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 |   |   |  2001 Honda Civic LX - Chasing the Horizon
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2001 Honda Civic LX - Chasing the Horizon

Dec 1, 2005

So close. Since the last time we visited AEM's head of performance electronics engineering, John Romero, and his record-setting 2001 Civic LX, car and driver established a new high point in the H/BFALT Class: 196.079 mph. That crushed the old mark of 119.644. The Civic even clocked in at more than 199 mph on the long course, and AEM's engine management system datalogged several points over the double century mark.

Unfortunately, none of those records are valid-except the 196-unless Romero can repeat them, which Romero couldn't provide because of the shortened SpeedWeek session.

Htup_0512_06_o+2001_honda_civic_lx+turbine_heat_wrap Photo 5/29   |   Jiffy Pop, anyone? What appears to be a reflective shower cap goes over the turbine side of the turbo. The covering is secured, like the rest of the header wrap, with stainless-steel straps similar to CV boot bands.

Romero's final opportunity to go two large in '05 will be at World Finals in October, when he hopes to have ironed out the car's handling stability. "Screw it," he says. "We came so close and the car is still running fine, so we thought 'what the heck?'"

In the meantime, Romero gives us a primer on controlling underhood temperatures on an all-out race motor and how he tuned the car for Bonneville. Gear Speed Transmissions explains how it set up the long-geared Integra LS transaxle. And Vic Hernandez at Modern Image Signworks gives us a lesson in vinyl graphics.

Stickers suck, you say? Not when they help fund your efforts. If you're fortunate enough to have sponsors, show them some respect. Who better to learn from than one of the best names in graphics?

Htup_0512_10_o+2001_honda_civic_lx+cooling_tank Photo 6/29   |   With airflow removed from the engine compartment, a radiator is useless. Most radiators aren't up to the job of dissipating heat from 400-plus hp on sustained output. That's why Romero opts for a 25-gallon tank in the back seat area, feeding the engine coolant water via a Golden Eagle pump mounted underneath. The coolant runs reverse flow from the normal Honda method to give the cylinder head priority. The cooling system can also be pressurized externally before engine start up, minimizing localized hot spots in the head's cooling passages when the engine begins to make heat.

2005 Bonneville Speedweek Recap
Car #529, H/BFALT 2001 AEM Honda Civic
At first light on Sunday morning, Aug. 14, we were going over our checklist for running the car. As this was its first run in the new high-horsepower configuration, we were being very conservative. We were forced to initially run on the three-mile short course since the record we were attempting was set below 175 mph (119.644).

Additionally, the driver's race license we had was only good for 175 to 199 mph. While we knew it would limit our overall top speed, in practice it really meant we would have to set the record twice: once over 175 mph to get to the long course and a license upgrade to the 200-plus mph variety, then again on the long course to see what the car was really capable of.

We rolled off the line at 8:30 a.m. and tripped the lights with a flying mile average of 195.557 mph, more than 75 mph above the existing record. In addition, the onboard data logger showed that we exited the flying mile at over 205 mph and were still accelerating strongly. We posted the fastest recorded time for the 150-plus runs on the short course on Sunday as well, regardless of vehicle class.

While the run was a success, the ride was anything but. The car exhibited a frightening tendency to dart from side to side on the racecourse. This was due to the very uneven traction of the undulating salt surface coupled with the new limited slip differential. In the past, we have used a solid spool and in the future we will use it again. But for Speedweek 2005, we had to live with the LSD. The result was a car that darted severely from side to side, using every foot of the 150-foot-wide course while attempting to go straight at better than 200 mph. I didn't think it was possible to spin a front-wheel-drive car while going straight. Now I know better.

After spending the remainder of Sunday in impound (mandatory in between back-to-back record-setting runs), we lined up at 7:40 a.m. on Monday to back up the record and make it official. The flying mile average was 196.079 mph with a datalogged top speed of 207 mph after the third mile marker. This set the new Bonneville H/BFALT record at 195.818 mph and meant it was time to go to the five-mile course and let the Civic stretch its legs.

Htup_0512_21_o+2001_honda_civic_lx+decal_machine Photo 19/29   |   True, stickers can't make you any faster. But they can make you look cooler while you're going fast. And anyways, you should always love your sponsors for loving you. At most decal makers it all starts here: a computer, a cutting plotter and, if you're lucky like MI, a crew of talented, hard-working, and apparently modest designers (not pictured).

We lined up on Monday afternoon for our maiden run down the five-mile course. Unfortunately, the long course was in much worse condition than the short course and there were multiple times where we had to lift to avoid going off course. Even with these conditions though, we recorded a top speed of more than 199 mph. We retired to the pits to add ballast for additional stability, but in the end it didn't matter. A severe storm blew over the course returning the salt flats to a lake. The event was called three days early.

We are pleased with the racecar. With very minor changes we know it will be stable and much faster than it has shown. We're going back to Bonneville and are shooting for 210 mph. We now know that we have the power and aerodynamics to do it.

Htup_0512_22_o+2001_honda_civic_lx+extra_vinyl Photo 20/29   |   Not quite a decal yet from the plotter, the extra vinyl is removed from the release liner material, which on some stickers can be a painstaking process requiring a ton of manual dexterity.

Previous Installments
(August 2004)
SCTA/Bonneville-spec roll cage build

(September 2004)
Engine build for all-motor records

(November 2005)
Dry sump and turbo setups for forced-induction, non-gasoline records


Toyo Tires USA
Hawthorne, CA 90250
RC Engineering
Torrance, CA 90501
Motegi Wheels
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Gear Speed Inc.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
Modern Image Signworks
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Bob Hernandez
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