Team Honda Research Drivers Take Convincing Victories in the Touring 3 and Showroom Stock B Classes at Big Willow
Team Honda Research (THR) drivers Sage Marie, Lee Niffenegger and Matt Staal drove brilliantly to collect maximum points for the national run-offs. Marie won the Touring 3 (T3) class and Niffenegger and Staal swept the Showroom Stock B (SSB) class with a 1-2 finish.
Last weekend’s race at Willow Springs International Raceway, a.k.a. Big Willow, marked the second consecutive high-speed race the Team Honda Research drivers and their vehicles would have to tame. Although both the roval (road course + oval = roval) at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and the big track at Willow Springs are both fast, their track layouts are completely different. At Fontana, speeds of 130 mph or more are reached as the cars storm down the back straightaway. While speeds at Big Willow are well over 100 mph, the shorter course length and flowing nature of the track give drivers little time to rest. Niffenegger calls it a “fun ‘old-school’ track” that he considers one of the bravest in North America, with Mosport in Canada being the other.
Inclement weather presented the Team Honda Research drivers with their first challenge of the weekend. The precipitation necessitated a change to BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW summer tires–the rain tires for the Honda Racing team–for the first practice session of the weekend. Two-thirds of the way into practice, Marie experienced trouble with the throttle body of his #4 Honda Racing/HPD/BFGoodrich Tires Honda S2000. This would sideline Marie and his S2K for the rest of the day. It also meant he wasn’t able to qualify and have to start from the rear of the field for the race. Marie and Staal would later trek down to the shop in Torrance to pick up a replacement throttle body and back to the track in Rosamond to perform the (quick) repair on Saturday evening.
Track conditions were better for qualifying as the rain waited until the end of the session to return. Staal qualified his #53 Honda Racing/HPD/BFGoodrich Tires Honda Civic Si Coupe second and Niffenegger qualified his #42 Honda Racing/HPD/BFGoodrich Tires Honda Civic Si Coupe third. Tom Brecht grabbed the pole in Showroom Stock B with his supercharged #25 R53 MINI Cooper S. “We don’t totally know what the MINI is running because it’s difficult to tell how stock it really is,” said Niffenegger. Unlike the race at Fontana, Honda Racing drivers would not be starting from the pole position in their classes in Sunday’s race.
Clear, sunny skies presented themselves to the Honda Racing team for morning warm-up and the race. With the previous day’s troubles (rain and a bad throttle body) behind them, the Team Honda Research drivers were poised to drive their way to the top of their classes. The Showroom Stock B contenders would begin the race in the middle of the pack while Marie would have to carve his way through many slower vehicles to return to the position he regularly belonged.
Staal spent the early laps of the race looking for a way around Brecht’s MINI. While he was doing that, Niffenegger used the advice Staal gave him the previous day about using fourth gear more on the back section of the track to close in on his Honda Racing teammate and Brecht. After a few more laps, Niffenegger caught and passed Staal and set after the little MINI. In less than two laps, Niffenegger took the SSB class lead and never looked back.
In the initial stages of the race, Marie safely carved his #4 Honda S2000 through the slower traffic consisting of cars in lower classes. His competition for the weekend was two Mazda RX-8s driven by Lynne Griffiths and Michael Sullivan. Marie’s best lap of 1:36.461 was significantly faster than the 1:37.777 and 1:39.834 Griffiths and Sullivan could muster, respectively. (For reference, Niffenegger clicked off a 1:37.641 and Staal turned a 1:38.078 in their Honda Civic Si Coupes.) With the speed he had, Marie made it look easy to reel in and pass his Touring 3 competitors. He also was unaffected by the spins third-place finisher Steve Schmidt and overall race winner Ryan Cashin had with their C5 Chevrolet Corvettes.
Back in SSB, the highlight of the second half of the race was Staal’s pass of Brecht’s MINI for second place and his defense of the position to the checkered flag. Niffenegger observed the MINI couldn’t keep a consistent pace and fell off as the race progressed. When the race-leading Touring 1 (T1) class Corvettes came to lap the SSB field, Staal keenly realized he could have a great opportunity to get a big run on the MINI as Brecht would have to acknowledge the blue flag and let the leaders by him. Using one of the Corvettes like a fullback, Staal followed the lead block to catch and get around Brecht’s Cooper S.
Because of the design of the track, the high speed right turns wore the left side BFGoodrich g-Force R1 tires heavily. “There was one lap when things got hairy for me in Turn 9,” Staal shared after the race. “It felt like I ran over some of the marbles.” Staal successfully kept the MINI behind him for the rest of the race to secure the SSB 1-2 sweep for THR.
