Project Leroy: Lighter Wheels, Stickier Tires

Six months. That’s how long it had been since I had driven Leroy, my EK track project. In fact I hadn’t even seen the car without a cover on it since Super Lap Battle, so you guys haven’t really missed much. With my schedule taken up almost entirely by professional photography gigs and Speedhunting, there’s very little time left these days for project cars and it takes a lot to get me excited enough to pull it out of the garage. Fortunately, RAYS provided just the motivation I needed to get off my ass and back into my Recaro.

That’s right, Dino’s not the only one with a shiny new set of rollers. About two weeks ago I too received some boxes, complete with a bright orange warning as to just how powerful they may be. A soul is put to a Japanese product. Gnarly.

So… what did I get you might ask?

Since I’m a stickler for staying with a 15-inch wheel on my car, there aren’t a lot of options these days that fit Leroy. Fortunately, one of Volk Racing’s latest offerings comes in a 4×100 pattern and 15-inch diameter, so I ordered up a set of TE37Vs in 15×8 +25 for the front and 15×7.5 +25 in the rear. I wanted to run a square set-up initally, but RAYS didn’t have enough stock to complete that order in the time frame I was looking at, and in retrospect I’m glad I went reverse-stagger. You’ll see why in a bit.

Some people have already asked me why I chose the TE37V over a TE37SL and there are a few reasons. For starters, the 15-inch SLs were all special-ordered and purchased by shops, therefore it’s not a wheel I could order from RAYS unless I wanted to buy 20 or so sets. Secondly, despite what common sense might tell you, I learned that in 15×8 size the TE37V is actually .2 lbs lighter than the Super Lap. And finally, I think that the Vs are some of the dopest looking wheels around in this sizing.

See what I mean? That lip is just sick.

Of course I also needed to put some new rubber on the wheels, and fortunately Maxxis tires had just gotten in touch with me about testing out their newest R-compound tire the RC-1. This set was an early production model and they should be on sale by the middle of this month. I didn’t need a second invitation and immediately sent my specs and had the tires shipped to Evasive Motorsports where I would mount the tires.

And when I say “I”, I really mean it. Although I don’t turn wrenches nearly as much as I used to, in what seems like another lifetime I used to actually do this stuff for a living.

That said, it had been a while since I had used a tire machine. But it’s sort of like riding a bike, eventually it all comes back to you.

Not to mention stuffing a tire onto a small rim like a 15 is about as easy as tire installs get. With the hard part out of the way, it’s all downhill from here.

Sort of. Seating the bead is usually a pretty straightforward job on a small wheel, but sometimes race tires can be a little finicky. Granted, it’s still nowhere near as difficult as shoehorning a rubber-band-thin-stretched-tire onto a 19-inch rim.

Eventually those suckers decided to pop on, they were just a little more stubborn than the recommended seating pressure indicated. I guess that’s a look of concentration there. Either that or confusion.

Next it was time to head over to the balancer to ‘true’ these puppies up. This is probably my least favorite portion of the whole ordeal, but one that is necessary.

Fortunately with modern equipment, this is pretty much a no-brainer. You throw the wheel on, enter some specs and shut the hood and the machine spits out where and how much weight is needed.

Then you take that amount of weight and stick it on the wheel. Rocket science.

If you did it properly, this is what the machine reads next. Success.

On a track wheel I usually add additional tape to just ensure that the weights stay in place. I’ve had a lot of these things fly off over the years and taking a minute or so more to add a little extra security is worth it in my eyes.

With all the tires mounted and balanced there was just one last order of business to prepare Leroy for a trip to Willow Springs – the car was long overdue for a wash. Leroy had picked up a lot of decals from friends and sponsors for Super Lap and I decided that it was time for a makeover back to clean and simple.

Luckily removing the stickers wasn’t too bad because I always use a trick my friend Charles Trieu showed me and stuck each decal to my T-shirt before applying them. This adds a thin layer of cotton lint which reduces the adhesion of the sticker so they come off nice and smooth, and with any luck, leaving the paint intact.

With the stickers all gone I gave Leroy a good once over and then thanked the guys at Evasive for letting me use their equipment and headed home to get some rest.

The next morning came quicker than I could have imagined, as is usually the case for track days. Actually, a lot of the time I have so much work to do on the car that I don’t sleep at all, so this wasn’t so bad. As I pulled away from my apartment I was hardly awake and I can’t believe I mustered up the energy to take this photo.

If you’ve ever wondered what Hollywood Boulevard looks like at 5am, wonder no more. It’s a sleepy McGhost-town.

The 101 freeway however, is another thing. While I definitely wouldn’t call this traffic, there are already plenty of folks out on the road at this time. But before too long I’d be out of the fog of the city and into the desert.

