For car people, there are fewer activities more stimulating and satisfying than (get your mind out of the gutter) ... driving at night. Not just commuting home from a long day after the sun's gone down, but a full-throttle, high-speed sprint down long straights, through twisty curves, and around fellow drivers. The only problem is where to do that free from cops, potholes, and Mr. Mom on his phone, driving the wife's minivan well below the speed limit in the passing lane. Enter VTEC Club.
While the good people of the world fiddle with what to do on a Saturday night and how to get there, VTEC Club's annual Night Event has been giving Honda-powered time-attackers and track-driving enthusiasts the visceral thrills they can't legally get anywhere else.
Taking to the familiar Streets of Willow track (but in the atypical counterclockwise configuration) from late afternoon until about midnight, this year's Night Event served as Round 3 of 5 for 2019 VTEC Club competition.
The original concept of the Night Event was to provide diehard drivers some respite from the California desert's brutal summer temperatures, and while cars make more power and put it to the pavement more effectively as day gives way to night, the darkness itself becomes a limiting factor for all but the most experienced Streets of Willow drivers.
Track times tend to hit their lowest just after golden hour, but that's not to say some drivers didn't catch lucky break during the day or at night this time around. Topping that list was Amir Bentatou, shaking down his turbo, K24-powered, Midnight Purple III Acura NSX for the first time since last year's Super Lap Battle, with a fairly extensive rebuild having gone down in between. After just a few warm up laps he belted out a blistering 1:21.753 to clock the fastest lap of the day and win Group A competition.
With Kam Urquhart and his turbocharged, K24-powered Noble M400 unseen in VTEC Club since winning Round 1 back in March, and with Round 2 winner Dustin Dessero not making the event this time, there wasn't a whole lot in Group A for Amir to battle. Second place this time went to podium newcomer Kory Margiotta in his no. 10 "REDEK" Civic hatch with a 1:28.468, with Third going to friend and fellow NSXer Ravi Tomerlin in the ITB'd, stock-engine no. 8 car with a 1:28.960.
Perhaps even more surprising than Amir's performance (he is Amir, and it is a friggin' turbo/K24 NSX), was John Cruz and his "Goldy" naturally aspirated, B18-powered EH Civic hatch clocking the second-fastest lap of the event and earning the Group A2 win with a blazing 1:22.921 lap—less than a second behind Amir! Well, maybe not completely surprising when you consider that John did work during Super Street's annual FF Battle a few months ago, where he took the top spot in the Race Class
FF Battle FK8 pilot Clement Kwong hopped back in the driver's seat of his venerable S2K to take second in class about a second behind John with a 1:23.938, with Brandon Camacho in the no. 07 Honda roadster claiming third with a 1:25.860.
But Group N competition turned out to be the fight of the night. S2000s and FWD Hondas have long had a rivalry here, with a crop of fast S2000s of the past two years routinely issuing beatings on their FWD rivals. But this time, the tables turned.
Thomas Van and his no. 555 Civic hatch have been one to watch out for lately, and the duo finally found themselves atop the podium with a 1:25.174 best lap to take the Group N win.
If that wasn't enough, Jared Redding and his no. 743 white EH—a new team on the podium—nabbed second by less than a half-second off, with a 1:25.173. And if that wasn't close enough, Billy Jang's 1:25.651 fastest lap and third-place finish marked the closest challenge of the event!
As VTEC Club USA's Founder and the owner of R Compound USA performance tire shop in Whittier, Calif., Duane Bada has been so busy this season that he had to forego competing in Rounds 1 and 2. But that changed this time around, when he finally drove his "Spec B20" EJ Civic hatch (now with a VTEC head!) to the Group N1 class win with an impressive 1:25.192.
Duane was just ahead of Round 2 class winner Muoi Tran and her own EJ Civic, with a fast 1:27.173. In third: TSX and Porsche 911 driver Scott Dukeshire, in his bud Franz Vagi's no. 731 EH Civic hatch, laid down a solid 1:28.625.
And in Group N2, the "fun group," the "non-VTEC group," or as some have jokingly called it: the "grocery-getter group," we saw another incredibly close fight between FF Battler Chris Garay and his no. 24 Honda Prelude taking the class win with a 1:30.311...
...followed by a pair of black DC2s: Cory Tsan and his no. 126 car belting out a 1:30.865 to take second, and Jack Nguyen in no. 608 landing in third with a 1:30.991.
Group N2 tolerates more than its fair share of clowning at times (never from us!) but it once again saw some of the closest competition of the event, especially between its first through sixth-place finishers. Fellow FF Battler Rocco Pedreira and his Honda Fit landed in fifth this time but seemed to get steadily faster each time out. It's only a matter of time before a stock(ish) Fit lands on the podium and invalidates any excuse the rest of us have for riding the bench and not competing whatever Honda we happen to have.
And that brings up another important point: As competitive as things were this time around at the top of the class ladders, there was still a decently big spread between first and last place in each. What that means is new drivers shouldn't be intimidated by the fastest guys (or girl) in each class—there's plenty of room to get started, grow, and then begin to really challenge.
VTEC Club travels back out to Chuckwalla, equidistant between L.A., Vegas, and Phoenix, for Round 4 competition on 10/20, before wrapping the season up at the Big Willow track for their annual Autumn Speed Festival on 11/30. Whether it's to squeak in a few competition points this season or to get a jump-start on next year, there's really no better time than now to get involved.