Tage is the owner and Regional Director of NASA Arizona and has made a name for himself with outstanding driving and innovative thinking. His EH Civic is praised for its clever use of often overlooked parts to get the job done and remain extremely competitive amongst his peers. He's an avid motorsports enthusiast and continues to improve both his car's performance, and his driving ability.
As a privateer, you don't have the unlimited funds and inventory to throw at your car for every event. How do you go about remaining competitive, without breaking the bank?
Before, it used to be all about constantly looking for deals on used stuff. I'd search all the local forums like azht.net and even if I didn't need it, I'd buy stuff that was "of value" knowing that I could simply resell or trade it for something I needed. Fast forward to today and I'm able to maintain a competitive package by having a lot of support from sponsors. There is no way I could continue driving and stay competitive if it wasn't for support from groups like KSport, Tri Tech Motorsports, HASport, Fastbrakes, and even NASAAZ.com. I'm the owner and Regional Director for NASA Arizona so it's pretty easy to sponsor myself, but the reality is, without NASA existing as an organization, I likely wouldn't be racing at all. NASA has several contingency programs such as the one from Hoosier. Currently, I do not have to buy any tires because NASA and Hoosier allow me to earn free tires since I win all the local NASA events. Tires are the largest expense for time attack events, and the fact that I don't have to pay for them is what allows me to continue to play with the big boys!
Everyone loves an underdog, and you seem to fit the role. By now, other competitors have to take you seriously, but in the beginning, how tough was it to establish yourself?
I've never really cared what others thought about me or the fact that I ran a splitter made out of plywood or that my rear wing was purchased off eBay and looks like hell. In fact, I always joked to myself and others about my splitter and how $15 worth of Home Depot material is able to go just as fast as some fancy ultra-light "unobtainium" or whatever material that the well funded teams have on their rides. Also pretty much everyone in the time attack scene is really cool and totally professional, so even when no one knew who I was, I didn't ever feel like I was treated like a second class citizen. LOL! Granted no one looked at my car or came up and talked to me, but that was to be expected. I really didn't do anything specific to "establish" myself. I simply made my car as competitive as I could with the small amount of funds that I had and drove as hard and as fast as I could EVERY TIME. The results speak for themselves and I guess I'm better known now than I was "back then." I'm still blown away that my car is as fast as it is, and I've put a very small amount of money into the car compared to the other big TA teams out there.
Was your first racing experience behind the wheel of a Honda, or did you convert somewhere along the way?
Yeah, I've pretty much always been a Honda guy. It started with doing car stereo competitions in my '88 Civic in the early '90s, and then the car show scene with a '92 Accord in the mid '90s. I was drag racing with various Hondas for about four years until I discovered auto-crossing and realized that Hondas were much better suited toward that type of driving and even better for time attack type competitions. I've driven a few high horsepower RWD and AWD cars, and I actually prefer them to my Civic. However, I love the challenge of making a FWD car go as fast. It's much more satisfying beating an Evo or Corvette because people never expect a " Civic" to be so fast.
Going into a race event, in your opinion, what percentage of success is based on preparation? Driver ability? Good ol' money?
For time attack stuff you only need ONE fast lap, so preparation is less important versus let's say a 30-minute sprint race or obviously something like a 6-plus hour enduro race. So in my opinion, Time Attack results all come down to a combination of driving skill and who has the fastest car. I'd rank those two as equal as well as, simply put, a fast car will never go fast without a skilled driver, and on the flip side a skilled driver will never go fast in a slow car. You need both if you want results. So far my combination has netted good results, but I'm really looking to add more power to see if I can contest for the top times of the event and not just for the class. I like the linear power of a supercharger, so I'm looking at upgrading to something like the Kraftwerks kit but I don't have the funds for that yet. :-( Hey Kraftwerks! Are you listening? :-)
In the pits, are the privateers more inclined to help one another out, rather than turn their back on one another due to the fierce competition?
There aren't a lot of privateers out there, but everyone I've met on the scene is really cool. While no one likes to lose or help someone else beat them, I haven't ever experienced/witnessed anyone turn their back on another competitor. For me, I'm always willing to help anyone who asks.
Any close calls that still send chills up your spine? If so, give us the details.
Buttonwillow: I was racing another car down the last straight towards the "Sunset" turn. I was slightly faster in a straight line but I still wasn't going to be able to complete the pass before the braking zone so I knew I had to "late brake" to make the pass. At the time I was still experimenting with different rear brake bias settings and it turned out I had too much rear brake bias. When I hit the brakes a little harder/later than normal, it instantly locked up the rear tires at about 120MPH and my car went uncontrollably sideways. I went flying off into the inside of the track and hit the dirt at well over 100MPH completely sideways and was heading toward a HUGE apex curb. I remember thinking, "Yep, this is it...
