For as long as I can remember visiting Mondello Park, it’s always been the Hondas you need to watch out for.
Whether that was from a spectator’s point of view or even from my first days on track there, it was always the unsuspecting Honda that would surprise you, even when there were other more powerful cars about. I distinctly recall a few BMW M3 owners being completely bamboozled about how they were getting roasted by cars with nearly half the capacity and power of their cars.
The technical nature of Mondello Park has always suited front-wheel drive Hondas, and while it used to be the B-series cars that took you by surprise, the influx of K-swaps has only made them more potent. While I had a lot of content from a recent Honda track day, I thought that a look at some of the grassroots race cars from a recent round of ICCR (Irish Championship Circuit Racing) might make for a more interesting post during this month’s K-Powered theme on Speedhunters.
There are a few competitors running K20s where you would naturally expect to find them; Willie Barrett’s Honda Civic Type R (FN2) and Alan Donnelly’s Honda Integra Type R (DC5) being two at the fore of my mind. There are other Hondas running B-series engines, but the cars I was most interested in are the ones that have received K-series swaps.
The majority of these cars run in the Irish Touring Car Championship, a class which is dominated by Hondas, except for one. Don’t worry, you’ll figure out which one that is.
For the sake of comparison, I’m going to present each of the four following cars based on their qualifying times at the last round of ICCR earlier this month on Mondello Park’s 1.85km-long National circuit.
#83 Honda Integra Type R – Stephen Traub – 1:00.840
Stephen Traub’s Integra Type R is a race car that’s very easy on the eye, and has proven its worth as a competitive car in the ITCC for a few years.
At its heart is a naturally aspirated K24, which you would expect to produce in excess of 300 horsepower. The Integra sits on BC Racing coilovers, with PFC brakes and Enkei RPF1s among some of its more obvious highlights.
While Stephen qualified third in class, he set the fastest ITCC time of the day in race one with a 59.443 lap which helped him to second place in the race, and second overall in the 2021 championship.
Considering Stephen was absent for the first two races of the season, it was a strong finish to his season.
#27 Honda Civic Type R – Alan Healy – 1:00.428
Despite a season and weekend plagued with electrical issues, Alan Healy managed the second fastest time in ITCC qualifying.
Another K24 conversion features in this genuine EK9 Civic Type R, with a fully-built 2.4L bottom end featuring high compression pistons, steel rods, ACL race bearings, balanced crankshaft, EP3 oil pump, and a Moroso steel sump. The K20A cylinder head built by MMR Race Engines in Wales is ported and polished and features Drag Cartel cams, Ferrera valves and bronze guides with Skunk2 valve springs and retainers, a Skunk2 Ultra Series intake with 74mm throttle body and RDX injectors.
Power is estimated at 315hp, with that being transferred to the ground via a DC5 gearbox equipped with a Cusco plated LSD, a 5.4 MFactory final drive, Fidanza flywheel and an Exedy race clutch.
Although Alan didn’t have the greatest weekend (owing to a gear cable issue in race one leaving him stuck with just fourth gear) he still managed to take third overall in the championship, just behind Stephen Traub’s DC2 above.
#46 Honda Integra Type R – Ulick Burke – 00:59.619
Consistently at the sharp end of things all season, Ulick Burke and his DC2 Integra not only topped qualifying, but won both feature races to earn himself the overall ITCC championship for 2021.
Unlike his K24-swapped rivals, Ulick has opted for boost instead of the extra displacement offered with the ‘Frankenstein’ K24/K20 conversion. A Rotrex C30-94 supercharger forces air into the K20, which is managed with a Link G4+ Fury ECU.
Extensive lightening of the car has provided a significant performance increase with composite doors, bonnet and boot being used in addition to polycarbonate windows and carbon bumpers.
With the Integra suspended on custom Xtrax suspension with Honed Developments arms, and being stopped with AP Racing Pro 5000 6-pot front brakes with 365mm floating discs and Evo VIII rear 2-pot callipers and discs, Ulick dominated the weekend and the season overall. In the wet second race, he put over 50 seconds between him and the second place finisher while lapping most of his rivals and keeping pace with the much lighter, tube chassis Irish Supercars class which ITCC shares a grid with.
#51 Jade Track Sport Turbo – Eamon Matheson – 00:53.529
If you’re wondering what a Jade Track Sport Turbo is, then I really wouldn’t be surprised. You won’t find much about it online either, as it’s a one-of-one sort of deal, built in Eamon Matheson’s shed. It’s also one of the most powerful power-to-weight cars on this island.
The car competes in the Formula BOSS (Big Open Single Seaters) category, which features everything from open sports cars to single seaters with relatively little restrictions. It’s the headline class of ICCR, which saw 2021 series champion Sylvie Mullins beat the previous lap record of 50.220 set with a Tyrell-Judd F1 car, with his own Judd-powered Gould single seater putting down a 49.057.
These cars are fast.
At some stage in the past this car was a T5 Mission, before the rear was replaced with a completely new design in order to house the turbocharged K20 and its ancillaries. Eamon and his team are understandably secretive in a competitive environment, but were happy to walk me through the car and share one or two highlights.
In a relatively mild state of tune, the 85mm turbocharger provides enough boost to make 600hp for the 600kg (1,322lb) car. A malfunction during a past race saw the car boost to approximately 3.0bar (43psi) which the feisty 68-year-old Eamon calmly described as “very fast”. The engine held together with no issue, but has since been returned to its more traditional boost levels.
It’s one thing to talk about these engines in a street car context, but it’s another story entirely when you see the level of performance they offer for clubman racers running on relatively small budgets.
Will we one day see a dedicated K-series class in ICCR? Here’s hoping…The Cutting Room Floor