To some Honda fans, the salt flats and Bonneville Speed Week are as familiar as pushrods and V-8s. But that's changing, especially as the Honda faithful continue to make the trip and the "old guys" finally concede that Honda engines are capable of serious power. I partnered with Hasport's Brian Gillespie for a closer look as the company debuted its K20-powered Insight on the salt. Considering the small class and the low record to beat (less than 150 mph), Hasport should've had no trouble. Should've.
But first, a quick history lesson. Utah's salt flats play host to this annual, historical event, which began in 1949 and has been held every year since, provided it hasn't gotten rained out. Speed Week is seven days of top-speed competition full of nearly every type of vehicle from motorcycles to streamliners, including all sorts of propulsion like electric, even nitro. The salt flats are amazing and are something any person who's heart races at the thought of pure, naked speed, must see. It's so big and flat that the curvature of the earth, during the right time of day, appears to make the surrounding mountains float above the salt. Past courses were as long as 11 miles, but this year featured two 5-mile courses and the standard 8-mile one. Timing is digital and takes place at miles 1-3 on the 5-mile course and 2-5 on the 8-mile course. The extra miles are for braking...and breaking, something no car seems to do well since driving on the salt is very much like driving on ice. There's friction, but every veteran can tell you of at least one spin he's had. The history here is as thick as gear oil, and the atmosphere is unlike any event you've been to. The people are open, friendly, and willing to lend a hand, and 60-year-olds hot-rodding in the salt is commonplace. Nothing will ground you like talking to a guy who's been living your dream for 40 years longer than you. And the best part is, you need only say "hi."
Hasport's adventure began with tech inspection, which is rigorous. The Insight is so caged up that Brian says it could pass a nine-second NHRA inspection. Then it's off to a two-hour rookie meeting and finally a shakedown run where the car needs to run between 125 and 149 mph to qualify for a record. All of this is detailed in the SCTA guidebook, which is available online. Hasport's Insight is surprisingly simple. It consists of a JDM K20A with Toda rods, pistons, and camshafts, along with a HyTech header and a Hondata ECU. The suspension has been converted to five-lug for added braking ability in case Hasport decides to road race it. The K20A puts down 220 whp on 100-octane fuel on a Dynapack dyno.
Long-time speed freak Doug Macmillan, co-owner of Hondata, was also there. Last year, Doug set a record in his RSX that this year his wife Miriam attempted to break in her RHD K20-powered CRX. Hondata's efforts were immense. Doug's RSX now features twin Rotrex superchargers and a massive air-to-water intercooler. In an attempt at a different record, it also sports a three-stage nitrous system with room for six bottles in the hatch. Without the nitrous, the engine produces roughly 680 whp. The CRX is no joke either. Its K20A packs Kinsler ITBs with stacks so huge they nearly touch one other. The engine, assembled by Prototype Racing, spins to 10,000 rpm and bangs out 290 whp at 9600 rpm. Also returning for records were veterans John Romero of AEM and Honda Tuning contributor Richard Holdener. Each piloted turbocharged Civics but in different classes. Romero's car has seen numerous Speed Weeks with just as many engines, but this time out he was running a de-stroked B16A in the 1.5L class.
The results? Romero pushed around 225 mph but encountered trouble on each run, while Hasport's K-series gave out at a steady 145 mph. Holdener's 728 whp B18C was detuned to 650 whp just so he could hook up on the salt, and it paid off with a record-setting 227 mph. And the Macmillans went on to set multiple records. Doug went as fast as 234 mph, setting three records while Miriam blasted as high as 189 mph.
Speed Week is racing, but it's different from anything else. The preparation is intense and the things you see are simply borderline insane. There is no place like the salt-anywhere-and there's nothing like traveling a mile in under20 seconds.