The Streets of Willow Springs... A 1.6-mile, 15-turn ribbon of asphalt carved into the northeast corner of the Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California. It's by many accounts the "fun" track among the group of circuits at the desert facility. The high-speed "Big Willow" can get hairy quick if you don't play it right, and the other tracks—like the drift-friendly Horse Thief Mile or the dual ovals—just don't offer the same kind of technical challenge and opportunity for speed that Streets does.
Streets of Willow is short but sweet. Depending on the vehicle, you might not get far in Fourth gear down the 1,000-foot uphill straight. It's not catered toward high-powered cars, but the fun and technical challenge is so infectious, it's hard to quit. Pound for pound, bang-for-the-buck cars shine and make it one of the biggest reasons why the track has become our go-to circuit for our annual FF Battle presented by Continental Tire.
It's now in its sixth iteration, and we'll be brutally honest: We were less strict than ever before. With a total of nine competitors, plus a field of FR cars simultaneously racing, we opened up the track all day and let drivers have as many runs as they desired. FF Battle isn't an event for newbies nor is it geared toward pro teams. It's for real enthusiasts who have the ambition to fine-tune their car's capabilities on the track while also testing the limits of their driving skills.
Set in October, the format for FFB6 remained unchanged from previous years with invitees hitting the dyno and then heading to the track the next day for time trials. And again, Conti set up all the street-prepped, front-engine, front-wheel drive (FF, duh!) vehicles with ExtremeContact DW tires for everyone to thrash on (see sidebar).
From a few dozen entries, we whittled down the field to 13, and from there we had a few more drop out due to mechanical failures. As much as we would love to see other makes and models emerge for this event, the unavoidable truth is that Hondas continue to represent the greatest numbers and are readily prepared. We had Civics from the last five generations, Integra Type Rs (ITR), and even a TSX.
The dyno portion of the event returned to our good friends at Raceline USA. Using a DynoJet 224X chassis dynamometer, each entrant received two pulls on the rollers. Not unexpectedly, the two forced induction Civics—Ken Suen's supercharged ninth-gen Si and Jason Lee's turbo sedan—put down the most impressive figures, Suen netting 258 hp and Lee wringing out 336 ponies from his K-swapped machine.
Leading the naturally aspirated pack was Lewis Liang's ITR, which recorded a pull of 209.6 hp. Scott Dukeshire was not that far behind in his TSX at 209.2 hp, and then came the oldest car in the pack, Jaime Mendoza's CR-X, laying down 197.3 hp.
With a relatively relaxing day one, the battle headed to the Streets of Willow the following day. Drivers pushed their cars the entire day to shave whatever they could from each succeeding orbit. There were two early casualties in the day, including Jason Lee. His Sportcar Motion-built '94 Civic had a connecting rod bust through the side of his K24 engine block early in the day, forcing him to retire early without a solid hot lap. A similar fate befell the K-Series in Ryan Hoegner's Type R, now rocking a jagged window in the block that peers into the rotating assembly.
The quickest lap times belong to Suen, in his blown Civic, who had the third fastest lap of the event, clocking a 1:28.312, which was only a few tenths faster than Mendoza's CR-X (1:28.864) and slower than Kristian Wong's '00 Civic (1:28.181). The quickest of the day, though, was Liang, who laid down a 1:27.963—he did it in the final few minutes of the evening, just in the nick of time!
Liang's ITR was definitely impressive, but for our money, no one was more exciting to watch than Wong. His Civic put down only 177.5 hp but still had the second fastest lap, only a tenth or so away from Liang.
While a field of Honda street cars might not be the sexiest type of racing, it teaches us that going fast isn't always about having the most powerful engines or biggest budgets. It comes down to balance, a well-tuned chassis, skilled driver, and ultimately passion and camaraderie. The heart of FF Battle is a community of enthusiasts who support each other, push each other to do better, and who all go home after the track and have a beer together. We hope you can join us for FFB7. Cheers!
'99 Honda Civic LX
Power: 155.2 hp (8th)
Best Lap: 1:30.170 (6th)
Yuta Akaishi, an auto service tech and a regular contributor to Super Street, threw the entire powertrain from an Integra GS-R into his Civic, coaxing still more power from the plant with a PLM header, Buddy Club exhaust, Comptech icebox, Skunk2 intake manifold, and Spoon throttle body. At the corners, we found JDM ITR spindles, hubs, and brakes with Legend calipers equipped with Project Mu pads, as well as sweet Aragosta coilovers. With its Civic Type R front sway bar, Wicked Tuning spherical front lower control arms, ASR subframe brace, Function 7 spherical rear lower control arms, Buddy Club roll center adjusters, Skunk 2 upper control arms, MFactory spherical camber and toe arms, PCI spherical trailing arm bearings, and Neuspeed rear sway, we can almost guarantee this Civic has zero body roll! Aero and bodywork includes legit C-West front bumper and rear wing, VIS carbon trunk, and Battlecraft hood.
