Honda Cup Weekend #3

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Last weekend, the Honda Cup tour made its way to Buttonwillow raceway in the southern part of central California. There, just off the I5, is a gem of a racetrack with over 30 different configurations ranging from 2 to nearly 3.5 miles in length that can be run in either direction. The track offers long straights, fast sweepers, chicanes, esses, tight corners, elevation changes, and just about anything else possible in a road course.


This weekend, the SCCA had chosen to run one of the shorter configurations (#27) where driving skill would be emphasized. Most of the top contenders were present, including the top three Derek Stevens, our own Rylan Hazelton (Krazik) and Richard Laifatt (rlaifatt) who were set for a showdown. (The other S2000s were no-shows. Will Rauch’s car is still under repair, but Alex Chen was registered. Unfortunately, he was apparently unable to attend.)

Saturday’s race was quite sedate compared to Sunday’s, and the finish order mirrored qualifying with Derek 1st, Rylan second, and Richard third with some mechanical problems. (Shortly before the end of the race, his Accusump started to leak, spewing oil all over the passenger compartment.)


Sunday was another story with mishaps aplenty. All three leaders qualified within half a second of each other with Rylan edging out Derek for the poll. The race was close, with Rylan and Derek putting on a pretty good racing show, until Derek blew his motor with 4 laps to go giving Rylan the easy win. Richard had a bit of difficulty keeping his car pointed down the track spinning out twice during the race, but he still managed to finish third with Jeff Owen taking second place in his Integra.


Here was Richard’s take on Sunday’s race: (keep in mind, he had the repairs to make from Saturday’s mishaps)


Removed the broken pressure regulator from the accusump, plugged the hole, cleaned up the mess… all looks okay for Practice/Qualifying. Stiffened up the compression and rebound a lot all around just to see, and the car felt great! …but came in from qualifying with the exhaust just smoking!.. After a lot of testing, concluded that the engine was probably okay but the catch can and/or PCV valve weren’t working properly. Did a temporary fix, then off to race! After chasing Ry and Derek hard for 4-5 laps, car started to feel very loose. Had to countersteering in most tight corners. Then in about lap 8 I did a 360 then off and was just barely missed by a Camaro as he drops two wheels to avoid me!. Sat for 35 seconds before getting back on track. Then 7 minutes later I spin out mid-track exiting star mazda, cars were flying by me left and right. The 10 minutes later I go off at Sunset and almost did the classic “back on and into the wall” routine but caught it in time. Was I glad to see the checkered flag a couple laps later! Race was 32 minutes and 25 laps! Same yesterday, and no place or time to relax or even check your gauges on this config..always shifting, braking or turning… a real workout physically and mentally.


Rylan wrote an excellent account of his weekend as well:


Yet another great weekend of SCCA Honda-Cup racing. We ran config #27 CW which was very short and was very demanding because you’re always doing something, and almost no time to rest. 

I arrived at Buttonwillow at about 8:15pm Friday night and found my spot in the paddock and unhooked the trailer. I got back at 7:00am on Saturday to register. Having my Annual Tech makes registration go quickly.

I go out for my 15 minute practice at about 8:20. I’m on my old tires and just go out to make sure everything is sorted. Car feels fine and I come in and take off my wheels to get new tires mounted. When I get the tires back from the BW shop they’re not shaved to the requested 4/32nds and are probably closer to 6/32nds. Not what I wanted but I can make due. SCCA is having timing problems and they inform us that we’re responsible for our own qualifying times. I’ve got my hotlap so I use it. We go out to qualify at 10:25 and I go out early but find the car is sliding everywhere. I blame it on the tread on the tires. I also have trouble finding clear track on the short track. I manage a 1:15.51. Derek claims a 1:13.0 from his AIM (tho I should point out he never turned a 1:13 once the amb system started working (:LOL: teasing Derek :stick:). Richard claims a 1:15:57 for his best lap time but that was with start/finish in the wrong spot on his DL1. If you put S/F in the right spot he ran a mid 1:16. But he claims the 1:15.57 to the steward so that there aren’t cars between us (cheating bastard :LOL:) Also Derek, Kiwi and I agree to forgo the bonus points for Saturday’s race because we would have no way to know who turned the fastest lap during the race. This also means that Derek doesn’t get the extra 1pt for the Pole.

