Time attacks arguably define the current trend of track racing. It’s not all about power such as in drag racing, nor it is about showmanship and smoke as in drifting; it is down to the fundamental basics of racing which is who is the faster driver/car combo. When balance is the key, big horsepower may not be entirely relevant if it could not be used efficiently. That in my opinion is the essence of racing.
As the world manages its dwindling resources, racing in some sense is another wasteful activity; consuming not only fuel as well as producing much higher carbon footprint than driving to the neighbourhood deli. But the wonderful thing about people is, they create technologies to overcome these initial problems. Eventhough environmentally friendly and zero emissions racing cars such as the Nissan LEAF Nismo RC are still only a potential future, latest steps taken by manufacturers such as Porsche had recently came up with hybrid cars such as the 911 GT3R Hybrid which recently raced in the Nürburgring. The Honda CR-Z, although without a racing pedigree comparable to the Porsche, had competed at NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill at Willows, California in 2010 with one car finishing second in its class while another won pole position but ended with a DNF.
It may not be a norm as yet, but cool hybrids such as the Honda CR-Z is gaining momentum in both cult following and aftermarket support. One of the giants of tuning in Japan, HKS, has already offered a supercharger kit which they claim to be able to push the little car in excess of 300PS with proper engine modifications.
The owner of this pristine CR-Z is a track junkie at heart, previously running around tracks such as the famous Batu Tiga Speedway as well as Sepang International Circuit (SIC). Passionate about Hondas, his previous cars were obvious choices of any Honda fans; an EK, a DC5 and more recently an FD2R. Asked why a ‘downgrade’ from the track-potent FD2R to the CR-Z, the answer was simple; although the Civic is awesome on track, the daily drivability suffers greatly thus the change to a more compliant CR-Z. I’d agree, though more for the sporty looks of the CR-Z which reminiscent of the popular CR-X, as well as the potential fuel savings that can be had with the hybrid technology. This is the second CR-Z to arrive in Malaysia by the way, the first being a showroom car.
This CR-Z is only mildly tuned. A stock car delivers 122bhp and 174Nm torque on paper, while subtle mods like a K&N Typhoon air intake would perhaps give a couple of more horsepower. The owner sent the car for a dyno shortly after getting the car and it showed a very healthy 120hp, considering some frictional losses in the drivetrain and the tyres. A Mugen rear spoiler as well as a 17″ aftermarket wheels shod with sticky Kumho KU36 rubbers and 500 degree brake pads complete the round one of modification. Coming soon is a Mugen front bumper lip and a set of BC aftermarket suspensions.
The Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system is an ingenious innovation coupling an electrical motor to the 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine boosting its power during overtaking and providing enough torque to accelerate very comfortably. Obvious advantages of hybrids are the reduced fuel consumptions and carbon emissions, far from being zero-emissions but a good step forwards. A common feature for this type of cars is the automatic idling stop system where the engine shuts off to conserve fuel and reduce emissions.
The air intake is such a simple tool. It swallows clean air into the engine to help the combustion. The owner ordered a K&N Typhoon air intake direct from Stateside and had it installed neatly in the engine bay.
The thick cable connects the battery to the IMA motor through a huge plug as you can see in the picture above. As the car decelerates, the electric motor recharges the battery. It would be interesting to see how the system copes with the rapid braking and deceleration the car would be subjected to in the track.
The Hybrid branding at the back emphasizes the CR-Z’s clear intentions of being green. Perhaps as a balance, an automotive air intake manufacturer’s sticker was also placed at the other side of the rear hatch to evoke the sense of speed and power as if a yin and a yang.
A Mugen wing dominates the rear making it look aggressive while reducing the lift at speed. I see a bit of of a Honda Insight in the rear of the CR-Z, perhaps a more angry Insight that is. While the husband drives a Honda CR-Z, the wife drives an also fuel efficient which is the Insight.
The interior is typical Japanese, functional with plasticky bits littered around the cabin. A futuristic digital instrument panel sits in front of the driver, giving a resemblance of a Ferrari dash; central digital tachometer with displays on both sides providing various information.
All sports cars should have the tachometer in the centre. The CR-Z is capable of revving up to around 6,500rpm before the rev-limiter kicks in. I bet with proper set up of the car, a screaming 8 to 9,000rpm is achievable, bringing alive the aural glory of the VTEC engine.
Buttons and dials galore on the driver-focused dashboard. Nice to touch but of course felt very plasticky. What would you expect from a car that costs RM115,000? I’m quite happy really, as a daily driver it is very capable and can perhaps even do spirited drives in fair comfort.
A miniature Honda CR-Z sits quietly on the dash while the hanging ASIMO plush toy keeps guard.
As we wrap up the short impromptu photoshoot, I had a good chat with the owner about his future plans for the car. For sure it will get more modifications done and with abundant aftermarket parts, it was just a matter of time. Nevertheless in next week’s MegaLAP Time Attack Round 1, it will be shakedown event for this little hybrid before getting some serious upgrades for the Round 2.
We wish the owner all the best in the upcoming time attack and hope to see more hybrids jumping into motorsports. Green racing gets a thumbs up!
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