Lance and the HP crew made a couple tweaks and two weeks later, took the car to the NHRA 2002 season opener in their home state of Florida. The car responded well at Gainesville, posting a 9.68 in the qualifying rounds and a 9.46 at 152.5 mph before being eliminated. The 9.46 came impressively on the ninth pass of the car's life; talk about learning quickly.
The euphoria of running a 9.46 inspired all involved. Lance bumped up the power on the motor by moving to a Precision Turbo T74 and fabricating a more efficient exhaust manifold.
To get more of the power to the ground, Lance and HP called on fellow racers Christian Rado and Shaun Carlson and were surprised by how truly supportive they both were. Rado was helpful, introducing them to Penske shocks and keying them into Tilton carbon/carbon clutch technology. Carlson and his company Nuformz fabricated a complete rear suspension featuring Strange spindles and a staging brake set-up. The suspension is fully adjustable for camber and toe-in and Lance reports the toe angle does not change under compression or rebound. Further, the Nuformz suspension weighs 65 lbs less than the OE suspension. The front suspension was augmented with custom lower control arms and tubular upper arms, which secure a Mark Williams hub assembly. The Mark Williams set-up features race-ready axles, lightweight hubs, rotors and calipers.
The car was taken to Maple Grove for the NDRA opener. That event rained out so the Civic's next chance at the spotlight was in Houston for the NHRA Toyo Tires Sport Compact Nationals June 1-2. The spotlight seemed like a distant beacon when the turbo let go on the Civic's first qualifying pass, netting a 12.03 at 103 mph.
Undaunted, Lance called Florida and had a technician "borrow" a T70 from a customer's SC300 and fly to Houston. The turbo was bolted on just in time for round three of qualifying on Sunday. The Honda responded with a 9.392 at 150.21 mph to grab the number four spot on the grid.
After a 15.65 Bye pass in round one, Lance and HP Civic lined up with Lisa Kubo in the second round. The HP Civic was again up to the challenge in one of the most hotly contested races in the class. Lance blasted a personal best of 9.153 at 157.01 mph while Lisa turned a 9.385 at 157.47 mph.
In the semis, the HP Civic ran a 9.54 at only 121.75 mph. The ring gear in the transmission let go going into forth gear, but it wouldn't have mattered. Lance told us the datalogging showed he was on a 9.02 pace and his opponent Bruce Mortensen and the Venom Civic were heading into the record books with an 8.83, which backed an 8.81 in qualifying. The HP Racing Honda had leap-frogged from 9.46 to 9.15 in one event, so to say the suspension modifications paid off is an understatement. The .41 second gain in performance was realized, despite running a smaller turbo. Would a T74 put the Civic in the 8s?
The H22A was fitted with a fresh Precision Turbo T74, a Nitrous Express system was installed and a Pro Drive ring-and-pinion gear was bolted in the tranny. The next appearance would be the June 15 NHRA event at Maple Grove. The car responded favorably but was not swift enough to breach the 8-second barrier. The Civic qualified with a 9.29 at 157.57 and busted a 9.153 and a 9.140 to advance to the semifinals. In the semi, the Honda recorded a 9.25 but the engine let go when the nitrous was sprayed in third gear.
A fresh short block was added and the car was on the warpath at the NDRA event in Dinwiddie, Va. Unfortunately a set of new aftermerket gears failed in qualifying and a used tranny was put into action. While the HP Civic took second, its best e.t. was a 9.38.
There is a trickle down effect; HP has developed a new line-up of hard engine parts based on data gleaned from the drag Civic experience. These parts should help hard charging street and strip Hondas live long and prosper.