I'm going to roll the car and destroy it and possibly die too! Dang, I wonder what this lap time would have been..." Luckily someone was watching over me that day because when my wheel tagged the curb, instead of making the car roll, it broke the wheel and ripped the upper control arm off the car! When the rear wheel hit, it sent the car into a spin, and I continued to slide across the track and well into the dirt on the opposite side of the track. There was SOOO much dust, and because of the spin, I had no idea which way I was facing or if another car was going to slam into me. All I could think about was I had to get the heck out of that location. Visibility due to dust was about 10 feet when I started to move the car (with the back wheel flopping around). In hindsight, I should have stayed there until visibility improved, but luckily everything turned out okay besides a broken wheel and rear upper control arm.
'Bisi Ezerioha is the founder and owner of Bisimoto Engineering, located in Ontario, CA. He holds an Associate's degree in Natural and Applied Sciences, a B.Sc degree in Chemical Engineering and M.Sc degree in Engineering Management. His race part research and development was often above the heads of those who doubted his choice of powerplants, though that quickly changed as he clicked off countless record breaking quarter mile passes. Recognized as one of the true pioneers of modern day Honda performance technology, 'Bisi shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, and in fact, is pressing forward harder than ever.
You've been an "all motor" guy for so many years, even when NA cars were several seconds slower than boosted race cars. What gave you the motivation to keep pushing the envelope on NA performance?
The challenge of natural aspiration. Turbo charging is extremely easy, as we proved recently with our 724whp D16Z6 Civic wagon. We love to sail down uncharted waters and bring such technology to the masses.
Beyond NA performance, you've also chosen unique power plants to get you down the 1320. Do you see potential that others simply overlook? Or are you going in with the mindset that "I'm going to make something out of nothing and show people something they've never seen before."
Both actually. Initially, the D16 engines were chosen due to budgetary constraints. I was a poor student at the time, and could not afford a B-series swap, but ran 12s in full street trim with some homemade ingenuity. We now run the F22A1, and it's a monster! This has been an overlooked engine as the stock intake ports outflow many ported B-series heads. It has been very satisfying to us, taking an unloved engine like the SOHC F22A, and designing parts that could propel our race car to low nines with in-house developed parts, and utilizing only atmospheric pressure. The shock value is also priceless. Since we can create amazing power from lowly engines, you can imagine what we have and can do with popular H, B, and K series engines
During drag racings explosion in the early to mid '90s, it seemed to be an unstoppable force. However, things have slowed down significantly. What do you credit this change in momentum to?
In my humble opinion, two things: exposure and factory support. In regard to exposure, not only has drag racing lost its pizzazz due to lack of focus from the magazines, and more emphasis on other forms of motorsports, the sanctioning bodies have also rested on their laurels and not tried to tap into newer generations of drag racers. Factory support from other car marques like GM and Ford scared the grassroots enthusiasts away, and they could not compete with big budget teams
On the flip side, recently the interest in drag racing has increased dramatically. Do you see something that's forced this new uprising? Are we seeing the beginning of a new drag race revolution?
The grassroots enthusiasts are now back in full force, especially with the absence of the large Detroit automakers. Small shops, key outlets like web forums, magazines, and companies like Bisimoto Engineering are now encouraging enthusiasts to visit local drag strips and have a blast down the 1320. I make it a point every year to visit local colleges and Universities to talk to students about the excitement of drag racing and other engineering endeavors. With such support, sport compact drag racing is on its way to being bigger than ever!
Give me a quick description of your most memorable race experience. Was it a rival or perhaps a close friend who had you sweating it out as you neared the finish line?
It was actually the IDRC Finals in Fontana, CA, late 2008. I had progressed to the finals, and met a long time rival, and excellent driver, Scott Kelly. He was driving the Scion-sponsored full carbon fiber tC, and was running solid nines all weekend. In the finals, with a reaction time within 0.004 seconds versus Scott, I missed second gear, and thought that I lost the race. The Bisimoto Engineering Insight gave everything she could and won the race with a 9.648 at 144.91mph against Scion's 9.680 at 139.40mph. With a 0.032 second difference in elapsed times, what a cliffhanger!
You've got a ton of knowledge and experience that spans over a few decades. Do you feel like our community is open to learning from people like you? Or are there more "know-it-alls" now who would rather click away on their computer, instead of taking notes from a guru?
The web-based forums are great places for information...and misinformation. Nowadays, enthusiasts use the term "research" to mean searching on forums and online search engines. Unfortunately, the information from these websites are often dubious in nature, and rarely factual. The true testament of any individual or business entity is how successful they have been with their projects, on the street and the tracks. With that in mind, many Honda fans do seek input from individuals of our caliber. There is a strange phenomenon recently though...jealousy seems to feed a new "hater" movement: this is where online enthusiasts speak ill of any innovative or different projects, when in the past, such feats were admired and encouraged. I sincerely hope it is just a phase.
What's the future hold for Bisimoto?
