Texas Honda Challenge wrapped up an exciting weekend at one of Texas’ premier tracks, Eagle’s Canyon Raceway. Known for its rolling hills, varied corners, and the “Italian Canyon,” ECR’s FIA-spec track is 2.7-mile, 15-turn roller coaster. It flows well, but is particularly punishing to even the slightest mistakes, which can kill your momentum. Texas Honda Challenge had a total of six drivers register for the event: Scott Adams, Dai Nguyen, Dane Byrd, Brandon Guy, Keith Pitts and two rookies, Mike Iacino and Patrick Brunson.
Along with the new drivers, there were also a couple of new cars. Scott Adams has been working on a couple of newly developed cars to see what makes them tick. After a few late nights and weekends, he got his ‘95 EG Civic hatch with a B20B engine, and a 2006 DC5 RSX ready in time to get through tech. Adams drove the EG, and Brunson piloted the DC5 for the weekend.
Saturday warmups kicked off with unfortunate events for Nguyen. After noticing his car was running a bit warm, Nguyen pulled in to add some water, only to see it return to his feet. A rock had punctured his radiator. The resulting leak caused car to overheat and warp the head. As it turns out, a temperature gauge doesn’t read very high if there isn’t any water in the engine. Unfortunately, that was it for Nguyen’s weekend, so he jumped in the right seat for instructing the rest of the weekend.
Saturday qualifying resulted in Byrd getting pole position for race one.
Race one began with a Honda Challenge standing start in the back of group A, a notoriously fast group with some big-power cars. Grid started with Byrd, Guy, Iacino, and Adams in their respective positions. With all four cars banging off their two-step limiters, the green flag saw Guy get the hole shot and started to pull on Byrd up to Turn 1. But Guy missed third gear, and Byrd regained the lead to charge into the first corner. Adams, who started fourth on grid, was able to pull an over-under to get around Guy in lap two and move into second place.
While Adams and Guy were dicing it out, Byrd was able to pull a comfortable lead over the next couple of laps. Once Adams was able to get clear of Guy, he started to make a run at Byrd, closing in about 0.5 seconds a lap. However, the checker came out only after five full laps since there was an unrelated failed start at the beginning of the race. Race one finished with Byrd, Adams and Guy on the podium. Iacino ran hard and kept his nose clean, the prerequisite to collect those rookie races and work off that provisional license.
Race two was for Toyo and Hawk contingencies. It started with Honda Challenge directly behind Camaro-Mustang Challenge, and the starting grid was based on the previous race results. Brunson was able to join in after getting some time to hop from his TT ride over into his Honda Challenge ride. Since he missed qualifying and race one, he had to start at the back of the pack. With another standing start, CMC and Honda Challenge took the same green flag. As the green flag dropped, Adams and Iacino had to take immediate evasive action to avoid a Mustang that had stalled a few spots up.
With a clear lane, Byrd was able to stay in it and hold the lead into Turn 1. Adams quickly caught up, however, since there was the inevitable pile-up into turns 1, 2 and 3 as traffic got sorted. The field broke into its groups and Adams kept the pressure on Byrd. The two raced nose-to-tail for the next few laps. Only about two laps in, Guy started to experience a heavy engine vibration and was forced to pull in early. Brunson, who was fresh from his TT laps, was able to safely overtake Iacino to pull into P3.
Adams continued to pressure Byrd as he desperately tried to pull away. Trying to shake Adams, he attempted to brake later and firmer, which was dumping heat into his brakes, which started to fade, and the pedal began to soften. Knowing this, Byrd tried to gradually pump the brakes on the straights to build pressure back and keep in front of Adams.
The unfortunately did not negate the laws of thermodynamics, and ECR’s 15-turn layout is a cruel mistress. Brake fade caught up with Byrd as he almost completely lost his brakes on the back straight and had a tank slapper into the gravel. Adams took advantage to capture the lead, and Byrd backed off to nurse his brakes and his ego. The final results were Adams in P1 followed by Byrd, Brunson, and Iacino.
After the race, Brandon and Keith stayed up late Saturday to fix their car, only to realize that the bolts for the balancer and flywheel had backed out. This sheered the face of the crank, effectively ending their weekend.
Sunday’s first race was friendly rivalry between Camaro-Mustang Challenge and Honda Challenge. After a call-out by Byrd, the drivers agreed to have a fun run. They took Sunday’s qualifier, combined CMC and HC, then inverted the grid. Byrd sandbagged in qualifying to get a good position for the race, but we’ll find out how that worked for him. Byrd didn’t sandbag enough, and Iacino had some car trouble, which made him limp around for a lap and inadvertently landed him in pole position.
So the grid started with Iacino, Andrew Fisher’s No. 13 Mustang in second followed by Byrd in third. Adams and Brunson started at the back of the grid since they did not make quals. When the green flag dropped, Iacino bungled the standing start, which forced Byrd to let off. This gave the ensuing wave of rear-wheel drive Mustangs and Camaros a chance to pass the Hondas and block off any chance of Byrd getting around Iacino. So as the pack approached turns 1 and 2, Iacino and Byrd were now stuck mid-pack. As the laps start getting clicked off, the differences between the JDM and USDM cars became apparent.
Even though they are both capable of running very similar lap times, the way they get them done is entirely different. Expectedly, the muscle cars are blazingly fast on the straights and the tuner cars dominate on the brakes and the corners. As such, the accordion effect dominates the race and Hondas were unable to gain more than a few positions during the race. So the 1, 2, 3, and bragging rights, got handed to the CMC Class with Jordan, McFall, and Mosty, all hooning Ford Mustangs. Honda Challenge in-class race went to Byrd, Adams, and Brunson for the top three positions.
Race four was a normal grid based on Sunday’s quals for Honda Challenge. Byrd was on pole, followed by Iacino and Adams. Byrd got a great start and led the first lap. On lap two, Adams was able to poke his nose in around Turn 13, which forced Byrd to give him a lane. Adams took advantage and was able to stick it down into the toilet bowl and pull in for the lead. The two battled it out, racing nose-to-tail as they both set their fastest laps of the weekend.
Eventually they caught some stragglers from the back of the CMC group, splitting them up. After a few dicey passes, Adams was able pull about a second and half on Byrd. Eventually, Adams and Byrd started dicing through the midpack of CMC, where passes got decidedly harder. That slowed Adams a bit and allowed Byrd to close the gap to less than a second, but it wasn’t enough. Adams held lead through the checkered flag in the underpowered B20 EG.