'98 Honda Civic CX
Power: 105.3 hp (9th)
Best Lap: 1:34.258 (9th)
Cody Chan is The Man for coming out with a naturally aspirated non-VTEC motor in his hatch, bolting only a DC Sports header and HPS intake to the head and swapping the gearbox for one from an EX/Si for shorter gear ratios. The power handshake is made via Exedy clutch and flywheel, and helping get it to the asphalt are a TEIN/Swift Springs suspension, Buddy Club roll center adjusters and camber arms, Eibach rear sway bar, and ASR brace. A four-pot Brembo GT brake system for the ITR necessitated the five-lug conversion. Cody's Civic also sports a Battlecraft hood, C-West front bumper, JDM Civic Type R headlights, custom canards, Ganador side mirrors, FAL rear Polycabonate window, Seibon hatch, and rear GT wing.
'06 Acura TSX
Power: 209.2 hp (4th)
Best Lap: 1:31.454 (7th)
Here's another car we wish we'd see more of at these kinds of events— Scott Dukeshire emailed in a TSX and how could we resist? The car started as the college student's daily driver and morphed into something he could take to the track, have fun with, drive home, and still cruise around every day without making him miserable commuting. As far as mods, he's got a Hondata FlashPro hooked up with a custom tune for the sedan's K24, a mill supplemented by RDX 410cc injectors, Prospeed custom intake, J37 throttle body, RRC intake manifold port-matched by Prospeed for the 70mm throttle body, machined 45-degree VTC gear by Prospeed, PLM header, and Prospeed custom exhaust. Drive energy travels through a Competition Clutch flywheel and stage 2 clutch into a '12 Civic Si transmission with JDM CTR 5.0:1 final drive and OS Giken LSD; upgrades like the TEIN Mono-Flex coilovers, Progress Technology rear sway bar, PCI front control arm spherical bearings, Skunk2 Pro series front camber kit, Spoon Sports front subframe rigid collar kit, custom Prospeed rear spherical rod end control arms, and West End corner balance and alignment help get that energy to the ground. Future plans for Scott's car include custom aero, supercharger, big brakes, new wheels, and more seat time.
'98 Acura Integra Type R
Power: 176.1 hp (7th)
Best Lap: 1:32.106 (8th)
Not too long after Jason Lee's K24 went "boom!" Ryan Hoegner of Eibach's K20 did—heartbreaking to say the least. The K20 swap in his ITR had a K-Tuned header and intake, Skunk2 throttle body, Koyo rad, and Hondata engine management, with a custom transmission by Whoopee Doo Racing bolted to the mill. Handling is where this car is expected to shine, and from the all-Eibach component list—R2 coilovers, 26mm front and 22mm rear sway bars, front upper control arms, and rear control arms—we have to think it does. The build is rounded out with Wilwood brakes, CRZY Engineering splitter and diffuser, and Mugen rear wing.
'94 Honda Civic
Power: 336.3 hp (1st)
Best Lap: 1:29.613 (5th)
Jason Lee took a fair amount of crap for blowing up the K24 under the hood of his Civic early in the day, but he took it all in stride. The college student, lab intern, and part-timer at Godspeed Project never planned to track the car, but over time Loi Song of Sportcar Motion started building it up. The bottom end consisted of parts from Golden Eagle, JE Pistons, and Go Power, while the head is made up of Supertech ingredients. A turbo system consists of Garrett, Turbosmart, Forge Motorsport, and Design Craft Fab charge plumbing. A five-speed EP3 transmission with Si LSD, Competition clutch and flywheel, Fortune Auto coilovers, Godspeed suspension arms, stabilizer bars and toe kits, DC Sport chassis braces, and custom Sportcar Motion aero help the Continental ExtremeContact DWs to stick, and momentum is reined in via Wilwood big brake kit.
'01 Acura Integra Type R
Power: 209.6 hp (3rd)
Best Lap: 1:27.963 (1st)
Lewis Liang brought his ITR into the modern age, tossing in a K20Z3 to replace the factory B lump and optimizing it with a 3-inch intake and 2.5-inch HyTech cat-back exhaust. The manager at J&R Auto, his folks' import and export business, also upgraded with Buddy Club Racing Spec Damper coilovers, front and rear camber arms, PCI bronze front control arm bushings, Hard Race rear trailing arm bushings, JDM '98-spec sway bars, and Project Mu brake rotors and pads. Liang says he plans to leave the car the way it is and just keep going out to track days, which means the C-West front bumper, Max Racing hood, Voltex Type 1 GT rear wing, and homemade splitter secured via Special Projects hardware aren't going anywhere soon.
