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H2, Finally - Automotive A.D.D.

The world according to E. John Thawley III

John E. Thawley, III
Apr 12, 2007
0705_ht_02z+honda_tuning+john_thawley Photo 1/2   |   H2, Finally - Automotive A.D.D.

I 'm not an engine builder. Nothing against them, I'm just not gifted in that way. Never actually learned how to read a micrometer or use Platigauge. As cheap and plentiful as used JDM engines are these days, I haven't seen the need. Stock engine swaps just strike me as a cheaper and easier way to make power, or buy it.

But try to go road racing with most stock Honda engine swaps, and the rules are not in your favor. You're either illegal in the limited prep classes or you're uncompetitive amongst guys with full builds, killer cams, and stratospheric compression ratios. The deck has always been stacked against you.

Until now.

After years of small to non-existent fields, the H2 class in NASA's Honda Challenge is getting a much-needed shot in the arm. The 2007 rules are finally where they ought to be, inclusive rather than exclusive, encouraging growth rather than limiting it, and expanding the freedom for creative racecar builds instead of narrowing it. At long last, there is a home for road racers wishing to run cost-effective engine-swap cars in a field with similar engines. Swaps are now a legal part of the H2 formula. In fact, it is the formula, or most of it anyway.

Whereas before, H2 was the class only for the most precious and cherished of Honda/Acura models-the Integra Type-R, Prelude VTEC, RSX Type-S, etc. Now, their engines are classed instead of the chassis. Add to that other more common base-model engines (including my beloved non-VTEC B20) and you truly have a class for the masses. Brilliant.

0705_ht_01z+honda_civic_CRX+john_thawley Photo 2/2   |   H2, Finally - Automotive A.D.D.

You can run the uber-trick, oh-so-desirable B18C5 ITR engine in a '92 Civic hatch right along side a genuine Type-R in the same class. Both cars run at the same weight and are allowed the same level of engine prep, and both are allowed the same brake and chassis upgrades.

At first glance, it looks like what already exists in H1, but it isn't. H1 is the "hybrid" class, meaning that not only are the swaps allowed, but hybrid engine builds as well. That drives the cost and complexity up and the potential for reliability down. Both are palatable trade offs to an engine builder or dyno junkie, but neither are ideal exchanges for rookie amateur racers or tightwads (like me). H1 is a great class, but a starter class it is not. The new H2 offers another choice for those on the way up. Over time, it may well prove to be a stepping stone to even larger H1 fields, perhaps even a sort of vintage class for older H1 cars with stock engines.

Last season, I ran a nearly stock non-VTEC B20B in my EF hatch. It lasted all season, finished on the podium 11 times, and cost me $550. I was out-classed, out-driven, and out-spent by just about everyone else in the class. But I started every race, learned a ton, and had the time of my life doing so, with an engine that cost less than a set of race tires.

Now that the swap embargo has been lifted in H2, racers are allowed to run all kinds of combinations. Low-cost, mongrel combinations like D-series VTECs, the ubiquitous JDM B16, and-my personal favorite-the non-VTEC B-series engines are all legal in H2. I've always referred to these combos in jest as "Lame Motor Swaps" because they're just not "cool," but there are plenty of good cars running around in LMS trim. Their owners are having the time of their lives, grinning like fools, and stomping the crap out of plenty more expensive machinery. H2 is the class for us. Finally. - Thawley

By John E. Thawley, III
0 Articles

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