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2012 Racing Year in Review

Having made the surprise decision in late 2011 to sell my car and get out of racing, you wouldn't think there would be much in the way of racing to talk about... and you'd be right. Pretty much.

Looking back at 2012

A quick recap: I decided near the end of the 2011 season that I really needed to sell the car to contribute a lump sum to my kids' college funds. The decision kind of snuck up on me —after all, I'd just spent a lot of money installing the S54 and getting it squared away— but it was the right thing to do. Although I considered renting a seat a few times a year to keep my foot in, so to speak, I decided it would be easier on myself if I just gave up racing completely for 5 years or so. This meant no racing for the 2012 season.

I put the car up for sale in January and finally sold it (for $5000 or so less than what I thought was reasonable) in late July of 2012, having sold my trailer in April.

A funny thing happened after I sold the car, though: I started looking at cars for sale. Like, literally the day after the car was loaded onto a trailer for the trip to its new home, I was online and checking out cars. Now this isn't quite as stupid as it sounds, as I'd had nearly a year to come to terms with the idea that I wasn't going to be on track again for a long time. I'd thought about doing some minimal upgrades to my street car so that I could track it regularly, but I'd also started thinking about returning to my roots, in a way, by finding some relatively cheap Acura or Honda that was already or at least partially track-worthy. That was what led to me looking at Honda Challenge H4 cars that Friday in July.

The beauty to H4 cars was that they were relatively cheap, I understood the newer ones due to my time with the Integra, and the suspension setup typical for the class meant I could reasonably expect to drive it to the track (again, just like the old days with the 'teg). As a super-cool added bonus, an H4 car would also mean a cage, and that meant I could race it occasionally if the mood struck.

I spent a couple weeks nosing around and was finding quite a few candidates for less than $6000 and some that didn't suck for as low as $4000. Having gotten a good idea of the current market, I made an offer on an insanely-clean and nicely-built Civic hatchback that I knew had been sitting in the local owner's garage for the past three seasons. Unfortunately, he was (in my opinion) too emotionally invested in the car and wanted quite a bit more for it than I thought made sense, so I had to pass. I was close to making an offer on a car in northern California when I stumbled across an H2 car for sale in Arizona. This is where things got interesting.

The seller wanted basically twice what the H4 car in California was going for, but I was getting a lot more car: He had bought the car from someone who'd won two national championships with it, so it was a well-researched and fully developed car; the engine and transmission were both newly built with just one race; and, most exciting of all, the dyno numbers it was putting down and its light weight meant that it wouldn't at all be unreasonable to run it in Sport Touring with ICSCC (although the weight-to-power number was still nowhere near 10:1). We haggled over price and eventually settled on a number, including door-to-door delivery, that I thought was quite reasonable. So racing's back on the agenda after all!

Predictably, and it always seems like there's a little "gotcha" with me and racecars, this car isn't even remotely street-legal and so it looks like I'll have to buy another trailer...

1997 Honda Civic race car

Taken on the street in front of the seller's house. It had about a billion decals on it when it arrived, but this (minus the orange/white panel on the hood; I think the raw carbon fiber look is nicer) is basically what it looks like now.

Looking forward to 2013

The first thing I need to do is get myself a trailer. I've been able to borrow my former trailer but, aside from potentially abusing the new owner's hospitality, there are a number of reasons why I need my own.

I've already done one track day with it (yes, I really do need to use the muffler... apologies to anyone within a couple miles of Pacific Raceway in late September) so there's nothing that needs to be done for HPDEs. I've also gotten an ICSCC logbook and had it certified (with dyno sheets) to race in ST, so all that really needs to be done before racing is to apply a decal package. There are a few other things I'd like to get resolved, but they could be postponed for a while.

The only "big thing" I'm planning on doing to the car, since I'm trying to do pretty much everything as cheaply as possible (yes, other than the trailer :p), is to replace the K20A3 (engine from the base model Acura RSX) cams and rockers with those from the K20A2 (RSX Type-S engine). I'm also replacing the DC Headers exhaust header with a custom unit from Advanced Street Performance. I'm hoping to get around 200 HP at the wheels, which is still a fair ways off from ST's 10:1 power limit, but getting to the 230-ish HP I'd need would basically add 50% to the cost of the car and that just isn't going to happen.

As for how much I'll be racing next year, I really have no idea. I certainly don't intend to run anything like a full season, but whether I just do 2-3 week-ends or the minimum number of races to qualify for championship points is anyone's guess at this point. Mainly, though, I intend to have as much fun as possible getting to know the new car while spending as little on it as humanly possible. Let's see how that works out, shall we? :)

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