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The Answer

Evan Griffey
Aug 7, 2002 SHARE

The APEXi Drag Integra was constructed as an answer to Stephan Papadakis' tube-frame Civic. Its mission? To become the world's quickest front-drive racer. The Answer is also the nickname of the NBA's Allen Iverson, who is shredding the twine in what could and should be an MVP season for the flamboyant Philadelphia 76er guard. Iverson earned his nickname by answering the bell in clutch situations time and time again. The APEXi Integra has yet to fulfill its mission, but has gotten off to a colorful start.

The car and the player have much in common. Quickness is key for both. Durability is usually in question and expectations are high. Both have overcome adversity to get where they are. The Integra was nearly turned to scrap when it was wrecked at a shakedown testing session at Japan's Sendai drag strip. The session bore fruit as the car screamed to a 9.006 at 156.43 mph.

The APEXi Japan crew wanted to get more miles per hour out of the car by removing the rear wing. This would reduce drag at the top end and reduce downforce. A combination of the Sendai Dip at the end of the track and the lack of downforce caused the rearend to break loose as pilot Eiji Tarzan Yamada lifted after the finish line. The front end of the car was damaged, but Yamada was fine. The car was back together in two and a half weeks and the repair afforded the APEXi crew a chance to change some things. Weight was a big concern, so some tubes were deleted and the design simplified.

Innovation In Action

As this story goes to press, the Integra is two weeks away from its debut in what is currently planned to be a four-race stint on U.S. soil. There are high expectations for the car's performance, but one look at it and it's clear these expectations are not unrealistic. There is a great deal of innovative ideas and leading-edge technology beneath the Integra's Fiberglas body panels. The tube-frame chassis was built in-house at APEXi Japan, and for a company that has never undertaken such a project, it was pulled off with a high degree of quality. Using 4130 material, the chassis was constructed to NHRA specs as far as size and wall thickness were concerned. APEXi has built tube-frame racers before, but these were road race designs. As a result, the Integra chassis was a bit over-engineered, which accounts for its 2260-lb curb weight with driver. The car features an innovative center seating arrangement, a la NHRA Funny Cars. The chassis extends into the engine bay where more innovation is put to the test.

Shocking Revelation

The suspension system is hyper-adjustable with a trick camber plate integrated into the set-up. However, it is the shock treatment that caught our attention. We first saw the car at the 2000 Tokyo Auto Salon and noticed a shock running inboard, longitudinally (front to rear) and parallel to the ground. There were also shocks placed in the traditional locations. We quickly surmised that these units would tend to work against each other.

Something had to give; something was not right. The traditionally mounted front shocks were dummies, which had no impact on suspension travel. The trick APEXi design is configured to provide enhanced grip at the moment of inertia as the Acura leaves the line. The suspension resists the tendency to unload the front wheels, which in theory, will help 60-foot performance. The APEXi N1 shock-and-spring combo provided 1.48- to 1.50-second 60-foot times in initial shakedown runs, which included as many as two dozen 0-60 foot runs at a time. It should be noted that the car's 8.84 had an off-pace 1.52-second 60-foot. So, how deep into the 8's the Integra will go remains to be seen.

Extreme, Yet Simple?

The engine and drivetrain are a strange tag team of extreme and simple. The engine, which has high-tech components, uses simple street electronics to control fuel and timing, not a mega- expensive, race-only engine management system. The transmission, on the other hand, is extreme. The Integra relies on an X-Trac sequential gearbox to put the power down. Using this gearbox in a Honda application brings to life many challenges so the APEXi Japan technicians had to don the thinking caps. A unique feature of Honda engines is that they rotate in the opposite direction of all other engines. This means the X-Trac would provide six speeds of reverse. To make it all work, APEXi built a reverse, or clockwise, rotating engine. That was half the battle. In order to attach properly, the engine was installed backward, with the VTEC moniker reading upside down and the header exiting toward the firewall, and not toward the grille. The X-Trac runs a triple-plate Ogura clutch, a lightweight Ogura flywheel and spins R32 Skyline axles.

