Ask anyone in the industry what they think about Wicked Racing, and you'll probably get that shrug common in responses to the obvious. That followed by the obvious: that they are the most elite Honda team in California, if not the entire country. So, why did Ed Bergenholtz hesitate before joining them back in 1996?
"When I first built the car, I had friends in Wicked, but I didn't enter myself just for the fact that there's a lot of politics behind it," Ed tells me. "Like you're from this crew or you're from that crew. I heard these guys were talking trash. I guess you could say that I wanted my own persona."
But after all the work his Wicked friends put into his car, he got to see another side of the crew. A more encouraging side, the side that few on the outside ever see: the loyalty and the friendship among the members. "The thing that's very, very unique about Wicked is that you'll have a lot of people that will sweat and work day and night to help their friends out," he says. "And when they helped me out on the car, I kind of saw what it was really about. So, that's how the Wicked sticker got on my car."
Ed's early fear of being lost in the shuffle of famous names is understandable. Just imagine the difficulty of standing out from a crowd consisting of Charles Madrid, Viet Lam, Jo Jo Callos, and even Ed's own brother, Ron Bergenholtz. But within the past year or so, Ed has excelled in what Wicked crew members do the best: rising from the crowd. With a quarter-mile best of 10.621 at 140.09 at Pomona, he has established his name as an equal among those he once was fearful being outshined by.
What distinguishes his '89 CRX from the other 10-second demons is its sleek and refined looks. Peel off the stickers and it would nearly blend in with most other CRXs out on the street (granted you turn a blind eye to the A'pex Skyline GT-R intercooler core). Open the hood, and you'll find an engine bay worthy of First at any import competition. "Ed's car is definitely for gazing," says Koz of the Performance Factory NYC. "With a lot of these [racers] now-they leave the doors at home, take the hatch off, and have a nose made out of duct tape. But Ed keeps it real. His car's got glass. It's got a dash. And it still kicks a ton of ass."
Though the race car's wholly stock chassis (that's right, nothing other than InTrax 21-way adjustable shocks and Dual Stage springs) and full interior raises eyebrows, it is the turbocharged B18C motor that makes eyes pop right out of their sockets. It did mine, at least. (OK, no, not really, but my contact fell out.) Not only is it breathtaking in design and beauty and maintenance, it is virtually an unparalleled example of immaculate assembly in its every detail. Bluntly put, the motor just doesn't break. And that has a lot to do with the architecture of the block. Crower rods, JE pistons, and machine work by Benson's bolster the bottom while the head is ported, polished, and matched. Stainless steel valves and Competition Springs titanium valve springs were swapped in for weight and rigidity, and a wide array of bolt-ons add further strength and power: an STR Air Maxx Pro Draag turbo intake manifold, a Hot Shot turbo manifold, an MSD 7AL ignition, NGK plugs, and Moroso wires.
Then there's the custom Fastrax turbo kit. The heart of the turbo is a giant TO4E blower. To keep up with the turbo, Ed installed the A'pex Skyline GT-R intercooler core, an HKS wastegate, dual A'pex twin chamber blow-off valves, and an ACCEL DFI. Additional power comes from an 80-shot direct port NOS nitrous kit, but without it, the CRX (at 22 psi of boost) pulls an estimated 600 hp at 7,500 rpm.
But holeshotting the competition requires much more than just power; it's also dependent on traction. "Boost at the first part of the quarter-mile is almost useless," Ed says matter-of-factly. "You can see that by looking at all-motor cars. They're obviously not putting as much horsepower as the turbo cars, but they have the same 60-foot times."
So to limit boost at the launch and raise it elsewhere on the speed band, Ed equipped the CRX with an A'pex AVC-D boost controller with speed correction and scramble. It's speed-sensitive, so he can actually set the boost curve for different speeds. "Basically, when I hit Third gear, I hit scramble boost. It sets the boost up a little bit higher than when I launch for traction purposes. Usually at the bottom of the run, I would probably have it set at less than 10 psi of boost. Then when I hit Third gear, it boosts all the way up to 22 or 23 psi."
To really get the car to fly, Ed went against the grain and brought it to Harvey St. Mary at Harv's Performance Center in Whittier, California, a V-8 specialist, and more importantly, one of the premier DFI programmers in the country. "It was after that that the car really started making the times," Ed says, quick to hand out the props where props are due. But the soul of the car cannot be found anywhere on Earth.
The words "Sap Lives" can be found on the front of the car. It's a tribute to the car's original owner, Robert Sapinoso. You won't know him. He and Ed used to go to the street races in the early '90s, "when we were young and stupid," Ed says now. "I had an Integra. He had the CRX. And basically, I was his mechanic. I did the first transplant on it. We did a lot of racing and found new ways to modify the CRX. That was like our project car."
But in 1994, Robert, a student at UC Irvine on the cusp of graduation, was shot when he was mistaken for a gang member. He was killed in the very car Ed drives today. "The bullet holes are still in it," he tells me without hesitation. "That's the way life deals out the cards sometimes. The car was originally sold to a high school student. And he raced it for a little bit-got it down to 13s-but [his having the car] really bothered me 'cause it was our car."
Fast Facts Owner: Ed Bergenholtz, City, State Ride: '89 Honda CRX
Under the Hood: '94 Acura B18C powerplant; Crower rods; JE pistons; bottom end machine work by Benson's; bottom end assembly by KG Engineering; ported, polished, and matched by Bergenholtz Racing; stainless steel valves; Competition Springs titanium valve springs; STR Air Maxx Pro Draag intake manifold and fuel rail; 72-lb. Bosche injectors, ACCEL DFI; Fastrax T04E turbocharger; 80-shot direct port NOS kit; Hot Shot turbo manifold; 3-inch exhaust downpipe; MSD 7AL ignition; NGK plugs; Moroso wires and 5-quart oil pan; A'pex hybrid Skyline GT-R intercooler core, AVC-D boost controller; dual twin chamber blow-off valves; HKS wastegate; STR Pro Gearz, Cool Shift shifter, and polished accessories (Blade oil cap, radiator cap cover, Phantom valve cover insert, VTEC solenoid cover); Clutch Masters Stage 5 clutch; 5-gallon fuel cell
Stiff Stuff: InTrax 21-way adjustable struts and dual stage springs
Rollers: 17x7 Racing Hart Type C5s, 205/40ZR17 Toyo Proxes 24 1/2x8x13 MNH slicks; Bogart rims in back; DPR rims in front
Stoppers: Stock Civic DX brakes with Metal Matrix pads
Outside: Wings West CRX body kit and wing; Japanese Si-R hood; custom pearl white-yellow-blue paint job by Joe Avina; graphics by Garage Graphics
Inside: MOMO Corse racing seat and steering wheel; Apexi EL-Series instrumentation with 30-second playback; STR Power Pedals; full interior (doors and glass); custom carbon-fiber gauge cluster; NHRA-approved six-point rollcage and window net; Simpson five-point harness
Props: Harv's Performance Center, STR, Robert Sapinoso, A'pex, Chris Jewel, Wicked Racing, Kurt Gordon at KG Engineering, John at Hot Shot, Eric at Garage Graphics