There are very few occasions in life that bring people from vastly differing backgrounds and personalities together in one place at the same time. And even fewer instances where people genuinely enjoy each other's company. Even rarer is an opportunity that initiates fierce competition and rivalry amongst friends and strangers, yet allows all parties involved to remain cordial and grateful of a stranger's company, story, passions, and their genuine excitement for meeting someone like-minded (or not).
Think about it. As responsibilities begin to accumulate and the hours throughout the day begin to feel shorter and shorter, the ability and freedom to meet and, I mean REALLY meet, someone new and perhaps interesting begins to dwindle. However, like most things, there's a silver lining to every situation and an opportunity for a little excitement allows for an unlikely gathering of oddly matched individuals. Like the odd pairing of a shot of bourbon and a chase of pickle juice - it just works (what's wrong with your taste buds? - Ed.)
One such occasion is the growing time attack series known as VTEC CLUB USA and their annual Autumn Speed Festival that is held on the infamous Big Willow track, located at Willow Springs International Raceway. An event that usually brings out Honda enthusiasts from all over the United States and occasionally from different countries, Autumn Speed Fest is first and foremost an unbelievably competitive event, and this year was no exception.
Unlike previous years and even past rounds throughout the 2018 season though, this day had an abundance of new faces, new cars, and even a brand-new puppy that really stole the show for everyone in attendance.
Yes, a small trickle of new attendees is normal and expected from a growing motorsport series, but this event was all but dominated by fresh drivers. A sign of growth and a welcomed addition for veteran VTEC clubbers that are in search of increased competitive challenges and likewise, an exciting moment for everyone else to form new friendships through a shared interest - motorsports and cars.
Serving as an all-Honda series, classes are thoughtfully and evenly matched, which means the car of choice doesn't necessarily make for the fastest time or an instant chance at tasting podium on the first run. Instead, this is an event where driver skill and experience reigns supreme.
This is also the event where a Suzuka Blue Metallic S2000, owned and driven by Brandon Camacho, bested one of the more recognizable FK8 Civic Type-Rs with time to spare. Setting a 1:29.761, Camacho swooped first place podium in group A2 and nearly went a half second faster than Steven Kronemberg's 1:30.209.
Neat fact: Kronemberger, who this year is an FF Battle Street Class champion , was in Brazil for work-related duties and flew back to California just a few hours before the event! After landing, he quickly drove to Willow Springs, put down a small handful of hot laps, drove back to the airport and proceeded to board his long flight back for work. That's roughly a 12-hour flight plus a 9-hour time zone difference! Did we mention how competitive VTEC CLUB and the participating drivers can be?
Is it all heart, all madness, or a bit of both that these drivers get their determination from? We're going to guess that it's a bit of both! Speaking of all heart and madness, John Cruz and his always beautiful EH Civic, dubbed Goldy, came in at 1:33.565 for a stylish 3rd place finish.
In group A, the boys representing Rockstar Garage took a full 1-2-3 S2000 podium sweep with Dustin Dessero taking first place and the overall group A record at Big Willow by dropping a 1:25.640 during his first and only session of the day. Meanwhile, teammates Chris Elders and David Lara took home second and third with a 1:27.588 and 1:28.645, respectively. Likewise, in true time attack fashion, David Lara knocked Jose Mejia and his stunning Integra out of third place during the final timed session of the day. Which, by the way, Lara was not initially planning to run, but had a last-minute change of heart. A decision that paid dividends!
Another S2000 sweep for group N, Billy Jang, pilot and overall winner of this year's FF Battle Race class , continues his reign by taking home first place with a 1:35.765. Trailing behind Jang was newcomer Jason Woan, placing second in his '08 S2000 CR with a time of 1:36.705. Finally, Joshua Kim, a fairly new competitor to VTEC CLUB, obtained his first podium finish in third with a respectable 1:38.630.
In group N1, Michael "Sassy" Caputo shuffled his B18C swapped EJ hatch to first place with a broken axle and set a 1:37.007. Following close was long time VTEC CLUB driver and supporter Ray Reyes, coming in hot with his Aztec Green Civic EJ coupe by setting a 1:37.668 for second place.
Likewise, in third place, Jimmy Arreola trailed behind Reyes with a 1:37.720 and was able to set his time in-between a clutch replacement in his DA Integra.
Last but not least, Alan "AJ" Jaquias walked into another first-place finish in his Relentless Racing B20-swapped Integra with a 1:36.517. Meanwhile, in a dangerously hot pink CRX, Ever Bonilla claimed second place with a 1:41.178. Then in sweet triumph, a recent father to his third child, Luis Miramontes came in third place with a 1:41.483 with his recently restored EH Civic that is equipped with a bone stock SOHC ZC motor. After losing his more established and built single cam last year, Miramontes came back after a year-long hiatus and not only podiumed, but also matched his previous personal best time while his current stock motor would not go past 5,800 rpm! Talk about a comeback!
This year's Autumn Speed showcased some of the best drivers, included new additions to the "family", and more importantly, strengthened the bond, friendship, and competitive spirit that VTEC CLUB is highly praised for. Likewise, new additions and change is welcomed with a warm heart, and the veterans showcased nothing but love and encouragement to the newest enthusiasts in the line-up.
Though the podiums in each class were once again claimed by some of the fastest in the series, it's only a matter of time until everyone else begins to catch up. In that regard, the future competitive platform is sure to deliver even more exciting track days. Until then, thank you for reading and enjoy the photo gallery!