Round five of the 2014 Arizona Honda Challenge Presented by Honda Performance Development took on Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in May. Because this event was a crossover event with the SoCal region, fields were twice as large as normal and even more competitive, with many of the nation’s fastest Honda Challenge drivers coming from Southern California. Honda Challenge had 13 cars total, 11 of which were H2, making Honda Challenge and H2 the largest competition group — race or TT — at the event.
Qualifying on Saturday was one of the most fun sessions to watch on Race Monitor. The drivers seemed to be cutting off 1-2 seconds per lap. Arizona’s own Mervin Tan of Team LBR jumped out to a quick start and actually held P1 by more than .75 seconds. Unfortunately for Tan, Ken Adelberg edged him out by just a tenth of a second in the last lap to claim P1 for the race.
Ken Adleberg had pole, followed by Mervin Tan in second and Andy Hope in third.
Saturday’s rolling-start race put Tan in the outside position going into Turn 1. Tan was left vulnerable to the cars stacked up on the inside. Adleberg, Hope, Benny Pecqueur, and Marcel DeKerpel rocketed past him going into Turn 1. Tan followed them for a few corners until DeKerpel spun out in the tightest corner on the course. The spin and four-off, caused Pecqueur to take evasive action, resulting in him losing ground and placing Tan back in third.
Tan then pushed too hard in one of the corners and went four-wheels off halfway through the race, causing him to rejoin the field all the way in the back of the pack. Back in front, Hope and Adelberg continued to pull away from the field and looked untouchable. DeKerpel, post spin, rejoined Tan, Eric Dayton, Team Snail and Steven Williams to dice it up in the back. Tan quickly ran down the group from dead last and seemed poised to regain his position on the podium. One by one, he worked his way through DeKerpel, Dayton, Snail, and Williams. 2011 H2 National Champion Manny Coats made a late charge on Pecqueur on the last lap to edge him out, and looked like he might even make a run on Croiset, who was H2 National Champion in 2012, for the final podium position of the day.
The finishing order at the checkered flag was Hope in first, followed by Adleberg and Croiset.
When Sunday’s qualifying rolled around, the drivers were two to four seconds faster than the previous day’s qualifying times! Adelberg was again on pole, followed by Coats and Croiset in third.
The standing start for Sunday was nothing short of epic as the drivers displayed their launch skills and car control skill by shoehorning 10 cars into Turn 1 without incident. Here is a bird’s eye view of the start and the clamor to establish position going into Turn 1:
After the field sorted itself out in the first lap, it looked like it would be another Andy Hope and Ken Adelberg show. Adelberg jumped out to an early lead for the first few laps, but around lap three or four, Hope charged ahead to claim first.
With just three laps to go, Jeremy Croiset found some hidden speed as he leap frogged past Pecqueur and Coats, who retired due to mechanical problems, into third place. He methodically stalked Adelberg who was in second at the time and eventually picked him off on the last lap! After the race it was determined that Hope, who took the checker flag, had some activity with an out-of-class car, which resulted in a disqualification for Hope and the top position on the podium going to Croiset, followed by Pecqueur second, and Adelberg finishing out the podium in third.