I forget to bring my tire gauge and they keep us in impound for at least 15 minutes after qual, so when I get back to my trailer my tires are all cool but I notice my right front is a few psi lower than the others. Nothing thinking much of it I adjust the others to match. We have lunch and get ready for the race which is at 1:50. The weather is pretty warm (mid 80s) and I know my black hardtop and black race suit are gonna make things interesting. I keep the car parked in the trailer so that it doesn’t bake in the sun. Waiting on grid before the race in a the hot car, covered in a fire-suit, gloves, balaclava and helmet isn’t much fun. I think I really need a cool suit. When we grid up for the race I spot an issue, which is that there were 2 v8 cars between Richard and I and Derek. Derek starts inside row 2 and Richard and I were on row 4.

We finally get to roll out for our 1.5 laps (usually behind a pace car but it was missing this event). Because we’re running the short course the green flag is shown at the flag station before the “sweeper” (see map above) and the checkered flag is shown at the corner station before sunset. So after our first lap under yellow before the start we line up 2 wide as we come over the lost hill. The green flag drops and we’re off. Richard gets a little bit of a run on me (maybe .5 car lengths) but because I have the inside line going into star mazda and I maintain my position. The #3 Camaro of Bill S is in front of me (same car that cause me grief at the season opener – he qualified better than me this time vs last time where he just got by on the start). And I have Richard on my tail. This track config isn’t the best for passing but I see that I can out brake him into lost hills and star mazda so I have to follow and wait for him to mess up so I can get a run on him. We’re pushing hard w/ Richard right behind me when after about 3-5 laps the Camaro goes two wheels off at the exit of Star Mazda and I fear he’s gonna shoot back across the track so I almost come to a stop to make sure I don’t get collected by him. He doesn’t come back across the track but because I slowed so much he’s able to continue ahead of me. I expect to see Richard come shooting by both of us but when I look in my mirrors I see him sideways sliding off the track. I guess he was caught off-guard by the 2 of us slowing so much. The Camaro and I take off with me right on his bumper. Derek is checking out and there isn’t much I can do about it. After another 4-5 laps I notice the Camaro misses the apex coming out of Riverside and is wide in the marbles so I pounce and get a run on him. I out brake him into Lost Hills and pass him on the inside. He puts up a fight into Star Mazda but defend and keep him behind me. After that I start to check out. I continue the next ~10 laps by myself passing lapped traffic. Derek is probably a half a lap a head of me and my car is developing a really bad understeer on all the right hand corners. Coming out of Riverside I have to fight the car to get it to hit the apex and not understeer off the outside. Always interesting at 100-110 mph. A couple laps before the end I’m coming into star mazda, not trying to go to fast because my competitors are far enuf behind me and Derek is too far ahead. I brake at my usual spot but the car doesn’t slow nearly enuf and I go off into the dirt at the exit. I don’t spin but lose a lot of time and the #3 Camaro gets back by me. I continue back onto the track and try again to get back past the #3. But the car is understeering so bad I just can’t do it. But I do get close a couple of times. A few more laps and we see the Checkered. I finish 2nd, Derek in 1st, Richard 3rd and Kiwi in DNF’d, there’s a black Civic (Brand August) hatch that finishes 4th. We all go to impound to hang out in the baking sun and after about 30 minutes we get our trophies. While I understand the need to keep us all around in case of on track contact or to check that some of the cars are legal, scca seems to like to leave us in impound for an eternity. Which sucks in the heat.

After the race & impound I head back to trailer to check out the car. When checking tire pressures I find the left front tire is at 19psi where the others are all in the 28-30 range. Damn no wonder I was understeering so bad. I fill the tire back up before leaving to see how much air is gone in the morning. I head back to the hotel. Also the car wasn’t handling the esses’ as well as it had in the past so I give Tony C. a call to get some input. He makes some suggestions to change on the suspension.

