We began our budget Honda Challenge build in the March 2016 issue of “Speed News” magazine with the goal of completing the car and racing in the Western States Championships in October. Well, October is here and the car is done, and it will run at the Western Champs. The concept of building an entire racecar from the ground up in seven months seemed very doable when I was sitting at a bar, drinking craft beers from Tactical Ops Brewing back in March. However, in September — and sober — as I was thrashing on the car at 4:30 a.m. trying to get it ready for a test day at the track, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into. We did get the car done, but there were some sacrifices in the process. Mrs. Krider hasn’t seen me in a month, my bank account is empty, and my hands have a few new scars on them. Racing sure is fun!
Once we had the B18A1 powertrain, built by TEM Machine Shop, slapped into the DA chassis, it was time to connect all the sensors and wires through the Chase Bays wiring harness to the AEM Infinity computer and try to fire the car up. Honda Challenge rules require the ECU, aftermarket or not, to be placed in the stock mounting position. Aj Gracy at Performance In-Frame Tuning used his computer-controlled plasma cutter to make a custom mount to hold the AEM Infinity and fuse block to the foot well near the passenger seat. Aj built an entire custom wiring system for the interior of the car, which included a new switch panel for the dashboard. For gauges we opted for the Racepak IQ3 data logger, which provides shift lights, predictive lap timing, and a multitude of digital gauges to keep track of what is happening with the car. The only issue was the Racepak needed its own custom mount to be installed in the car. Aj fired up his plasma cutter again and built the perfect backing plate for the Racepak system. He welded the plate to the top of the steering column so the gauge cluster and shift lights could be viewed by the driver through the steering wheel. It was important to have all of the interior components sourced and in place — seat, steering wheel, gauges, etc. — when welding these components together to ensure ergonomics and visibility for the driver. We chose a Driven suede-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel with the Double Nickel Nine Motorsports logo custom painted on the wheel.
As we were jacking and lowering the car during the build, we started hearing these ugly pinging noises as the suspension settled. It was the spring hats binding and then popping into the perches. We talked to the engineers at Eibach and they had a solution to our problem, a set of 4-inch helper springs. The helper springs have a very low rate and when the car is lowered onto the suspension they are immediately flattened and have no effect on handling. When the suspension droops and the shock expands larger than the main springs, the helper springs expand and ensure the hat stays up in the perch, keeping things where they need to be — and avoiding binding and loud noises. We threw a set in and also added some bearings under the main springs to help them rotate during compression and for ease of adjusting ride height on the dual-adjustable MCS shocks. Problem solved. Once we had that all installed, we had the car corner weighted by Achilles Motorsports in Fresno, Calif. Even with my fat ass in the driver’s seat, we were able to get our cross weight to 49.9 percent. We aligned the adjustable Hardrace suspension components using Watkins Smart Camber and Smart Strings alignment system to get the perfect performance alignment.
We then sent it to Olson Auto Body in Sanger, Calif., to get some beautiful blue and silver paint sprayed on. The guys at Olson also filled in any holes we left in the body after removing badging, door trim, the antenna and windshield-washer nozzles. After the paint cured, we got busy adding stickers to the car to add more horsepower. Sticker application, if done properly, takes more time than you think. Pro tip: Don’t drink and add stickers. Chances are they will be crooked and you will have to get more and redo them. Designate a sober sticker applicator, especially for the series-required Honda Challenge banner across the windshield. That is an easy one to mess up and Honda doesn’t give them away for free.
For aerodynamic aids, we did a DIY Home Depot splitter for the front of the car and purchased an APR Performance wing for the rear of the car. The key component for both pieces is neither of them can protrude from the stock outline of the car per Honda Challenge rules. To ensure our wing placement was legal we used plumb bobs attached to the outer edges of the wing to help us find the proper/legal mounting position on the rear hatch. Whatever was still outside the bodyline of the car we simply hacked off with a Sawz-All. There was nothing scientific about it other than simply power-sawing through wood and carbon fiber until the fitment was within the Honda Challenge rules set.
As we were finalizing details on the car, we found that in deleting the power steering system we caused ourselves a lot of puddles of power steering fluid under the car. Our DIY power steering line loop didn’t seal well. Luckily for us, Devsport makes a power steering delete kit for the DA Integra, which comes with two lines that thread correctly into the steering box to keep the fluid where it should be — in the rack — as opposed to the ground, the track, under your car, and all over your rear bumper.
Before we could fire the car up, we needed to add an exhaust system. We went with a custom built unit from Steve Cardwell at Napa Valley Muffler. He cut, ground and bent some tubing that would have almost no restriction on the exhaust, was lightweight, missed the shifter components, and would shatter the eardrums of anyone within a hundred yards of the car. That is correct, no muffler on a Honda engine, so plug your ears. The Western State National Championships are being held at Buttonwillow Raceway where there is no sound restriction. Everyone between Bakersfield and Fresno will know when the green flag drops for Honda Challenge finale in October.
Dan “Gadget” Bordeau at Performance In-Frame Tuning removed emissions devices from the intake manifold and built blocking plates that worked perfectly. But we ran into other problems while deleting some of the emission controls from the car. When we deleted the charcoal canister under the hood to save weight up front, we vented the fuel tank out of the left rear quarter panel. But that turned out to be a bad idea because gas sloshed out of the vent tube with a full tank. This was unsafe and made the interior stink like gasoline. I hate it when I modify something I really didn’t need to and screw up a perfectly good working system designed by intelligent Japanese engineers. These situations always make me feel like a moron who should probably not be screwing with stuff. To resolve the issue, we sourced a reservoir canister from Phase2Motortrend to vent the fuel tank and not spill gas or fumes and mounted it in the rear of the car for better weight distribution. Self-inflicted problem solved.
Then came the moment of truth: Hit the starter button and see if the thing would fire. The car started on the first try, which was a great relief. Then Aj Gracy sat in the driver’s seat with his laptop and began to dyno tune the car at every possible rpm. The AEM Infinity ECU allows for live data logging, which allowed Aj to see what the engine was doing as he made timing and air/fuel adjustments. This helped Aj to find power gains throughout the rpm range and ensure we had as much torque and horsepower as possible. So, what was the magic number? Like I would tell you. Come to the Western States Championships to find out.
The “Speed News” magazine Honda Challenge Budget Build is officially complete. It went from a $500 impounded stock 1993 Acura Integra to a Honda Challenge H4 car in seven months. The car went through one shakedown weekend at Buttonwillow, which was successful and it will hit the track again for some fine-tuning of the adjustable MCS dampers before the big day in mid-October. Wish us luck. We will need it.
To read more from Rob Krider or to contact him go to www.robkrider.com.