Racing has its risks, and while the vast majority of our cars can be driven back on the trailer and home at the end of a weekend, not every car and driver is as fortunate. With modern safety technology, drivers usually walk away from mishaps, small and large. Their cars, however, may need some serious help.
Some rebuild as they were. Others rebuild with significant enhancements, and some move on to other classes. We caught up with three NASA Northeast drivers who have very different return stories, but all had very impressive results at the season opener. Mike Kanisczak, Eric Magnussen Dan Honovich took some time and shared their stories with Speed News.
Mike Kanisczak, Spec E46
Mike Kanisczak recently competed in his brand-new Spec E46 car, securing a win on Saturday at the May event at New Jersey Motorsports Park. On Sunday, he qualified on the pole and won the very wet race handily. Kanisczak, if you recall, won the Honda Challenge 1 Championship in 2016 at Watkins Glen International Raceway.
Q: What happened with your old car?
A: Exiting my win at NASA’s 2016 Championships with my Honda Challenge S2000, I had collected some bruising from a pretty hectic restart. Shortly afterward, at a Northeast regional race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, I asked too much of a set of clapped out tires and ended up grazing a wall. By the conclusion of the 2016 season, the majority of the body panels needed love.
Q: Did you rebuild the old car, or just leave it to start fresh with the Spec E46?
A: As the Honda Challenge rule book was in flux, I sat out the 2017 NASA season and used the time to have the S2000 repaired and doused in a fresh coat of paint. Ultimately, I sold the S2000 to an aspiring racer in NASA’s NorCal region and decided to build a Spec E46.
Q: Were there any special or unexpected issues you had to overcome with coming back and swapping classes?
A: Aside from the cage, my S2000 was completely garage-built and self-maintained, so I was already aware of the time, money and busted knuckles needed to build a racecar.
I decided to come back in a Spec E46 for a couple different reasons. I wanted a class with a well thought out and consistent rulebook. Spec E46 does that while leaving just enough room to satisfy my creativity. I saw growing class momentum in Spec E46, which has attracted some very competent drivers. These equate to some incredibly close and competitive racing … and that’s the whole reason we do this right?
Q: Was anyone in particular especially helpful or understanding during the building process?
A: I learned a lot from building my S2000 and have plenty of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” to apply to my Spec E46 build. However, since I wanted to make the start of the 2019 season, I enlisted the help of the team at AutoSport Fabrication in Plainville, Conn. I had confidence that they would help me spit out a competent car in an already very competitive class. Having taken the win on both days on the car’s first race weekend at NJMP, I think their build quality speaks for itself.
Can’t forget to give a shout-out to my girlfriend, Lina, who had the patience and understanding during the all too famous “I should only be few hours” claims, which always turned into late nights.
Q: How does the new car feel?
A: The Spec E46 is held to MCS singles and is free from aero aids. This puts more of the chassis control onto the onus of the driver. To turn a competitive lap, you need to be aware of what the car wants and cannot just throw it into a corner expecting the chassis to do all the work. This makes driving the car much more rewarding and helps advance you as a driver. My car still needs setup work, but given that it only has one race weekend under its belt, I’m happy it’s already in a place that it can do some damage.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: The incredible tight racing and number of position changes during my first Spec E46 race was exactly what I was looking for in a race class and was a very memorable way to start my campaign into SpecE46. No matter what your budget or experience level is, I think Spec E46 provides a great platform and plenty of hooligans to race with.
This video shows the Spec E46 action from inside Michael Kanisczak’s car at New Jersey Motorsports Park in May.
Eric Magnussen, GTS3
Eric Magnussen came in second in GTS3 points in NASA Northeast in 2018. Driving his 2001 BMW M3, Magnussen dominated GTS3 at NASA Northeast’s May event at New Jersey Motorsports Park. On Saturday, he qualified over a second clear of P2 and won the race. On Sunday he fought through the rain to win by more than 8 seconds.
Q: What happened to your car?
A: Last June, our Saturday race at NJMP was rained (flooded) out so we ran two races on Sunday. I won race one in GTS3 and was third in GTS overall, so I was gridded P3 for race two, ahead of a couple of high-horsepower GTS4 cars. One of them came between our GTS3 battle for the lead on the start and we locked wheels, sending both of us into the pit lane wall at around 100 mph. The safety equipment did its job perfectly and we both walked away.
Q: How long did it take you to rebuild/repair your car?
A: The wreck was at Thunderbolt in June and my first race back was at Watkins Glen in September. Saturday’s race brought a first-place finish and a track record of 2:02.1, so I’d call the repair complete at that point.
Q: Did you consider junking the car and starting over?
A: I considered parking it and buying a Spec E30 to reduce operating costs until I could afford to build the E46 exactly how I want it. I realized that was never going to happen, so I just got it back on track with whatever means possible.
Q: Were there any special or unexpected issues you had to overcome?
A: The scope of damaged parts was unexpected. Everything on the left front, right front, and right rear was bent or broken. The frame was bent. The engine and trans mounts broke, ruining the driveshaft, eBay headers, shifter, fan, even the dipstick tube.
Q: Was anyone in particular especially helpful or understanding during the rebuild?
A: My parents own a repair shop, Pocono Autowerks, and hooked me up with a substantial SSF parts order. Matt Kingsley gave me the entire right rear off his parts car, no charge. Motion Control Suspension got my contingencies to cover most of the shock repairs. Phil at BimmerWorld worked his magic as always. So, to answer your question, there was nobody in particular, because everyone was especially helpful and understanding.
Q: How does the car feel now?
A: It feels great! Now the focus is on tuning and driving. It’s been able to turn faster-than-track-record laps at three out of three races since the rebuild, scoring four wins and two second-place finishes.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: The most frustrating part of this process was having to withdraw from NASA Championships at COTA last year. September can’t come soon enough. Mid-Ohio is going to be epic!
Don Honovich, Honda Challenge 1
Dan Honovich brought his H1 S2000 for NASA Northeast’s first event of the year. A 1:15-second lap put Honovich on pole and he held onto the lead for a win. His Sunday race was interrupted by a broken intake manifold.
Q: What happened with your car?
A: Prior to the start of the 2018 season, the new H1 rules allowed a K24 engine swap. As soon as the rules were released, I began ordering everything needed to make the swap. It would not have been possible without the help of Dave Marino at DM Auto Parts. We spent countless hours prepping and troubleshooting the swap. I was one of the first people to do it in a racecar. I ultimately made it to the first round, but was plagued with issues like an electrical problem that caused power to cut out intermittently. I ended up losing power in Turn 1 of Lightning and crashed the car into the armco.
Q: Did you rebuild it?
A: I spent the rest of the summer sorting out all the gremlins and ran it at Watkins Glen with only minor hiccups. Over the winter, I did a full refresh of the exterior. I replaced the fenders, bumpers, lights, etc., and I elected for Nardo gray instead of the Suzuka blue. All of the body work was performed by Ultimate Collision Center.
Q: Was anyone in particular especially helpful?
A: Without the help of my close friends, I never would have been able to complete this build. Phil Honovich, Dave Marino, Ryan Perry, Frank Millan, Mike Sousa and Mike Philips, I can’t thank them enough. For car setup, I have to thank Andrew Wikstrom of Tachterion Driver Development. I would also like to thank AJ Hartman Aero for developing an S2000 wing for me to use in the 2019 season. The car has a lot more downforce than my old setup.
Q: How does the car feel now?
A: The car now has much more useable power and with the added roll center adjuster, bump steer correction, offset ball joints and new wing, it’s a whole new car. I look forward to further developing this H1 car and seeing what it can really do.