With its grid of international teams and engineering that's continuing to push the envelope, the World Time Attack Challenge is an event where it pays never to judge a book by its cover, especially in the case of JDMYard. What you're looking at is the '15 Open Class champion—a 22-year-old hatch that screamed its way around Sydney Motorsport Park in 1:30.7010, taking down a full list of "proper" sports cars. But the second-fastest Open Class lap time of all time, and the only two-wheel drive car ever to take the podium's top slot in its nine-year history, hasn't had some sort of trick longitudinal engine swap. Every one of its near-600 hp is being put through the front two wheels. Of course, it helps when your team's day job is building and importing parts for fast Hondas. Based a few miles from the event, JDMYard is one of Australia's best-known Honda specialists, proven on dragstrips and circuits all over the country. Purists might argue that front-wheel drive is a knife-to-a-gunfight mistake in a grid full of GT-Rs, Evos, and rear-drive coupes, but proving the opposite has become a bit of an obsession.
Team driver Adam Casmiri, the Aussie rally driver tasked with hustling the results of that engineering around the track, says there was never any temptation to follow the crowd. "When we first started in World Time Attack, we were competing in an Integra DC5 with turbo'd K20/K24A swap," he says. "It was a competitive car, we managed a 1:37.7770 in '13, but the EG is a lighter chassis. So we changed cars for '14, to save some weight, and the times speak for themselves—it's been very effective." And not just last year. We caught up with the team after the previous year's event—the Civic's first shot at the Open Class—and it was already looking promising. With almost no shakedown time, Adam put down a 1:33.0340 time and a top-five finish almost straight off the trailer. Mechanical problems may have cut the weekend short of really showing what it was capable of, but he says it was a solid foundation to work from. In short, there was plenty of room to go faster with a bit more preparation time, and a helping hand. Wild aero is par for the course at WTAC and, if '14 had taught them anything, the top of that list was the right place to go to get onto the podium. The three fastest cars in the Honda class had spent some of the previous year under the microscope at Topstage Composites. This was the missing ingredient. Based in Melbourne, Topstage offers a bespoke fabrication service with the guarantee of everything taking place behind closed doors. To give some idea of the level of engineering they're prepared to take on, this is the same company that went viral recently when their 12.6kg full-carbon FD RX-7 shell popped out of the mold. Based on 3-D imaging and telemetry from the track, Topstage will design a full aero kit to suit almost any type of motorsport, and that's useful when the canvas isn't as blank as it sounds. Open Class has plenty of room for unhinged builds, but cars are still confined on extra width, longer overhangs, and the extent to which the shape, structure, and materials used in the shell can be altered. So plenty of that familiar EG shape is still there, but bulked out by one-off carbon-fiber sills, arches, and the under-floor panel finished with a rear diffuser. The nosecone—entirely functional—is a single piece of carbon fiber pressing the front wheels into the tarmac, and the closed-sided wing was designed to improve high-speed stability.
Even compared to the aero kit JDMYard was running in '14, it's made a big difference: "We can go through Turn 1 at 230 kph (143 mph), with no braking," Adam says. "It's a very fast left-hander at the end of the Brabham Straight, past the grandstands, and we're cornering quicker than pretty much every other car out there. This isn't just about downforce, it's about managing airflow; that's where the fastest lap times are decided."
Of course, cornering speeds are only part of the puzzle. Beneath the reshaped bodywork, the Civic is still running basically the same engine setup used in '14. It's a heavily strengthened K24A from an Accord, boosted by a Rotrex supercharger and paired to a Type R gearbox and Pfitzner Performance straight-cut gearset. To make the most of the aero, Armour Motorsport Services managed to find an extra 100 bhp in the monster inline-four, just in time for the event.
All of the suspension and chassis hardware is new, too. Most of it comes from Hardrace, with a set of TEIN Super Racing coilovers, all of which are adjustable with the aero kit. Behind the staggered 18- and 17-inch TE37 SL wheels and Advan tires, StopTech four-piston brakes and 13-inch rotors mean Adam can quickly scrub off tens of miles per hour. The final missing piece is an OS Giken 1.5-way differential, which means none of the power is put to waste. "People assume it's a handful, but it's so well set up that it still feels like there's more in it," Adam laughs. "It's really stable at high speed, and there's loads of grip." That's probably just as well, because as the months slip away before the next event, the pressure is on to find whatever slack is left and take it out. The Open Class takes no prisoners, even if you've got twice as many drive wheels as the Civic, and no team has ever taken first place more than once. It means JDMYard can't stand still and rely on a proven setup. "As soon as it gets back to the workshop, we're going to pull it apart again and focus on finding ways to go even faster," Adam says. "We're aiming for our first lap this year to be a new personal best." That might sound like tough talk for a David in a class full of Goliaths, but a second year of off-season development work should make for an epic return in '16. We're not sure what the next few months will squeeze into this giant killer, but one thing we can almost guarantee is this—you'll still be wasting your time looking for a rear differential.