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Acura Integra - Beast From The East

Christian Rado's Integra Flexes 8-second Unibody Muscle

Evan Griffey
Dec 16, 2002
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The roster of Honda drag racers is long and legendary--just standing out is an accomplishment in itself. The Honda drag racing phenomenon is a left coast creation, tracing its roots from the streets of the L.A. basin in the '80s to Palmdale's LACR in the early '90s.

The Honda rage took a few years to take hold on the right coast, but when it did, racers like Pennsylvania's Christian Rado ensured the gap was closed quickly. Rado's wild Integra was a beast from the East, as it became the alpha male in its domain. Rado was the first East Coast Honda racer to road trip out to California and battle the Honda camp's founding fathers on their home turf.

It must be the challenge of FWD, but it seems no matter what region a Honda racer comes from, innovative thinking is at the core of each racing effort. Southern California's Team Bergenholtz was the first to put traction bars on a FWD racer. Rado added his own twist--pneumatically operated wheelie bars. Quite clever, this approach gave Rado the best of both worlds--wheelie bar traction at the line without the drag at the top end.

Once safely out of the box, an air tank would provide the pressure so Rado could lift the bars. This idea was so good, it was banned.

Rado was among the first Honda racers to utilize alcohol as a fuel. The fuel choice made him fast but put him in the Outlaw Class where his mighty unibody had to duel with chassis cars, RWDs and bigger engines. Undaunted and like a true racer, Rado worked his combination and his e.t.s fell.

He eventually found himself in a squeeze and in need of an engine. More than any other class of import drag racing, the Quick Class has been known as the tightest; when in a pinch, they look to fellow competitors for help. Gary Kubo answered the call and offered one of Lisa's back-up engines--a B16A.

"Actually it was Gary and Lisa's spare short block," says Rado. "We bought it from them and had Harv St. Mary of Harv's Performance Center put 1/2-inch studs in it. The head was a spare from Manny at Fast and Easy. It is a basically stock GS-R head. The engine went into the car at an Englishtown event on May 6 after we had split a brand-new engine in half in the quarterfinals."

After additional tuning by St. Mary, Rado made history at the next event, becoming the first unibody Honda in the 8s, blasting an 8.91 at 159.85 mph.

The record-setting powerplant sports a Benson-sleeved block, Crower connecting rods, Arias flat-top pistons and is filled with many minute details Gary Kubo absorbed in his years of building Honda race engines. Many think this is one of Gary's famous stroked engines but it's not, which makes its accomplishments all the more impressive.

"That was our smallest engine--it had an 83mm bore and 8.9:1 compression," says Gary. "There was just something right about that combination. They made huge power with it. Too much to dyno; the thing would smoke the tires in fourth, even fifth gear. When that happens, you know you are ready for the strip. I saw in-camera video of the 8.91 and it looked to be running 35 to 37 psi on the gauge. After the 8-second pass, boost was backed down because Chris wanted to win the event. He did and still ran a 9.15 in the final. That was a good engine; too bad a broken oil pump caused it to fail at E-Town."

The head was very lightly modified for boosted performance, being fitted with Ferrea valves, custom springs and retainers and commanded by Type R camshafts. The head is pressurized by a secret-spec Turbonetics turbo that funnels boost through a Spearco liquid-to-air intercooler.

From the chiller, charge air runs through custom piping, a 75mm BBK throttle body and a big-plenum RPS intake manifold (which has since been swapped for a Venom unit). Alcohol is introduced to the engine by a Weldon pump, Weldon regulator and mammoth 1,600cc Bosch injectors.

Spark is provided by the tried-and-proven MSD 7-AL ignition system. A Speed-Pro engine management system expertly programmed by Harv St. Mary of Harv's Performance Center controls fuel and ignition events. St. Mary coaxed an awe-inspiring 772.8 wheel hp from the diminutive four-cylinder commuter engine.

Getting nearly 900-flywheel hp to the ground is a monumental task, but Rado's approach is a lot simpler than one would think. The four main components are the Penske front shocks, Tilton carbon/carbon clutch, Pro Drive spool in the otherwise stock GS-R transmission and big 28-inch slicks. These components are responsible for transferring the power to the track and ensuring there is enough traction to get the most out of said power. Also part of the mix are Eibach springs, a custom front roll bar and a front shock tower bar.

Looking inside out, the Acura is built for speed. The cockpit is sparse, to say the least. A custom carbon-fiber dash is home to a Stack gauge pod. A Jaz aluminum race seat, B&M shifter and Sparco wheel are the points of control as Rado charges to nearly 160 mph in 1320 feet. Outside, a custom one-piece fiberglass nose piece, trick rear wing and wheelie bars from Ken's Kustom Chassis of Leesport, Pa. lighten the load and add downforce.

The accomplishments of Christian Rado's Integra are impressive and its feature here in Turbo magazine is long overdue. The futures of car and driver are polar opposites as the Integra is heading into semi retirement along with Christian's Supra and Christian is moving up to a full-tube, front-drive Celica with TRD backing and an eye on the Outlaw/Modified class title. We wish both the best of luck in 2002.

The Source
B&M Racing & Performance
(818) 882-6422

Bogart Racing Wheels
(619) 596-7605

Bosch
(708) 865-5200

Crower
(619) 422-1191

Eibach Springs
(949) 752-6700

Federal-Mogul (Speed Pro ECU)
(248) 354-7091

Ferrea Racing Components
(954) 733-2505 or (888) 733-2505

Harv's Performance Center
(562) 907-7834

Ken's Kustom Chassis
(610) 926-2820

MSD, Autotronic Controls
(915) 857-5200

Penske Racing Shocks
(610) 375-6190

Sparco
(949) 797-1750

Spearco Performance Products
(805) 581-0333

Tilton Engineering
(805) 688-2353

Turbonetics
(805) 581-0333

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By Evan Griffey
271 Articles

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