If you don’t know about FF Battle by now, you’ll probably never know. For the rest of you, rejoice as FFB3 was by far and away the most epic collection of Hondas on General tires the world has ever seen. The first two years were a little shaky—but hey, we had to start somewhere. For 2011, we blew the training wheels off the mother-#&%er and cranked the Battle up to eleventy! With more cars, more breaking and more shit-talking, FFB3 will go down as the year that took FF Battle from six to midnight.
We took what little information our feeble brains managed to learn from the previous events and took some of the “bigger and better” mentality America is known for and decided to invite twice as many people for FFB3. With our email@example.com inbox stuffed (start submitting FFB4 entries now!), we had our work cut out for us making our final selections. Some were invites we gave to previous contestants, some were formal entries through our email and one just happened to be a reader’s ride we wanted to see on the track.
Since the one and only turbo car in FFB2 rocked the party, we decided to try and level the playing field by making this year’s contest an NA-only affair. Our final roster of 20 cars is an eclectic mix of previous competitors and new hopefuls. We have contestants from as far as Canada (more on that later in this issue) with skill levels ranging from seasoned veterans mixed in with first time ex-hardparkers. For the first time it looked as though the competition could be won by any number of cars. With a solid entry list on lock-down we were grinning from ear to ear and rubbing our hands together in anticipation.
The basic premise for calculating a winner went unchanged since last year, the best mix of power and lap time gets the gold. However, we adjusted the scoring to reflect a curve based on the highest-powered car and fastest lap time rather than arbitrarily awarding points like we did last year. Once all the contestants got their new General G-MAX AS-03 tires mounted up, we’d wrangle them together and spend two days trying to figure out who’s bringing the heat and who’s full of hot air.
The first day of the competition started out at “some race shop in Temple City”, better known as Raceline, where our friend, and FF Battle contestant, Elton Lo would be manning the rollers and keeping everyone honest (we hope). Since last year’s dyno sesh was a 10-hour fustercluck, at the end of which yours truly was thoroughly de-hydrated rendering myself a projectile-vomiting mess, we imposed a strict schedule with time slots for every competitor. Missing your time slot resulted in a harsh penalty of 25 points and a thorough stink-eye from your peers.
It should come as no surprise that the K-series cars rocked the living piss out of the dyno contest. Several cars made over 230hp but Ryan Novak’s EK was on some straight next-level shit. I don’t know if that motor had tiger’s blood pumping through its injectors but it spun the rollers to the tune of 269hp… and then exploded itself, making it the first in a line of FFB casualties. Tom “Tom-Attak” Liang was another K-bomber having some issues as he was unable to get his EF up and running after arriving at Raceline. Turned out to be an alternator fuse related issue and a 15-amper was the ticket to great success.
Over in the B-series camp, numbers were a little lower, as we expected, but at least all the cars made it on and off the dyno without any drama. The king of the B-series cars was Gilbert Corona’s EF, pumping out 191 ponies. Amazingly most of the cars made their scheduled time slot and even with all the bullshitting amongst the competitors we were able to wrap up the dyno portion ahead of schedule—and I was able to stay completely hydrated. At the halfway point of FF Battle 3, it appeared as though we knew what we were doing.
After all, knowing what you’re doing is what FF Battle is all about, since “it’s not how you stand by your car, it’s how you race your car”. Maybe we should alter that a little to “it’s how you time trial your car” because, although we’re down with racing, let’s face it—this is a streetcar battle. In all honesty, the event is really just for fun and I think that having twice as many cars this year made the event at least a hundred times more fun.
It was interesting to see everyone show up and get settled into the makeshift pit areas for the day. Some of these guys I’ve known for years and seen at more track events than I care to remember, whilst others were track day virgins. With some hired guns on hand to do the wheel work and so many evenly matched cars I was interested to watch the day unfold.
If you haven’t been to Auto Club Speedway before let me break it down for you. It’s a NASCAR track where the good ol’ boys come to do roundy-round racing. The track layout on the infield is an afterthought—flat as a pancake, with maybe five feet of elevation change across the board, give or take a few inches. Nearly every corner is punctuated by a dragstrip and the “roval” configuration we run on incorporates half of the NASCAR oval. In a nutshell, to be fast here you have to have a lot of power.
With that in mind, I knew there were really only a handful of cars that were capable of being front-runners, namely the K-swapped cars. But back in the B-series field there were going to be lots of guys dicing it up for position since many of the builds were extremely similar and we had so many cars on track I knew this would make for some exciting images. I would have never guessed how close some of the cars would really be.
As everyone unpacked and prepared their cars for the day I made my rounds to say what’s up and check up on everyone’s car before they headed off to the driver’s meeting. It came to my surprise that Darren Wong’s immaculate EK Si wouldn’t be competing due to a coil-on-plug conversion mishap. Apparently the car was on the fritz the day before and burned out a coil, so Darren replaced the damaged one only to have troubles exiting the freeway on his way to the track.
With two cars out before anyone even got on track I had a feeling FFB3 would see more casualties by the day’s end. The first session of the day was a practice session that would be untimed. I think Elliott (the man behind the scenes running our events) made this call on the fly since the transponders weren’t fully charged yet, but one way or another the first session didn’t count. On the out lap it was interesting watching the guys who have never driven at this track trying to find their legs, the first time you enter the banking at 125mhp+ you don’t really know what to expect, so I understand what was going through their minds.