Although I’ve confessed at some length in stories past about how I’m not a morning person, this is one of my favorite parts about track days. I really hate waking up and having my stomach turning inside out and driving half-asleep, but right around this time the coffee starts to kick in and I really enjoy watching the sun come up over the mountains.

Right, so when I arrived at the track it was time to fit the wheels. I was beyond stoked at how they looked and fit, but I was a little concerned about the clearance in the rear as they looked a little close for comfort. Had they been eight inches wide they surely wouldn’t have fit, but up front the wider wheels had plenty of space to breathe.

After one very low-speed session of pace laps for filming (Leroy might be in a Maxxis commercial, so look out for that!) I heard a familiar sound coming from the driver’s side rear tire… one of gentle slapping. Sure enough, the tire had been cut a little and I knew that at pace things would get ugly quick. Despite having my fenders rolled flat, there was a small bit at the leading edge which seemed to be the culprit, but it was nothing a little hammer action couldn’t handle. I decided to do the passenger’s side as well, just for good measure.

I went back out for my first session at speed and after the second lap I came out of the legendary bowl turn on Streets of Willow to a very familiar scent. Under most circumstances this funky odor isn’t a bad thing, but today I wasn’t at a Formula D event and that tire smoke could only be coming from one place – my fender. Inevitably I pulled in and went to the last resort: adding camber.

For the final session everything seemed to be working great for a change: no smoke, no sounds, no smells… Once the tires came up to temperature and I was ready to get it on I encountered another pesky gremlin – the check engine light. At first the car didn’t seem to be doing anything strange so I decided to stay in it since I had borrowed a lap timer.

After recording a best time on my third hot-lap of 1:27.99 the car began to sputter and fall out of VTEC so I limped Leroy back in and shut him off. I figured I’d let the car sit for a bit and try it again in the next session, but the problem persisted. Eventually I checked the codes and it turned out to be an Electronic Load Detector and an oxygen sensor code which I discovered was due to some wires backing out of the O2. It was an easy fix, but by that time the day was over.

Nevertheless I was extremely happy with my lap times as they’re quite competitive for a car build of my level. I think that with some more seat time, cooler track temps and some suspension tuning I could easily drop another second or better off that. The last time I drove here was almost a year ago on some UHP summer tires and my best lap was a 1:35-something.

Needless to say, it’s pretty astonishing what a massive difference tires can make. I was really impressed with the RC-1s and I think that the idea of introducing a slick-tire into a 100-UTQG market occupied solely by semi-slicks is ingenious. I don’t think I’ve had nearly enough time on these tires to give an all-out review just yet, but what I’ve learned from my brief experimentation is very promising. I knew that going to an R-comp would give me significantly more grip, but what I didn’t expect was that it would alter the handling characteristics so much – the rear end was literally sliding around corners!

With the track having gone cold and looking pretty stunning in the late afternoon, I asked if I could pull Leroy onto the skid pad for an impromptu photo session. It’s opportunities like these that a Speedhunter simply can’t overlook!

To be honest I was really impressed with this little green car, and I think it looks amazing on these wheels! I couldn’t stop looking at the car and smiling, a sensation I haven’t had in quite some time. I made a mental note to myself on that day to drive the car far more often than twice a year. It deserves better than that. There isn’t a time when I get into this car and I’m not completely blown away – it’s truly greater than the sum of its parts.

But I think that the real hero of the day was the new rolling assembly.  Just look at those babies basking in the glorious light of the evening!

With the photoshoot out of my system I put my street wheels back on and loaded up the track day essentials. It was time for the final bit of the journey, the ride home…

But not before stopping to fill up with gas. I know I’ve preached this before, but I can’t get over the fact that I can drive my car 85 miles to the track, put around on the circuit all day and I only spend $27 on fuel. I love this car.

With the sun setting quickly and sleepiness setting in it’s always a rush to make it home without falling asleep at the wheel. Luckily I somehow escaped certain death and lived to tell the tale another day and I can’t wait to do it all again soon. Things are starting to shape up with this car and I think that competitive lap times are right around the corner. Stay tuned.

Sean Klingelhoefer
Email – sean(at)speedhunters(dot)com
Instagram – seanklingelhoefer

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what tire size are you running?


It's amazing how modded Civics can keep up with stronger rivals.
People often says "it's only a civic" or "it's only fwd", but when it beats true sport cars or even supercars (for example in time attack events), it deserves much of respect.


its an amazing car i like it !


Part of having a nice car is having nice car parts. You really want to make sure that the parts you have for your car are of the highest quality. You especially want to make sure that you have quality tires. By having really nice tires you can help make sure that you are taking good care of your car.