There is no doubt that the shear excitement of driving a purpose-built race car on the edge is enough for any driver to justify the money and work that gets put into building it. Although, surprisingly there are very few people that understand the actual amount of work that goes into building a race car; Amir Bentatou is not one of those people.
If you happen to follow our Facebook or Instagram page, you may have noticed a few images promoting an upcoming event we’re headlining with the organizers of VTEC Club. NDF Attack Challenge is our take on emulating a Japanese style of time attack that is not often found in the States. Naturally, with the countries being almost polar opposites of one another (in both size, demographic, and culture), there are some very notable differences between the execution of the two; the most striking difference being that of classing.
This past weekend, Willow Springs International Raceway once again played host to the annual, all-Honda, VTEC Club event; Autumn Speed Festival. Since the inaugural event last year, it’s one of the only events I look forward to attending here in the US (actually in the past two years it’s the only event I’ve attended). While VTEC Club usually runs alongside another facilitating vendor to host their normal events, Autumn Speed Festival’s attendance, and management are proof that, time forbidding, the organization can survive on it’s own. With over 80 registered drivers, the pits were packed with Honda driver’s both veteran and new, ready to take on the ‘fastest road in the West’; Big Willow.
Even in sunny Southern California, the mid-day heat is giving way to brisk mornings and chilly evenings; a sign that Summer has finally, albeit very late, left us. The ushering in of the holidays reminds us we’re already well into the Fall season, and with that comes a time that everyone involved with this website is very excited for; Attack season. Japan kicked off with a rather casual shakedown/practice meeting at Tsukuba this past week, while here in the States, VTEC Club held their first all Honda Autumn Speed Festival. Two strikingly similar events where many personal bests were broken.
At the last VTEC Club event I attended (which admittedly due to time constraints was quite awhile ago), Kristian and I met Juan Rodriguez, the owner of this EM1. It was the first time we’d seen the car at any event really, and as soon as I saw it towards the back of the paddock at Buttonwillow it immediately caught my eye; for a few reasons.
The S2000’s that are backed by Ballade Sports are, no doubt, among some of the best looking in the paddock. The Southern California tuning shop has consistently chosen quality parts to adorn their shop and customer cars with. Carving a niche out for themselves by shadowing a very Japanese style of automotive tuning, they’ve proven time and time again that often times less is more. It should come at no surprise then, that they’re also among the best performing; their flagship S2000 is a perfect example of this.
The last weekend in February marked the start of the new season of VTEC Club at Willow Springs International Raceway. WSIR was once again packed with some of Southern California’s most dedicated Honda enthusiasts for a full day of track fun. The local popularity of this series was more than proven last year, and if the first round was any indication, 2016 looks to be on the same track.
Before I get to processing and writing about the coverage of this past weekends VTEC Club season opener, I thought I’d try out a new idea for these events. Covering VTEC Club when I could last year was a lot of fun for me. The committee that puts these events together happen to be not only great people, but good friends of mine as well. Come to think of it, photographing these events combines almost everything I enjoy in life into one location; perhaps that’s why it feels nothing like work. Maybe that’s the feeling people get when they do what they love for a career. Anyway, I’m getting way off topic here.
With all the running around and traveling I’ve done for the busy holiday I almost forgot I had a couple more shots from the final round of VTEC Club to post up. After chatting around the paddock area, and bouncing from the beginning of the straight to the end, Duane approached me and asked if I wanted to head over to Cotton Corners. I gladly accepted because I don’t get to go to the infield at these events too often. It’s nice to get a different perspective when photographing track events. As a result though, most of the on-track shots in this post will be from there and may be a little repetitive.
It never ceases to amaze me; the successes of hard working people. The last VTEC Club USA event took place last week, and it’s given me a chance to reflect on the entire season, and everyone that’s been involved in the project all the way from the conception phase. The individuals who saw the need to fill a missing niche in our world of motor sport, and took the steps to achieve just that. Even those who had the foresight to see what type of community could be created from a series like this are probably surprised at the outcome. Starting a new series from the ground up, albeit hosted by a well-known name (Extreme Speed), takes a lot of work and to have it explode in popularity overnight is a testament to how well it’s been organized. Duane Bada, ‘Tom Attack’, Kristian Wong, Matt Rojana, Yuta, Amir, the sponsors, the media partners, and everyone else that has been involved in making the series what it is deserve a huge thank you from anyone who has participated this season. I’m definitely looking forward to next year, but first, for the last event of this year, we head over to Buttonwillow Raceway Park one last time for Round 5 of Season 2.
A week or two ago, my friend Jay and I had been playing with the idea of attending the event at Auto Club Speedway, but my tentative schedule had me slated to be out of town that weekend. I knew there was a VTEC Club event being held on the same day, and was a little disappointed as my work schedule has been keeping me from most of the second season. Well, as luck would have it, my schedule opened up and a day or two before the event I messaged Duane to see if there were any openings. Upon hearing the news, Jay was on board to drive as well, so early Saturday morning we left the shop bound for Fontana.
With the year’s new Summer taking no time to bare it’s teeth, 107 degree temperatures plagued the desert at Round 5 of the 2015 VTEC Club series. Willow Springs International Raceway played host to the season’s final round, where competitors gathered to claim the last points available in each run group. While the heat may have hindered some, there were a few drivers that were able to grab personal bests despite the weather, and lap times that secured victories for each class.
There’s something to say about the people around us who promote self-efficacy.
The capacity to unknowingly emanate a trait such as this is rare, and when you come across it you can’t help but be positively influenced. Even a simple exchange of dialogue can have a major effect on the goals and beliefs you’re currently pursuing. This is exactly the type of feeling I had when I had the opportunity to meet Philip Robles this past weekend.
As I sit here writing this on my way to Kansas City, 39,000 feet in the above ground in a tube made of various metals and composites, traveling a good 550mph, I struggle past my exhaustion in an attempt to coherently transcribe my thoughts from this past weekend. It’s interesting how my perspective on our local track events has changed over the past couple of years. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become a little more open minded (perhaps even a collective change in outlook amongst my peers), or have had the good fortune of befriending many of those involved, but I no longer view them the way I did (unnecessarily arrogant so to speak).
Justin has been a good friend of mine for a few years now. Towards the end of last year, he approached me with some new plans for his S2000 build. We discussed the goals he was wanting to achieve in both the build and participation. Wanting to get more serious in competing in events like the Redline Time Attack series, Justin expressed interest in the venture of garnering sponsors. Much like our other team driver Kristian Wong, we agreed to partner with Justin and provide on-site media coverage of his progress. Much of our updates come in the form of Instagram posts (@naritadogfight), which has easily surpassed Facebook in terms of social interaction. If you don’t currently follow us, feel free to do so! In the coming weeks, you’ll see a few updates regarding our team drivers and you’ll learn that they all share one common trait; they’re fast.
On the Sunday of February 22nd, VTEC Club held the second event of their 5 round season at Big Willow at Willow Springs International Raceway. The excitement and success of the first round no doubt carried through to the club’s follow up event with, once again, over 50 entrants participating. To say the day was perfect though, would be a stretch. The week leading up to the event, the temps in Southern California had steadily been dropping, and rain was on the forecast for race weekend. Ryan was once again on hand to grab some shots of the event.
“If you build it, they will come.”
While I wouldn’t necessarily call Streets of Willow a “Field of Dreams”, I will admit that Kevin Costner’s iconic line applies well in this situation. The organizers of VTEC Club, a Honda specific spin off of Extreme Speed events, have successfully created not just a niche event, but are well on their way to (possibly accidentally) creating an entirely new community of race fans.