My (mostly stock) B20: The H2 Mill

I get more emails and instant messages asking about my B20 tune than just about other subject. Except maybe Viagra offers...

It's a pretty basic set-up. And I think that's what so many people like about it. It's just a full displacement, non-VTEC, CRV engine stuffed in a 2000lb Civic. No trickery. Nothing fragile, rare or unique. Just a pure, honest engine swap that anyone could do. Plug and play.

That graph above was done when the B20 was first put in the car at the beginning of the '06 season. Here's the recipe:
• AEM cold air intake
• DC 4-2-1 header thru 2.25" exhaust
• Dyno tuned with a Hondata S300 (by Doug from Hondata)
• 310cc injectors from TunerToys
• AEM adjustable fuel pressure reg

That's it. The engine is a stock, low compression JDM B20 with the regular head, LS type manifold, stock (58mm?) throttle body and stock cams. We did run adjustable cam gears and fiddled with the valve timing. But it responded poorly, and in the end made better power with the stock cam timing of 0/0.

I would run this swap on the street. I'd put it in my mother's car. And I ran all of last season in H1. The only mechanical issue I had was a broken alternator belt. I did get my ass handed to me by the 220hp K-motors in H1. But I had more track time and lower maintenance than anyone. Swaps like this are why the new H2 rules for Honda Challenge are going to be the "next, new thing".

What's left on the table:
On top of the oh-so-simple formula above, the new H2 rules allow a few other tweaks that have potential for even more power:
• 62mm throttle body
• Blox Type-R style intake manifold
• higher compression B20"z" pistons
• head to manifold match porting (1" on either side of the gasket allowed)
• bigger valve P8R cylinder head

The last item, the P8R head, is a current loophole in the rules that I don't expect will last. Some of the internet community have made that head out to be something very precious and rare. It's really not. P8R heads are coming in on a lot of the JDM import B20 engines and are selling for the same price as all the rest. The P8R intake valves are a couple of millimeters larger than the regular LS and B20b/z heads, so there's an obvious advantage. It's a safe bet that when the first guy with a P8R casting starts kicking everyone's ass, there will be a weight penalty assigned. And that would be fair. I'd hate to see it banned. I just don't want to see it become a "must have" item, either.

So there's be more to try when time allows. My B20 is a long way from being optimized. Still, it's a simple, affordable plug-in that gives better power per dollar than just about anything else in Honda Challenge. And elsewhere, too.


Top Fuel: thanks, but no thanks

I spent the day at the Winter Nationals yesterday on a job. That was enough drag racing and inhaled toxins to last me a while. I am not itching to go back (unless I'm getting paid to do so) but I did learn a few things:
• Current top fuel cars make about 8000hp and burn about 15 gallons of fuel per run.

• Crank case breathers feed into a 5 gallon catch can. It is half full after one pass.

• When two top fuel cars leave the line together, it measures 2.5 on the Richter scale.

• Teams wait until just before their qualifying session to assemble the engine: they tune for weather & track conditions with different thickness head gaskets that change compression. The head gaskets they use for tuning are sized in .001" increments!

• Top fuel cars do not use multi-geared transmissions. They are direct drive and use a multi-plate centrifugal clutch just like a go-kart. NHRA mandates a 8250rpm redline. So they leave the line at 8250rpm and by the time they reach the finish (about 4.5 seconds later) the clutch and aero-drag "slows" the engine down to about 7000rpm at 330mph.

• It takes 1000hp just to move the rear wing thru the air at 330mph

• Initial spark advance is set at 53 degrees before TDC. (The fuel burns a lot slower than gas and the combustion chambers are nearly the size of my attic...)

• There is a wheel speed sensor on the left front wheel. One of their tuning guides is reading the length of time it is off he ground due to the torque and flex of the chassis.

• One chassis is good for 100 runs until it is retired.

• Listening to Tony Schumacher give a motivational speech before a couple hundred new army recruits, I had a lump in my throat and was ready to enlist myself. The US Army is getting every penny's worth from drag racing.

But all the money and effort involved to get that 4.5 second rush has got to make drag racing the worst bang for the buck in all of motor sports. Impressed I was. Envious, I was not.

Running Hondas in NASA is much cheaper, far quieter, smells a whole lot better.