After a few reconnaissance laps I noticed that Salem’s TSX had entered the track with Jeremy Croiset, a Honda Challenge driver, behind the wheel. By the time he caught up to the pack he put a huge grin on my face as he passed no less than ten cars on the high side of the oval, with his right foot hammered down no doubt. I think that was the light bulb some of the other driver’s needed to sack up and run the banking flat-out. That said there were a few other cars that looked quick right out the gate also, including the Rywire CR-X, Checker’d Sports EG and TOM-ATTAK’s EF.
Most of the cars were looking pretty good, and although it wasn’t a timed session, I could tell there were a number of guys already going for it. Unfortunately going for it sometimes gets the best of the car and the FFB3 grim reaper bared its ugly head once again. The first car to bite the bullet was Elton Lo’s FA Si, the only car to compete in all three FF Battles. As it turned out the third time wasn’t the charm for this Civic’s transmission and although it wasn’t a particularly dramatic exit, it was the end of Elton’s day.
Gilbert Corona’s session, on the other hand, will live on in Wikipedia for years to come next to the definition of catastrophic failure. As the EF crossed over the start/finish line it flexed every last muscle it had, resulting in two rods shooting through the front of the block, displaying a massive rooster tail of smoke even cigarette boats would envy. It was later determined the failure was likely caused by fuel starvation due to low fuel in a poorly designed tank—a no-no many EF owners have learned the hard way. FFB3 had officially claimed four victims before lap times could even be counted.
For the remaining sixteen contestants, the Battle was just beginning. With transponders fully-charged and strapped to each of the cars, the track heated up for the second session. Everyone looked more confident and attacked the road course right away and again several of the cars appeared to be on another level. Tom Liang was clearly on a mission and did serious work clocking the fastest time of the session with a 1:59.5. Just behind the black EF was the blue Checker’d Sports EG, piloted by American Iron driver Ryan Walton, running just over the two-minute mark.
For the second time, Morgan Jade’s Sportcar Motion EK9 appeared to have some problems in the aero department with a front splitter that wanted to separate from the car. Needless to say Oscar Jackson Jr. wasn’t able to put in a decent time and had to nurse the car back to the pits, but I knew this wouldn’t be the last we saw from these guys. Over in the B-series arena it was all-out war between most of the field, leading the charge was Charlie Rhyu driving the wheels off the Rywire CR-X running in the 2:03 range. I don’t think I saw the green CR-X enter a braking zone all day long without a thirty-foot cloud of tire smoke behind it!
If the second session was incredible, the third session was completely off the timing chain. It was time to put up or shut up and all the competitors let it really hang out in the final run. The B-series camp was playing musical chairs on track with a five-way battle between Nick Caster, Ryan Der, Jesse Robles, Phil Robles and Lee Randle. There was more slicing and dicing than you can shake a stick at and some exciting on-board footage ensued. When the dust cleared Nick Caster proved to be the fastest of the bunch by mere tenths of a second in front of Ryan Der who improved his lap time by over four seconds from last year’s event.
At the sharp end of the group two more cars had made their way to the front of the pack. One of these cars was the Integra Type-R of Rhett Baruch, this time piloted by the now infamous Andy Hope. With the torch passed, Hope was able to lay down the third fastest time of the day with a two-flat and change. With Tom Liang opting to skip the third session this left only one other car capable of taking the lead—a certain RHD Civic from San Diego.
After the first two sessions Loi Song, owner of Sportcar Motion and crew chief for the Civic, wasn’t willing to risk not being able to record a time and spent several hours taping up the front end. Now adorning a holy-shit-are-you-serious-completely-duct-taped front bumper, the Sportcar Motion CTR was ready to do battle. The duct tape was able to miraculously hold together just long enough to get a scored lap in, and what a lap it was. I watched dumbfounded as Jackson Jr. slid the car around the track as if it were driven from behind, even through the oval, to clock a 1:57.9.
I walked back to the pit area and a very excited and adrenaline-filled Ryan Der offered me a ride back. The look on his face cemented the fact that this was by far the best FF Battle yet. When we arrived in the paddock there was smiling faces and shredded tires everywhere. Contestants were recapping on-track stories from moments ago and the vibe from where I was standing was epic. The comradery amongst the participants is what FF Battle is all about.
I think the only way that FFB3 could have been any better is if I were competing in it myself. Fortunately Leroy should be swapped and running strong by FFB4, which will no doubt totally eclipse this event. We can’t say exactly what’s in store yet, but if all goes according to plan it should be a total FF takeover with even more cars, more breaking and more shit talking! So send in your submissions today, you never know when you might be drafted into Battle.
General tires G-MAX AS-03
To keep things fair for FF Battle we put all the cars on a spec street tire. Street tires require a higher level of concentration and car control for fast lap times and are great for drivers wanting to learn how to push the limits of their car. This year General announced their newest ultra-high performance tire, the G-MAX AS-03 that we knew we be a welcomed addition to FF Battle. Available in a variety of sizes starting at 15" they’re well suited to Honda vehicles and offer an amazing level of performance in both wet and dry conditions. The new tread block design features an interlocking pattern that allows the blocks to work together to improve handling and reduce heat, two important features on the track. If you’re looking for a new daily driver tire look no further, if FF Battle can run on them, so can you!
Category: All-season ultra-high performance
Available sizes: 15-20"
Speed rating: V (149mph) and W (168mph)
UTQG treadwear rating: 480 A / A