While the rest of the country was feeling the winter chill, NASA Arizona Honda Challenge racers were getting busy with their second event of the 2014 season at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. This event was a crossover / points event for the NASA Southern California region which brought out some new faces for the Arizona Honda Challenge regulars to contend with.
One of the California racers to make the trek out to Chuckwalla was Andy Hope. An accomplished road racer and no stranger to hustling his “Circuit Monsters” Honda CRX around a race track, he was quick to lay down some smoldering lap times in the first few laps of qualifying. Was it a coincidence with his off-road racing schedule or maybe it was all the buzz surrounding Hope and his CRX (which received quite a bit of social and print media coverage last year), that brought Tony Lisa and his Civic EG coupe out of the wood work to stake his claim for the top spot on the podium? Lisa’s last outing at Chuckwalla in last season’s finale was an awesome display of his car’s potential to run away from the field and not look back. The table was set for a battle royale between Hope and Lisa. Unfortunately Lisa’s car suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure early in the day on Saturday and Hope would go on to take the pole position with a smokin’ time of 2:02.8. The fastest lap time of any Honda Challenge car for the weekend. Robert Rose, in the Team KIT Integra would start by his side and Mervin Tan in the Team LBR Civic would round out the top 3 for qualifying.
With eight Honda Challenge cars lined up on the grid, all of them eager to establish position within the first few corners after the green flag, it was clear that this race was going to be nothing short of epic.
Hope jumped out to an early lead and looked like he may run away with an easy win, but a minor off track excursion for Hope left the door open for Tan to roar to the front of the pack. Hope gave chase and for the next 11 laps and the two played cat and mouse trading the lead 4 times. Rose stayed firmly in third and looked like he might make a run on Tan or Hope, or even both on some laps where he would get unabated runs out of some of the corners on them. With one lap to go, Hope’s CRX made a surgical pass on Tan’s Civic in the last corner that feeds the front straight away which allowed Hope to claim first place when the checked flag dropped one lap later. Mervin Tan followed closely in 2nd place, with Team KIT’s Robert Rose finishing in 3rd place. In addition to the podium finishers, this race was also of special significance to Taylor Wilson of Team Snail whose Civic hatchback was fresh out of the paint booth sporting signature royal purple livery, and Steven Williams’ Integra (also newly painted) who showed great potential finishing their first rookie race without incident. With some additional vehicle development, both of these drivers should be jockeying for position up front by summer time!
|1st Place – Saturday
|2nd Place – Saturday
|3rd Place – Saturday
* Photos courtesy of Project130 – www.projectonethirty.com
Sunday’s qualifying session was packed with new faces as many of the drivers competing in this year’s Honda Challenge series have teamed up with other drivers to leverage their time, money, and strategy.
Leland Forbes edged out Eric Dayton in qualifying for P1 going into the Sunday race. Team KIT’s Kevin Gay qualified 3rd. Another full field for Sunday’s race meant the opening lap or two would prove for some fierce passing and defending.
Eric Dayton would quickly make his way past Leland Forbes in the opening lap and the two of them went back and forth….that is until Andy Hope, who started in dead last due him not qualifying in an effort to save the wear and tear on his ailing transmission, roared up to the front to get a piece of the action. Hope and Dayton would eventually distance themselves from the pack and trade the lead 4 separate times in 14 laps.
Team KIT made a pass late in the race (we’re talking last lap late!) to edge out Forbes for the last spot on the podium. Team LBR finished off the top 5, but not before former Arizona resident, now California resident, Doug Evans and his Integra Type-R made a hard charge in the last 3 laps of the race to finish just a few seconds behind Team LBR. The Arizona regulars haven’t seen the last of Evans though, since he has plans to attend the upcoming events at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch and Willow Springs. Steven Williams shook off the rookie nerves on Sunday and cut 4 seconds off his best time in the previous day’s race.
For awhile it looked like Williams and Team Snail pilot for the day, Markos Mylonas, would have a good battle, but a mechanical issue from the Snail team’s engine would force an early retirement for their car. The Team Snail drivers showed what they were capable of last year at Chuckwalla as co-drivers in the 3 hour endurance race in already sorted cars, it’s only a matter of time until they work the bugs out of the Snail car and the rest of the field will have another front running contender on their hands.
|1st Place – Sunday
|2nd Place – Sunday
|3rd Place – Sunday
The overall sentiment in the paddock after both races was that of a very successful weekend for most of the racers and teams. Strong turnout (9 cars, 12 different drivers) lots of close/clean racing in class, and tons of position changes for most all of the racers from first through eight place. Toyo Tires shelled out $800 in Toyo Bucks over the course of the weekend, which was spread out over five different cars. Honda Performance Development awarded $450 good towards Honda OEM parts to the 1st, 3rd, and 5th place finishers on Saturday. Thank you Toyo Tires and Honda Performance Development for the generous support!!
Next Event – Wild Horse Pass Raceway (East Track)
The action returns to Wild Horse Pass Raceway, next month. Beginning with this event all Honda Challenge race cars will are required to run Toyo’s RR (DOT-approved racing slick) tire. The consensus in the paddock after Chuckwalla was unanimous: the RR retains the predictable handling qualities the older RA1 had at the limit and introduces a whole new level of grip. Will this tire give the performance needed to dethrone Team FTW’s Integra Type-R as the lap record holder? Will this be the event that Arizona Honda Challenge sees its first 10+ car field?
/Arizona Honda Challenge