competition class and the coinciding number of points awarded toward overall season standings. It seems as though with every passing event, the competition becomes closer and closer, podium spots determined by mere tenths, at times hundredths of a second. Autumn Speed Festival was no exception, being the seventh round of an eight-round season had competitors scrambling to earn championship points for a very valid reason; the season championships were locked in at this event in all five classes.
Group N2, the “budget class,” gives you the choice between VTEC and two camshafts, prohibits any aerodynamic aids, and allows any tire as long as the tread wear rating exceeds 140. Julie Yeh took home third place in N2 with a time of 1:40.787 in her EF Civic, a VTEC Club regular and former FF Battle contender that has been in constant development courtesy of Duane “Baby D” Bada of R Compound. We don’t know what’s more impressive, Melvin “R0D” Rodriguez taking second place with a lap time of 1:39.937, or how well he and Ryan Constantino organize the pre-gridding at every VTEC Club event. First place in group N2 was secured by none other than Duane “Yeah I run this series called VTEC Club, you should come out sometime” Bada, beating out his own creation (Julie Yeh’s EF Civic) in a lightly modified EF of his own, throwing down a time of 1:38.765, proving once again that neither the responsibility of organizing the event, nor being outgunned in terms of machinery could slow him down.
Group N1, a new class added at the beginning of this season, is the only class to limit drivetrain layout – allowing only front engine, front wheel drive platforms. Aerodynamic and tire restrictions in this class are very similar to N2, however N1 allows the use of B-series VTEC engines, even K-series engines are allowed, as long as the vehicle came equipped with one from the factory. Jason Trinh came all the way from Colorado to attend Autumn Speed Festival, forgot to bring any sort of variable valve timing or lift control despite the class rules allowing it, and took third place in his EF Civic propelled by a B18B engine anyway. To illustrate just how close the competition has become, Jason’s time of 1:38.868 was less than four hundredths of a second faster than fourth place finisher Muoi Tran. With a lap time just over a half-second ahead of Jason, Jimmy Arreola made the trek from NorCal to take second place in his ultra-clean “H2B” powered DA Integra, turning a lap time of 1:38.183. Brian Salmeron immediately established himself as the guy to beat in N1 earlier this year; taking a podium spot at every round he has competed in (five of seven in the 2017 season) piloting his CRX equipped with a B20 VTEC hybrid power-plant. Not only has Salmeron managed to secure the points championship with a round left in the season, he is responsible for the largest gap in lap time between first and second place of all the classes at this round.
Group N is essentially Group N1 with the addition of rear wheel drive platforms and K-series engines. As you may have guessed, Group N is primarily populated by S2000s with an exceptionally brave Civic or Integra occasionally mixed in. David Ishida is a VTEC Club veteran, having run in the series with his S2000 since the very beginning; at Autumn Speed Festival he put down a 1:36.084 – fast enough to take home third place. Billy Jang is just about to wrap up his first season of competition in VTEC Club, where he has shown an impressive amount of promise all year and Autumn Speed Festival was no exception. He earned a second-place finish with a time of 1:33.665 in his clean and simple S2000. Like Ishida, Alan Jaquias has been competing in VTEC Club for as long as we can remember, constantly developing both himself and his S2000, which was displayed spectacularly at this event to the tune of a 1:33.383 lap time that granted him a first-place finish at the event and secured the season championship.
The easiest way to spot a Group A2 competitor is to glance at the trunk. If a GT wing is mounted to it, you’ve got a hit (usually). Group A2 is often home to very interesting competition in that the rules dictate that aerodynamic enhancements are allowed in the form of a rear wing and front splitter if your tire choice carries a tread wear rating of 140 or above. Likewise, if you choose to forgo any aerodynamic aids, “R compound” tires may be used. Due to this unconventional rule, an element of strategy is implemented and often we find competitors from both ends of the spectrum on the podium. Brandon Camacho chose the aero path for his S2000, and chose wisely as it lead him to a third place finish with a time of 1:32.421. Jose Mejia has been a bit of a wild card as long as he has been a competitor in VTEC Club, but once again his unorthodox methods have paid dividends, earning him and his Toyo RR equipped DC2 Integra a second-place finish with a blistering time of 1:31.227 without the aid of aerodynamics. Although not a frequent VTEC Club competitor, Chris Elders never ceases to impress when he does attend. Autumn Speed festival was no exception for the veteran driver, taking top honors in Group A2 with a time of 1:31 exactly.
Group A has the least restrictions of any class, allowing forced induction, open tire choice, any and all aerodynamic aids and even non-Honda chassis, as long as the engine was manufactured by Honda. Bruce Simpson must have replaced every single component of his S2000 at one point or another during the several years he has spent developing the car, yet he insists on keeping the car naturally aspirated. Despite the considerably lower power output when compared to other cars in Group A, Simpson managed a time of 1:31.138, earning him a third-place finish and, in the process, the season championship. David Lara took home second place in his supercharged S2000 with an incredibly quick 1:28.820, less than a second behind first-place finisher Dustin Dessero, who was just hundredths of a second from breaking into the 1:27s, with a fastest lap of 1:28.056 – the fastest of the day overall.
As VTEC Club wraps up the 2017 season with just one round to go, we look forward to watching the organization continue to evolve as a whole, and drivers as individuals, as lap times continue to shrink and the community grows.