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2004 Honda Insight - Recipe For Success

Sure, Money Can Buy A Winning Combination. But So Can Dedication And Surrounding Yourself With The Right People.

Aaron Bonk
Jan 1, 2006
Photographer: Andy Bui

The underpinnings of modern import drag machines differ little from one to the next. Commonplace parts, shared technology and tried-and-true tuning techniques pit multiple cars within tenths of a second of one another. For the winners, advancement lays either in unlimited access to sacks of cash or crews consisting of the right people with lots of heart and innate attentions to detail. At least that's what naturally aspirated drag racing champion Norris Prayoonto tells us.

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Arguing against Prayoonto's recipe for success is a waste of time. As of this writing, the Clutch Masters-sponsored 2004 Honda Insight holds records in sanctioning bodies including IDRC, NHRA and NOPI. The Insight has posted a best e.t. of 9.74 at 137 mph, despite the fact that Prayoonto and crew possess no such sacks of cash.

The Springfield, Va., resident jumped aboard the import drag racing scene during its burgeoning enlistment period of the mid-1990s. Prayoonto began competing in East Coast street class events and later built a third-gen Integra to run alongside the big boys. While the Integra bode well for Prayoonto, it was his first attempt at a competitive drag car and, in turn, brought with it its share of problems.

Prayoonto and crew decided in 2003 that a new chassis was in order, one that would put to use those lessons learned from the Acura and improve upon it in every way. Choosing the econobox Insight hybrid required little brainwork. He knew its aluminum construction meant it was light and that its tear drop shape would ensure an optimal drag coefficient. But aside from the Insight's physical traits, Prayoonto had other reasons for selecting Honda's gasoline electric hybrid.

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"It's a unique car from Honda and not like the Civics or CRXs that everyone else has out there," he says.

After 18 months of deliberation, Prayoonto rounded up an Insight of his own from a local salvage yard, then turned to co-worker Mike Gerber of Ultimate Performance Company for the chassis buildup. Prayoonto says the most challenging aspect of the build was mating the chrome-moly roll cage to the aluminum chassis. Gerber fabricated a series of plates that bolt the cage to the chassis since welding the two dissimilar metals was not feasible. From there, parts were ordered and the car was put together in less than five months.

Powering the Insight down the 1320 is a K20A2 borrowed from the RSX Type-S-one of nearly a dozen to grace itself between the frame rails of Prayoonto's Insight. During the Insight's first year on the track, the team went through engines like water as they sought the perfect compromise between power and reliability. Prayoonto said they'd often make only a single pass at some events, qualifying and blowing up on the same run. On more than one occasion, the team found itself reenlisting the Integra, otherwise referred to as "old faithful," to finish up the season with a respectable placing.

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Despite the mishaps, Prayoonto says the Insight buildup couldn't have gone much smoother. He credits Gerber (who also fabricated the Integra), his crew, past lessons and his sponsors for the car's success.

"The other teams have tons of money and equipment. We focus on being careful and having the right people."

Bolts & Washers
Norris Prayoonto's 2004 Insight

Propulsion
Prayoonto and company rely on a naturally-aspirated K20A2 for motivation. While the stock K20A2 netted 10-second timeslips for the Insight, the current K under hood is anything but stock. Both bore and stroke are upsized to 89mm and 95mm respectively, resulting in 2.4-liter displacement. AEBS ductile-iron sleeves were installed by Z10 Engineering to accommodate the large-bore, high-compression CP pistons. Custom-sized connecting rods from Crower mate to the modified, factory-issued forged crankshaft.

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Before bolting on the Type-S noggin, R&D Dyno in Gardena, Calif., reworked the ports via a CNC process. Crower Stage 3 camshafts dictate a combination of Supertech valves, springs and retainers. The results after fastening the top and bottom ends together with AEBS head studs are a 15:1 compression ratio.

Prayoonto employs TWM individual throttle bodies for induction duties in lieu of a more conventional intake manifold. We're told the throttle bodies work seamlessly in conjunction with RC Engineering 1000cc/min injectors teamed with a Weldon fuel pump and Hondata K Pro ECU. Methanol is the fuel of choice for this K-series.

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An MSD ignition paired with individual coils handles spark duties while an exhaust manifold custom fabricated by Ultimate Performance Company expels burnt fumes. All is cooled by a Fluidyne radiator and oil supply is kept in check with a Z10 Engineering oil pump.

The combination is good for upwards of 300 hp at 9000 rpm and more than 210 lb-ft of torque as measured on a Dynojet.

Power is transferred to the ground through a Clutch Masters flywheel/clutch combination teamed with a RSX Type-S six-speed gearbox and Quaife limited-slip differential. Driveshaft Shop Stage 5 axles replace the factory-issued twigs

Stance
KW Suspension supplied a set of coil-overs specific to Prayoonto's Insight. Since the company doesn't make Insight-compatible components, modified RSX pieces were outfitted up front featuring custom valving and ride heights. Weight bias was set up in a 70/30 fashion for improved front-end traction. A custom fabricated wheelie bar designed by Gerber plants the Insight's front end down upon hard launches and while traveling down the strip.

Resistance
The Insight's rear brakes were scrapped in favor of custom components from Strange Engineering. The front brakes house beefed-up Insight and RSX components.

Rims & Rubber
The Insight gains traction with the help of 26x8.5-inch Mickey Thompson slicks wrapped around 15x8-inch Weld Alumastar wheels.

Fashion
Body: The Insight's paltry weight was left uncompromised with the addition of a one-piece fiberglass front end and Lexan windows. Despite the roll cage and larger drivetrain the chassis weighs in at just over 1,700lbs.

Inside: The Insight's interior is race-bred and emanates nothing less. The Ultimate Performance Company-fabricated, chrome-moly roll cage spans throughout the Insight, not only to protect Prayoonto but to stiffen up the unibody structure as well. A series of chrome-moly plates fasten the roll cage to the body and frame. A carbon fiber seat courtesy of Jerry Bickel Race Cars and Stroud harness plant Prayoonto firmly in place. A series of carbon fiber Autometer gauges monitor vitals.

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By Aaron Bonk
383 Articles

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