Converting Clockwise

Now how do you construct a clockwise-spinning Honda engine? APEXi started with a H22A engine, which was de-stroked by using 86mm forged billet APEXi crank in place of the 91mm stocker. The crank secures APEXi 8.5:1 forged pistons and billet APEXi rods. Most of the "conversion" centers around, reverse-engineering cams, reworking valvetrain timing to ensure proper firing in a clockwise rotation, a new starter that spins the flywheel the right way and properly set-up engine management. It sounds more intimidating than it is, as long as you have your own camshaft manufacturing facility.

With a bottom end built as strong as possible, attention was turned to the cylinder head. Under the "What did they do?" section of our tech sheet APEXi staff wrote "you name it." The head was ported for maximum flow and fitted with a number of custom-made APEXi parts. The cams were custom-fabricated to actuate the valves while spinning backward, which involved redesigning the opening and closing ramps of the cam lobe and repositioning the inverse flank from what would be the intake side of the lobe to the exhaust side. The valve springs and other critical components were also custom-made for the project.

Pressure Situation

Since the engine had to be mounted backward to accommodate the X-Trac gearbox, designing a turbo system would take the APEXi crew where no other Honda tuners have gone. Why twin turbo? One may think the reverse-facing engine is why twins are used. The truth is APEXi wanted to show how well its off-the-shelf parts work in a drag race environment. The turbos used are from the APEXi Japan Skyline street upgrade kit.

The exhaust header was not of the standard off-the-shelf variety. The stainless-steel creation has an artistic flair, looking like intertwined, golden-hued snakes leading into the turbine sides of two APEXi turbos. Boost is provided by AX53B70-P21 turbos, which are similar to a T28/T3 hybrid in the Garrett world. Once spent gasses have spun the turbines, they exit through 70mm downpipes and 46mm titanium exhaust pipes. The system's maximum boost of 1.6 kg/cm2 (22.8 psi) is maintained by APEXi racing-spec wastegates and an APEXi AVC-R controller. On the pressure side, the turbos feed a one-off custom liquid-to-air intercooler positioned perfectly between the turbos and the intake. This direct route drastically reduces lag. The cooler is an APEXi air-to-air core converted to liquid-to-air operation. From this point, charge air runs through an Infiniti Q45 throttle body and stock intake manifold that APEXi fitted with an expansion adapter to increase volume.

Under Control

One of the things we like about this high-tech marvel is that APEXi was smart enough to use its line-up of street electronics rather than a race-only system to control the H22A. The stock ECU has been replaced with an APEXi Power FC (December 2000, Turbo) "oversees the ignition timing and fuel delivery to the engine. The fuel system consists of two Bosch fuel pumps, -8 AN lines, 1,000cc injectors and an APEXi regulator mounted to a custom rail. The ignition side of the equation is made up of a system that retains the stock distributor cap as a crank sensor for the Power FC, but fires from a custom, direct fire set-up for maximum efficiency. The Honda H22A-based powerplant pumped out a fierce 609 hp on APEX Integration's Dynapack chassis dyno.

There are certainly a number of questions still to be answered. Will the car compete in only four events while on its U.S. tour? Can it compete with Papadakis who, as this article is being finalized, just ran an 8.7, 8.6 and 8.58 in an ID Drag Wars event in Texas? Is "The Answer" truly the answer? One thing is for sure, just like its NBA counterpart, the APEXi Integra definitely has a big hill to climb. This should be awesome.

The Source
Power Technik

Vehicle
{{{2000 Acura Integra}}}

Best e.t.
8.84 @ 161

Engine
H22A

Displacement
2.0 liters

Forced Induction
Twin APEXi AX53B70-P21 turbos

Intercooler
Liquid-to-air

Nitrous Oxide
n/a

Fuel System
Twin pumps, APEXi regulator, custom rail, 1000cc injectors

Ignition System
Custom direct fire

Air Intake
Modified stock manifold, {{{Infiniti}}} {{{Q45}}} throttle body

Exhaust
Dual 46mm titanium

Boost Control
APEXi race-spec wastegate, AVC-R controller

Engine Management
APEXi Power FC
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By Evan Griffey
271 Articles

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