NASA 12 Hours of Thunderhill Returns

Schedule Change for Thawley – Marital Crisis Avoided

NASA announced yesterday that they are returning to the dual format of their big, year-end enduro at Thunderhill. After a two year hiatus, the - race within a race - 12 Hours of Thunderhill will once again receive its own checkered flag at 11pm on Saturday December 1st, 2007, a mere 12 hours into NASA’s flagship 25 hour endurance race. This news will not likely evoke more than an “oh” from most who hear it. But for those of us running the WERC series, it is a much bigger deal. For us, it’s a double points race.


If you're not up on your NASA enduro trivia, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is not a points race. Never has been. The 25’s special blend of sadomasochism, potential for mechanical disaster and hypothermic sleep deprivation has always been reward enough for competing. But it’s a lot to ask a regular WERC racer to do for want of championship points. The 25 is its own deal and that is as it should be.

The 12 is a different matter. Asking a typical WERC team to do a twelve hour points race at the end of the season is really not that big a deal. Sure, it’s three times longer than any other race we’ll do all year. But we still have the option of going to bed that night. Not much chance of being startled awake by a Radical or GT3 doing an outside pass when you’re asleep in your hotel room.

So NASA’s announcement of a seventh race (with season points for eight) looks to add challenge and drama to the season.

And if I were to simply add it to my ’07 racing schedule it would add challenge and drama to my marriage as well. Can’t have that. So, it is with mixed feelings of reservation and glee that I announce the following change to the RoadRaceGeek 2007 schedule:

I ain’t gonna make it to the first WERC race at Infineon. Not gonna happen.

At the end of last season, I promised my long suffering, ever-patient wife, Sharon, that I would not do a full season of Honda Challenge in ‘07. Instead, I would only concern myself with the six races in the WERC series.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not my fault. NASA added the seventh points race, not me. I didn’t know and obviously could not have foreseen this change of events. I should be able to add the seventh race without marital penalty, right? You must be single. That or your wife likes racing and poverty more than mine does.

Dropping the first race is not without its advantages, though. (This is the glee part.) A lot of work is currently being done to the car. Any racer reading between the lines knows exactly what that means. It’s all torn apart. And although it is closer to being ready than it was last year, it still needs some attention. An extra month of preparation before California Speedway is fine with me. Plus, who wants to tow to NorCal four times in a season? Three races at either end of the state is plenty.

I don't have any photos to go with this story. So here's Benoit eating an ice cream.


Big-Boy Stuff: MAZDASPEED & B-K Motorsports Announce '07 ALMS Plans

MAZDASPEED & B-K Motorsports Announce 2007 American LeMans Series Plans
-- All New powertrain and chassis planned for 2007 --

IRVINE, Calif., January 11, 2007 – With an eye on ever increasing competition in the American LeMans Series LMP2 class, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development and B-K Motorsports have announced they will partner with Advanced Engine Research Ltd (AER) and Lola Cars to develop an all-new Mazda-derived engine and purpose-built chassis for the 2007 season. The goal is to improve on their third place points finish in last year’s American LeMans Series (ALMS) P2 Championship and stomp Penske’s butt up and down the paddock. [I added that last bit -- Thawley]

All New MZR-R Engine
MAZDASPEED engineers in the U.S. and Japan, in conjunction with U.K. based Advanced Engine Research Ltd (AER), will debut an all-new MZR-R prototype engine at the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring. The new engine, a clean sheet design, is a turbocharged 2.0 liter in-line four cylinder. The performance goals for the engine are 500hp and 400 lb-ft, with the durability to succeed in such grueling races as the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 10-hour Petit Le Mans. The engineering team is working to incorporate the production-based Mazda Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI) system into the race motor. The technical collaboration between Mazda and AER has been non-stop in preparation for the season-opener at Sebring.
MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Manager Steve Sanders stated, “Given the rules package, we needed to make a radical change to be able to match the competition. The current conditions and rules simply do not allow our rotary engine to have any competitive advantage, hence the move to piston power this season.”
Sanders continued, “The Mazda and AER engineers are working closely with Honeywell Turbo Technologies on the development of a new Garrett motorsports turbocharger design for this engine program. The overall LMP2 program is driven by Mazda engineering, as we use motorsports to help develop future advanced technologies with the potential to transfer over to our production vehicles.”
Mazda remains firmly committed to the rotary engine, in the street-going RX-8 four-door sportscar and racing classes like Grand Am GT and the one-make professional Star Mazda formula car series.
While the new engine will be exclusive to B-K Motorsports in 2007, the long-term goal is to add teams in both the American Le Mans Series as well as the Le Mans Endurance Series in Europe in 2008.

