Wunderladen Racing Takes on Gridlife at NCM!
Last weekend we took our development 10th generation FK7 Honda Civic to National Corvette Motorsport Park (NCM) to compete in Gridlife’s Track Battle time attack series. This was our first track event with the Civic since purchasing it at the beginning of the year and it’s the first time we’ve run a car in Gridlife’s Club TR class. For those not familiar with this class or time attack we’ll get you up to speed before recounting the weekend!
Time attack is a competitive driving event where drivers have the entirety of the event to set a best lap time. To extract every millisecond out of a car to achieve the lowest possible lap time is no small challenge. There are countless variables that can be changed on the car, and there are also many external factors that can make or break a lap for a driver, such as temperature differences between morning and afternoon sessions, tire condition, and much more. So, while it may sound easy to set a best lap time over the course of a few days, the window for ultimate opportunity is often quite small. If you mess up one corner you must wait until your next lap to give it another shot and usually there’s only time for a handful of laps before the tires need to cool off and the session is over, so much skill is required to do well, let alone win!
Club TR is one of Gridlife’s time attack classes and its primary focus is towards relatively simple car setups. The cliff notes of the rules are this: naturally aspirated engines 2.5L and under or boosted engines 1.6L and under, basic bolt on mods allowed, if boosted it must use an unmodified stock turbo/supercharger, moderate suspension upgrades are allowed, aftermarket aero parts are allowed but are much more restricted than other classes, max tire width of 255 and the only tire model allowed is the Falken RT660. The full ruleset can be viewed on Gridlife’s website if this seems like something you’d be interested in.
We think the Club TR ruleset plays well for the 10th gen Civics with the L15B7 and that’s why we are campaigning our development car in the class. Our car is not built to the extent of the rules and it never will be, but we wholeheartedly believe this platform can be made to be competitive if one were built to the allowances of the rules. Our goal with developing this car is to prove that this platform can be capably and reliably run hard around the track while still being daily driven during the week.
And with that said, onto our weekend! We got to the track on Thursday night as the event was only Friday and Saturday. Got the car teched and stickered up Friday morning before the first session out. NCM is a track that’s just over 3 miles long and has 23 turns, it is not an easy track to learn quickly and even after you’ve learned it, it’s not easy to string together a perfect lap. This was the first time I’ve driven NCM so the first session out was more about learning than anything else. After the first session, we were sitting pretty low in the class with a 2:33.x but with lots of time still to find! This is the track map for NCM, we were running with the 1A and 1B chicane being used:
The second session out went much better now that I had my bearings underneath me and was able to chop off 5 seconds to get down to a 2:28.x. Unfortunately, the second session got cut short as the car decided to go into limp mode, cutting all power, in the middle of a flying lap. Luckily it happened only a couple turns before the pit entrance, so we were able to coast off track without being a hazard to other drivers. After looking the car over and finding nothing amiss nor any stored codes on the ECU, we restarted it and it was no longer in limp mode and running normal. We wrote it off as a fluke and got the car ready for the third and final session for the day.
The third session was going well for a couple laps until I was greeted with limp mode again. This time it happened in another section of the track right before a fairly high speed area so I was careful to stay off the racing line until I could get to a pull off area. After restarting the car and making sure there was nothing different than the last limp mode I got back around the track and got it into the pits. The good news is I was able to find another 2 seconds and get down to a 2:26.2, which was good enough to get us into the middle of the class for placement. There were 25 entries in the class this weekend, making it one of the largest! Our goal for the weekend was a top 10 finish and if we could stay in this area we’d be able to meet that goal. The third session was our last time on track for the day so we spent the rest of the night relaxing with friends and eating.
Normally the first morning session is the most desirable session for setting a best lap time in time attack as the track surface isn’t too hot allowing tires to grip better, also the cooler air normally means engines are making a tad extra power. Well on Saturday, this was not the case; it had rained all Friday night and we were greeted with a wet track on Saturday morning. We decided to run the car regardless because wet sessions are fun and are a great learning opportunity! I was still able to do a 2:27.x in the wet which meant that I was for sure leaving tons of time on the table in the dry!
The second session was in the middle of the day and the track had dried out considerably by then. In the third session on Friday I had noticed the car’s stability control was really limiting me on many of the corners (only had traction control off) so for this session I decided to turn VSA off to keep that from happening. To turn off TC and VSA in the 10th gen there is a 9 step process, often called the “pedal dance”, which is pressing different buttons and the brake pedal in a certain order, it’s not straight forward at all and I had to google out how to do it. I did that while waiting in grid to go out, and right as I was pulling on the front straight to begin my first flying lap the car went into limp mode again! There was a safe pull off area in turn 1 where I restarted the car but not being able to recall the exact process to turn VSA off I decided to forgo it and just try to get some laps in. I managed to get another 3 laps in without issue but over the span of those laps the VSA was kicking in more and more often. I was only able to get down to a 2:26.3, darn VSA!
After 3 laps I decided to cool the car down and bring it in because the VSA was getting overly intrusive. After a whole cooldown lap, I pulled into the pits and the front driver side brake had smoke and heat waves coming from it. There was no fire, but the brake was massively overheated so I drove it around the back of the lot to try and cool it down some more. After a few minutes of that it was still smoking, but not as bad. We pointed a fan at it to cool it down some more and after 30 minutes of that it was cool enough to touch the lugnuts without burning my fingers. We gave it another 20 minutes before taking the wheel off to look over everything. Nothing seemed amiss but the pads were looking very thin, and the rotor was scored up a bit.
I had brought a backup set of pads and rotors because the car uses S2000 rotors, which are known to crack very often when overheated, but by some miracle the rotor didn’t crack. I decided not to put the new rotors and pads on and skip the last session because there was no guarantee that the car wouldn’t go into limp mode again and the car needed to make the 500 mile trip home.
Ultimately I was able to snag 10th place with my 2:26.2 so we achieved our placement goal! Despite that though, I can’t say I’m content at all with how the weekend went. As a driver I know I left a LOT of time on the table, and I believe that the car could’ve gotten down to a 2:23 or a 2:22 is its present state. For those who may be familiar with the car’s past, it ran a 2:19 when it was here last year but at that time it was tuned and making about 50 – 60 more horsepower than it is now on the stock tune, so it’s certainly not going to do that kind of time again until we can get it retuned. I’m also a bit disappointed with the amount of time we lost with the limp mode issues that kept popping up at seemingly random times. A bit of research has led me to believe that it’s either because of the stock tune not being happy with one of the aftermarket parts, or the gas pedal spacer that’s causing an issue with the pedal being overstroked. If anyone has any experience or input with this we’d love to hear your feedback! At the end of the day, it was still a good weekend. The car made the 1,000 mile round trip and raced all weekend with no catastrophic issues so I’ll mark that up as a decent starting point.
Our next event with the car is Gridlife’s Midwest Festival at Gingerman Raceway in South Haven MI from June 2-5th where we’ll have the Civic out again competing in Club TR. We’re hoping for a better result as Gingerman is a track we are very familiar with and the car won’t be on the stock tune anymore either! Thanks for taking time to read our blog and we look forward to meeting anyone who comes out to any events we’re at, so stop by and say hi! In the meantime, keep an eye on our social media accounts for updates as we release more Civic products. Everything we are releasing is being tested and proven on our FK7, so every modification we put on this car is available for purchase!