It has been a very busy first couple of weeks for the IPGparts.com Race Team as they attended the first 2 SCCA Majors events of the year at Homestead Speedway and Sebring Intl Speedway the past 2 weekends. Only having 2 test sessions with the new 2012 Honda Civic Si Race Car built for the STL class left a bit of doubt in the back of everyone's mind as to how the car would perform.
Driver James Innes had never raced at Homestead Speedway so in addition to feeling out the new car a new track had to be learned as well. As much preparation as possible was put into before hand watching In Car video's of the track and using iRacing to get up to speed. The 2 Friday Qualifiers proved to help a lot. The Friday morning session was taken at a nice and easy pace on some old tires to get comfortable at the new track putting Innes in the 7th in class position for now. 2 new front BFGoodrich R1 Tires were mounted for Friday's afternoon session and with some tweaks to the car setup Innes was able to improve his qualifying position to 5th out of the 15 cars at the event with a 1:38.307 lap time.
Saturday's Race 1 was a 30 minute battle between Innes and Bruce Andersen for the for the 4th-5th position with Innes making a pass with only 2 laps to go and holding on for the position. A 1:36.878 lap time was also achieved which bettered the qualifying time run and would be used to slot Innes for the Sunday Race 2. "The car was getting better and better throughout the race and of course trying to beat that car next to you brings the adrenaline in and will naturally make you quicker around the track. I will take a 4th place finish at a National SCCA Majors event any day of the week for the first result with our new 2012 Civic Si," Innes said. Sunday's Race 2 proved to be uneventful as Innes started from the 5th position and moved up to the 4th slot over the course of the race. "I lost contact with the 1-2-3 cars over the first 3-4 laps of the race and although I could see them up ahead I just couldn't make up any ground," Innes said. Another 4th place finish was still considered a success as both races resulted in a good amount of points towards qualifying for the SCCA Runoff's being held at Daytona Intl Speedway this September.
Fast forward just 4 days and the IPGparts.com crew was in the truck heading to Sebring, FL for round 2 of the SCCA Majors schedule. "We really didn't change much on the car other than trying to trouble shoot some issues we are having and putting some new 300mm rotors on the car as the rules just allowed us to do," Innes said. Innes has many laps around Sebring so being at a familiar track gave the team high hopes for a podium finish. Friday was a rough day as the morning qualifier was cut short due to a black flag so all competitors only had 2-3 laps mostly in traffic so no one was setting the world on fire with lap times. The afternoon session brought out some handling concerns with the Civic as a spin through turn 1 got the blood pumping for Innes. He put his head down and did what he could but could only muster a 9th place qualifying position.
Race 1 on Saturday was an exercise in repetition as a no green first lap spread out the field to the point that it was near impossible to catch up and make any passes for most cars on track. A couple of other STL entries couldn't make it the entire way though so Innes moved up to a 7th place finishing position. Still not completely comfortable with the car, Innes and crew chief Tom Creen kicked around idea's on how to make the car better. Sunday morning brought great weather and as the team prepped the car by going over the brakes and making some shock adjustments the plan was hatched to try a brand new set of BFGoodrich R1S tires on all 4 corners as well as some pressure changes.. This would be the first time the team would run the S compound tire but based on feedback from all sources they should work great. Not much can give a driver more confidence than a freshly prepped car and a brand new set of tires and Innes was grouped with competitors that he knew he could not only run with pace wise but should run quicker than pace wise.
Starting 8th in STL the first 2-3 laps of the race were run at a pretty comfortable pace with the cars around him as Innes would trade a spot here and a spot there. "I don't know if it was the tires or the confidence but I just started driving the car, I didn't think about what it was doing I was just driving it," commented Innes. Around lap 3-4 a couple of the other STL cars ahead of him got tied up and he was able to put a pass on them as well as a car from another class that was running a similar pace. Once that happened it was hammer down for Innes as he eased away from the pack he was running with and put in solid lap time after solid lap time. With 6-7 laps to go Innes had moved into 4th place and the 3rd place car was in sight, a Mazda Miata driven by Raymond Philibert. "I saw him, I knew that was 3rd, I knew that was the podium," Innes said, "I was making notes of my position to his position at a couple of places on the track and I could tell I was catching him." Chipping away bit by bit Innes was within a second with 3 laps to go. "There are a couple of parts of Sebring where I know my 2012 Honda Civic Si was better than his Miata and there are turns I knew he was better than me. I did what I could on the slow parts and tried to keep gaining where my car was better. With 2 laps to go I went inside on him on turn 10 and got side by side with him but backed out to avoid any contact. I have raced with Philibert for a bit now and he is a very clean driver, it is nice to know the guy next to you is going to keep it clean and I wanted to make sure he knew I was going to treat it the same way. With 1 lap to go I knew where my one shot would be and I did what I could to setup for that moment. A faster class Mustang passed us going down into the Hairpin and bunched us up bumper to bumper and I knew that was going to be it for me. Let the Honda power do its job and it pulled me out of the hairpin and I got by him. Once I was by him it was straight focus on no mistakes and I brought it home," Innes said. A best lap time during the race of 2:33.722 was recorded.
Running at the front of these races is the primary goal for the team and a podium during the 2nd race weekend at a SCCA Majors event is the first of many huge payoffs for the team. "That was it, that is what it was all about and to be able to enjoy that with Tom and my family was huge. Now it is head down to make this car better and better and winning the SCCA Runoffs is the goal. That has always been the goal for this car since we started the project and we see the light now. It is hammer down, it is go time," Innes said. The team is off for a couple of weeks now and the schedule for 2015 is still being worked on but you can have no doubt the car will be run a lot, tested, tuned and worked on to make it the best we can for not only this year but for years going forward.
Special Thanks to:
Honda Performance Development
Driven Racing Oil and anyone else that has helped get us to this point.
The basic rundown of the car goes like this:
2012 Honda Civic Si
K20z3 Engine and Transmission
.425″ Lift SCCA STL Spec Camshafts
50mm Flat Plate Restrictor
Clockwise Motion Oil Pan
Baffle (K20a2 Oil Pump)
MFactory 1 Way Metal Plate
Gator Racing Road Race Axles
Wilwood 4 Piston Front Brakes
Sleeve Type Springs (custom rates)
HPD Front Camber/Caster Plates
BSI Racing Roll Cage
Recaro HANS Race Seat
Racequip 6 Point Kamlock harness
Racing Fire Systems 4L Fire Suppression
17×7 Enkei RPF1 Wheels
BFG R1S Race Tires
Wire-Worx Engine Harness