All New Chassis from Lola
B-K Motorsports will replace their existing Courage C65 with an-all new Lola B07/40. The team will complete the car in February just prior to Sebring. “The partnership between Mazda, Lola, AER, Honeywell/Garrett, Kumho Tires, and many other suppliers on this project has been excellent,” said Marcus Haselgrove, B-K Motorsports Team Manager. “Jointly developing race and road car technology with the MZR-R is what sportscar racing is about. We hope to be competitive from round one, but the P2 competition will be the toughest in ALMS history.”

How cool is that? -- Thawley


Off Season: Honda Challenge Natl. Champ Runner-Up Michael Lee Switches from Wheaties to Special-K

From Michael Lee G...
My family and I are in Sacramento this week. And because we are helping Sharon’s cousin clean out the garage at her old house, I brought the trailer. Never know when you might have to make a run to the dump or find something you want to bring home. (Her late husband was an import car mechanic, so that’s pretty likely.)

Last week, I was talking with my NorCal enduro co-driver, Andrie Hartanto. (You remember Andrie… ’06 National Champion in Honda Challenge H1 and World Challenge engine swapping king?) When I mentioned I was coming up here with the trailer Andrie asked if I could take Michael Lee’s car up to Red Zone in Freemont.

“Why?” I asked in my most earnest, journalistic tone. “Because he’s going to have me and the guys at Red Zone put a K-series in it.” Damn. Good thing I’m not running H1 anymore.

Let’s put this into Thawley perspective. Last year I was runner up in SoCal points for H1. Almost won, too. But I am an idiot and gave up too many points making stupid mistakes. (Don’t worry; I’ll get to detailing all that eventually.) Anyway, I had a decent shot at winning on any given weekend last year unless any one or more of the following things occurred:
• Andrie showed up in tourist mode to kick some “out-of-region” butt.
• Bernardo Martinez actually showed up and then beat his demons to finish a race.
• Michael Lee crossed the finish line without mechanical issue.

None of the above happened very often. And that is why I had such a good season. All three of those guys are wicked fast. But none of them were much of a threat in the points because they seldom entered or finished a race.

Now let’s look it the National perspective. Hartanto put the hurt on the entire Honda Challenge field at Mid-Ohio. Chad Slagg smoked him at every start. But shortly after that, it was all Andrie all the time. They were the men to beat at Mid-Ohio last September. And they were both running the newer Honda K-series engines. Bernardo runs a K also and is usually as fast or faster than Andrie on the West Coast, but Bernardo had to miss Nationals this year (he had trouble finding umbrella girls at the last minute, or something). All of this seemed to confirm the general feeling in H1 that the K-series engine is the bullet to have, and that the B-series was on the way out.

Enter Michael Lee. Michael used to run a Spec Miata during a dark period of questionable sexual orientation. When his Spec blowed-up and he was looking at the big picture, he decided that Honda Challenge was the place to be. (HC cars are cooler, significantly faster, the drivers are funnier and are generally much more heterosexual.) So he bought Ryan Flaherty’s B-powered H1 Integra. The car was a proven, well-sorted mount with a good race history. Michael’s problem last year was that every part that was about to fail eventually did and it waited until the day he bought it to do so. He spent the season becoming “one” with the car and fixing shit.

Undeterred by a disastrous finishing record, Michael still loaded the car up and sent it to the NASA Nationals in September. Michael is a racer. And the best of the best were headed for Ohio. As it turned out, the mild-mannered taxman from Bakersfield California ran in the top five most of the week. When the last checkered flag dropped, he had passed all the rest of the regions had to offer to finish second behind Andrie.

In the off-season Internet rules arguments that followed, Lee was used as THE example of why the B-series was still a viable, well-classed engine choice for H1. Lee was a hero to many a B-series loyalist. But all that ended the day Bernardo Martinez let Michael take his K24 powered HASport Integra for a spin at Buttonwillow. Lee’s mind was made up. He was going K.

Looking forward to this year’s Nationals then, it is a safe be that all the front-runners will be running K’s. Unless we find an engine-builder and driver combo that really wants to make a splash, the top 4-5 cars will likely be K-series.

The good news is the B-series engines all have a much better home, now, in H2. Stay tuned…