I get back to the track at 7:00am on Sunday because our Practice/Qual session is it at 8:15am and the night before the stewards had said they might be running 15 minutes early if the timing system isn’t fixed. Luckily they are able to fix the timing overnight and they’re on schedule. I make the suspension changes that tony suggests except for the N2 pressure in the shocks because I didn’t have enuf time. I check the left front tire and it seem only lost 1psi over night so I put 1 psi in since I only need to run a couple laps for qualifying. I grid early for qual so I can try to find some clean laps. I’m able to find a couple clean laps and run a 1:14. When I check the printout after qual, I see that I out qualified Derek by .002 seconds and take the Pole for Sunday’s race. Derek is in 2nd and Richard is 3rd. This time I bring my pressure gauge with me so I can check my pressures while the tires are still hot. I find the left front is 5psi lower than the other 3 so after impound I take it to the tire shop and get their soapy water to try to find the leak. Turns out its the valve in the stem is leaking so I replace it and fill the tire back up. I also check the N2 pressure in my shocks and find the rears are low, Derek has a N2 tank and I fill them up.

Today is hotter than yesterday and the race is at 11:25am. Derek and I should have been side-by-side on the 2nd row with me on the inside, but the guy who qualified 2nd overall in the group doesn’t show up to grid and I start on the outside of the front row which isn’t really what I want. I’d rather have had Derek on the outside of me to make it harder to get around me at the start. He’s got -at least- 30 more hp than me and weighs 300lbs less. He usually kills me on the start. We do our 1.5 pace laps and again go 2 wide before cresting lost hills. The green flag drops and we take off. I’m able to hold Derek off thru star mazda and I put the hammer down to try to get some space. I get a few seconds lead on Derek as he and Richard are battling behind me. After about 3-4 laps in Derek is clear of Richard and is starting to reel me in. After grabbing 6th gear instead of 4th going into lost hill then struggling to find the right gear costs me a bunch of time and Derek is now right behind me. I have to push really hard and I hold Derek off for another ~8 laps but my car starts understeering again on all the right hand corners. Derek is getting a good run on me from lost hills to star mazda but I’m able to block him/defend the inside for a couple laps. I try to go to fast over lost hills and get a big slide coming down the back side of the hill. This allows him to get a good run on me and me gets the inside line going into star mazda and I get passed. Dammit. I try to keep up but my car is sliding so much I just can’t maintain his pace and he builds a couple seconds gap on me. A couple laps later we’re going into star mazda and there is a huge cloud of dirt. It’s Richard going off and I’m wonder how we were able to lap him especially so early, later to find out he had gone off and stalled trying to keep up w/ Derek and me. Derek and I circulate the track navigating thru the lapped traffic when with about 4 laps to go Derek blows his motor in a huge cloud of white smoke coming out of star mazda. I pass him as he’s off track in the dirt for the lead and hold on to the lead for the next 4 laps to take the checkered for my 2nd win of the season. Kiwi finishes 2nd and Richard 3rd. The black Civic finishes 4th and because Derek did more than half the laps he finishes 5th in class. Derek also gets the fast lap of the race (1:14.0 vs my 1:14.2) so he gets the bonus point (I get the bonus point for pole).

When I come into impound I find my left front now has too much pressure in it and was 4 psi too high. Dammit. I probably should have kept Derek at bay and beat him on my own if not for that. As I said to Derek, it sucks to win when it was just handed to you, I’d much rather beat him on the track with us both finishing. But I need the points and will take them where I can get them.

In all it was another great weekend of great racing. Tho we all wanted to know what happened to Alex Chen? He was registered, but never showed up.

The current points standings by my math:

1st: Derek Stevens – 96 pts – Only has used 1 drop *
2nd: Rylan Hazelton – 75 pts – Has used both drops
3rd: Richard Laifatt – 62 pts – Has used both drops
4th: Brandon August – 45 pts – Has used both drops?
5th: Jeff Owen (kiwi) – 44 pts – Has used both drops +1 DNF
6th: Alex Chen – 28 pts – Has used both drops + 2 DNS’s

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