Quite a bit. We have a few projects that we have coming down the pipeline that will launch some amazing products in the process: pistons, cams, valvetrain, headers, you name it. A supercharged S2000, a J-series V6 EG civic, an H22 ITB-powered H2B Del sol, updates to the Bisimoto 700whp WagoVan, K-series camshafts, and our introduction to the European market with Bisimoto parts for the air-cooled and water cooled Porsche 911s. Our flagship for the Euro market will be our 1,000whp+ street Porsche Carrera.
Jason Mulroney was a household name in the drag race world during its most competitive and ground-breaking era, and his Civic regularly held a spot in the Turbo Magazine Quick 8. He's held the title of photographer, magazine editor, and is currently the Editorial Director for Source Interlink Media (and my boss ;)
You were in the mix during the some of the fiercest battles in Honda drag race history, at a time when the world was finally taking notice of front wheel-drive drag potential. Did you know at that time you guys were making history?
I don't think anyone thought much about making history initially. It was all about finding another tenth or two and beating the guy next to you. And of course, always on a tight budget. Then Steph and Ed Bergenholtz turned things up a notch when they started toying with single digit e.t.s, and that's when it really became a historic era I think.
Why did you bother trying to race a Honda? What lit the fire for you to take on something that most experts said was a waste of time, and a defiance of basic physics?
It was a way of life. No matter what time or place, it was always about the cars. I think it was those of us with a severe competitive obsession who pursued it above and beyond the street scene. Hondas were everywhere on the street, and it just carried over. We made do with what we had.
Any rivalries that took place during those days that have carried over to current times?
Easy innit... Domestic vs Import!! That's what it was all about during that time, and it continues today. Might be that way forever.
Quick, give me your scariest moment in competition. Something that even to this day, you're pretty sure you shouldn't have walked away from unscathed.
I wouldn't say it was quite that dramatic, but the first time I took my car to an event with a spool in it. The car had dyno'd really well and I was hoping for a good number with the changes. Unfortunately, I'd pretty much just whacked the spool in and never bothered or really thought about chassis setup, or even tire pressure, etc. First pass, the car felt like a monster off the line, but as soon as I got any kind of traction, I couldn't keep it straight. I ended up with the steering wheel pretty much at full lock to the right but with the car still going left. Trouble was, it pulled so hard and I was so determined to make my first ten-second pass that weekend that I stayed in it. I ended up in the other lane on the other car's rear bumper, and I was on and off the throttle with the steering wheel still cranked through the traps. Idiot! Although I think the very next pass, after some adjustments, I ran a 10.7-something.
Who did you look up to during your competitive drag racing days, and why?
Without question, Jojo Callos. He was just always willing to help someone out. He always did everything himself, and he always ran really hard on race day. He's just an awesome dude.
Back then, grabbing 400hp and putting it to the ground was incredibly difficult. Nowadays it's commonplace. You ever look at "the kids" today and think they're a bit spoiled by all of this free-flowing information?
Nah, not really. It's evolution innit. It's the natural progression, and really I'm just glad to have been a part of it during its infancy. More power to them.
As short as you can, sum up the reason you feel import drag racing has faltered after the huge explosion it enjoyed during the early to mid 90's.
Haha! Rodrez, I'm your boss, I have to be P.C....we'll leave that one alone ;-)
Sportcar motion once campaigned a drag EH Civic that posted up some impressive times. Why the switch to road racing?
Drag racing started to slow down around 2006, then the NHRA was purchased. There weren't too many events happening on the West Coast for us to compete in, so we switched over to time attack to try something new.
Your Civic hatchback seemed to be very dominant in its class and only got faster at each event. What prompted the addition of the ITR race car? Do you think it'll be faster than the hatchback?
I feel like we reached the limitations of the EG chassis. The ITR has better aero from the factory, better brakes, and a much stiffer chassis. I think it has the potential to be quite a bit faster than the Civic.
We see events like Super Lap Battle growing in popularity year after year. Are we going to see time attack events at the level that drag racing once was in the 90's?
Yeah I think so. I'm seeing more and more Honda FF guys out there racing now. Way more than when we first started. Back then, there were only a few like us and HaSport, and now there's way more teams. It keeps getting better and better, and the competition keeps getting tougher.
You put a lot of emphasis on aero and efficiency. When it comes to aero tuning, where do you get your ideas?
It's very important for cutting times. I learned a lot of the aero tuning stuff from the Honda Challenge guys, Kiwi Jeff from Special Projects who helped me a lot. I also got a lot of ideas from my friend Tage Evanson, he's the one who showed me how to build my first splitter.
If it weren't for all of the sponsors you've earned over the years, would you be able to compete at the level you do now?
It would be so much harder without the sponsors. We'd probably still be doing what we're doing now, but maybe not as fast, and probably have just one car instead of the three cars we plan to run this year.
How much faster are the elite going to get? Do you feel we're close to the limit now, or have we merely scratched the surface at this point?
Oh we're just scratching the surface. The U.S. time attack cars will be as fast, or faster than Japanese tuners. We've already seen that Sierra-Siera's EVO at Button Willow is actually faster than the HKS EVO now. We're all going to keep learning new ways to improve power, aero, efficiency-we're just getting started!