Next up for the Team Honda Research drivers is another fast track, the long straights and fast turns of Thunderhill Raceway on March 13-14, 2010. Staal considers it one of his favorite tracks and should have a strong showing there. Marie and Niffenegger are also positioned to do well and keep their winning streaks in tact.
For the complete gallery of photos from the race weekend, please visit here.
While I believe every person should be allowed to do what he or she wants to do to his or her automobile, I detest the things people do to bread-and-better family sedans. As point-A to point-B people-movers, they were not designed with sporting intentions in mind. What about cars such as the Toyota Camry SE you say? No! It’s still a Camry! It’s not wrong to own a Camcord or any other typical mid-size family sedan. I simply believe it’s wrong to modify one in such a disgusting way.
Current generation Toyota Camry
1998-2002 Honda Accord
2002 Toyota Camry on dubs (20-inch or more wheels for those who aren’t with the “lingo”)
Here’s a classic web site pointing out more ridiculous transgressions against the automobile.
What do you all out there think?
There are quite a few people out there–you know who you are–who don’t like having front license plates on their automobiles even though having one is required by law in the state of California. Here, I will state my case in support of front license plates.
On Saturday, July 5, 2008, I got stuck in traffic on the 57 North because of a fire caused by a vehicle fire on the highway that spread to the area alongside the highway. At the time, I was headed to Don (Xanga: udonoogen) and Hanley’s (Xanga: randomranting) place to meet up before we headed to that evening’s Angel game against the Toronto Blue Jays. I was South of the Tonner Canyon exit and stuck in an extreme amount of traffic.
The traffic came to a dead stop on an incline where I found myself behind a black 2004 Honda Civic Sedan like the one pictured above. As we crawled up the hill, I noticed the driver of the car would let his vehicle roll back a bit while he was waiting around. This happened more than once, which should’ve been my cue to move into another lane. Not giving it much thought, I stayed behind the Civic (stupidly) hoping traffic would lighten up because the congestion was making me late.
A minute or two later, the traffic trudges forward and comes to another stop, except this time, the said Civic starts rolling back with more steam than before (3-4 mph). Once I realized it was going to roll back into me at the rate it was traveling, I hit the car horn and kept my hand on it. The driver didn’t react until *after* his car hit mine!!! Unbelievable!
But wait, there’s more! After moving his car up a few feet, he let his car roll back into mine again, even though I was blaring the horn the entire second instance. I couldn’t believe it! Whether I should have or not, I kept my car behind his as traffic continued to slog along. A few minutes later, the traffic came to a stop again. I got of my car, took a three second look at the front end. Everything seemed okay. I walked up to the driver’s window of the Civic and told the man, “You need to be more careful.” He then proceeds to ask me, “Is there any damage to my car?” The nerve of the fella!!! I replied, “I don’t think so.” While I was admonishing the guy, I checked out his center console to confirm that his car had a 5-speed manual transmission because a car with an automatic tranny wouldn’t have rolled back like his did at idle engine speed. He also didn’t seem like he had all his ducks in a row. I seriously hope he wasn’t intoxicated in some way at the time.
When I got to Don and Hanley’s, I inspected the front bumper more carefully for damage. That’s when I noticed the damage to the front license plate mount. It had been pressed into the bumper as a result of the impact. It currently looks recessed a little bit into the bumper at a slight angle. My USC Trojans front license plate frame and the corner of the plate itself were also bent by the impact.
Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t try to go after the inconsiderate man. I figured the damage, or lack thereof, wasn’t enough to merit going through all the trouble of getting compensation from him. I wrote his license plate number down and took a cell phone photo of his car. While the incident itself sucked, I was relieved that more damage wasn’t done to my car’s front bumper. I’m convinced the front license plate and its mount protected my car’s front end. And that, folks, is why, I support front license plates!
Here are photos of the damage caused by one person’s atrocities.
You must excuse how dirty the car is. I subjected it to this three days prior to the time these photos were taken. More to come on the fun I had in the dirt later!
In Corona last week, a 1999 Honda Civic Si was stolen from one of the members of the NASIOC.com SCIC (North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club – Southern California Impreza Club…try saying that three times in a row quickly). The car was completely stripped and left bare in San Bernardino. You can see read a little more about it and see photos here. Shown below is one photo that caught some people’s eye.
The thieves conveniently left his wife’s Bible in good condition. At least they respected God’s Word! If only they would have been convicted by it…