'90 Honda CR-X
Power: 197.3 hp (5th)
Best Lap: 1:28.864 (4th)
When we saw a CR-X in the list of entries, we almost automatically said "Yes" just for the cool factor alone. Jaime Mendoza's pioneering Honda came to our party with a 2.0L motivator rocking Supertech pistons, valves, springs and retainers, Eagle rods, ATI crank pulley, Buddy Club cams, and a ported and polished cylinder head. Bolted to it are an Edelbrock intake manifold with 72mm throttle body and Bisimoto header leading to a custom exhaust with Burns Stainless muffler. Power is routed through an S4C trans outfitted with MFactory LSD and final drive. Mendoza, who pays the bills as a process development engineer, also upgraded to Penske shocks, Swift springs, thicker front and rear sway bars, an Innovate traction bar, P1 Spec rear wing, and brakes made up of Wilwood parts. He plans to install a Kraftwerks supercharger next to his car.
'13 Honda Civic Si
Power: 258.4 hp (2nd)
Best Lap: 1:28.312 (3rd)
No stranger to FFB, Ken Suen returned with Godspeed's Civic Si running a CT Engineering supercharger tuned by Church Automotive with the help of a Hondata FlashPro. Supporting the boost are elements like a KSR after-cooler and intake, RC injectors, and Hybrid Racing fuel line and rail. Other additions include stage 4 Competition Clutch, Hybrid Racing clutch master cylinder and line, Godspeed coils, rear camber kit and sway bar, Voltex Type 1 rear wing, and KSR full aero package. As far as goals, the Godspeed general manager wants to have the first ninth-gen Civic on street tires to go under 2 minutes at Buttonwillow.
'00 Honda Civic CX
Power: 177.5 hp (6th)
Best Lap: 1:28.181 (2nd)
Relatively speaking, Kristian Wong's was one of the more modest builds, flossing a stock '96-spec JDM ITR mill under hood with a ported intake manifold, Vibrant 2.5-inch header, and custom exhaust. At all four corners, he has Koni Sport dampers and Swift Springs working with Ground Control sleeves and extended top hats, as well as ITR brakes outfitted with Project Mu pads. Other add-ons include Civic Type R front antisway bar, Eibach rear antisway bar, C-West front bumper, Battlecraft hood, and Seeker rear wing. Coming in Sixth in power, he was favored to win the road course portion until Liang ousted his time on the last few minutes of the day. We still got nothing but props for Kristian, though!
Continental Tire ExtremeContact DW
For the second year in a row, drivers competed on ExtremeContact DWs, helping chip away lap times thanks to the grip and tenacity of the summer UHP tire. Cars hooked up, and for the understeering FF crowd, that's an exceedingly good thing! The ExtremeContact DW comes in sizes from 16 to 19 inches and are proven on the track as shown here. They also work great in everyday dry conditions, while its wet handling and braking are nothing to sneeze at, either.
Category: Summer Ultra-High Performance
Sizes: 16" to 19"
UTQG Rating: 340 AA/A
Fastest in the West
While FF Battle has been going strong on its sixth year, we've been stationed at Streets of Willow for the last three. Here's a look at the 10 fastest cars we've had!
|1.||1:26.240||Brian Gillespie — '88 Honda CRX (FFB5)|
|2.||1:27.226||Ken Suen — '04 Acura RSX Type S (FFB5)|
|3.||1:27.963||Lewis Liang — '01 Acura Integra Type R (FFB6)|
|4.||1:28.181||Kristian Wong — '00 Honda Civic CX (FFB6)|
|5.||1:28.312||Ken Suen — '13 Honda Civic Si (FFB6)|
|6.||1:28.864||Jamie Mendoza — '90 Honda CRX (FFB6)|
|7.||1:29.215||Pradana "Ping" Wilianto — '07 Acura CSX Type-S (FFB5)|
|8.||1.29.328||Tony Jackson — '93 Honda Civic DX (FFB5)|
|9.||1.29.331||Kane Chan — '94 Honda Civic (FFB4, General Tire G-MAX AS-03)|
|10.||1.29.694||Nick Caster — '89 Honda CRX (FFB4, General Tire G-MAX AS-03)|