Archive for the Racing Category

ILX 7-Year Anniversary: PAPA Visit to Apex Motor Club – Maricopa, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, Milestones, PAPA, Racing on June 16, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  215,000

About 45 minutes from my house is an automotive playground called Apex Motor Club.  Designed with the idea of becoming the “premier motorsports club of the southwest,” Apex was co-founded by entrepreneur and automotive enthusiast Matt Williams.  Matt graciously invited a handful of members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) to attend a media program on Wednesday morning, June 12, designed to give journalists a glimpse of exactly what the facility currently offers – and will offer in the future.

The heart of Apex is its 2.2-mile track, part of “phase 1” of three phases of expansion that the facility will undergo in the coming years.  The track itself offers something for pretty much any skill level.  I experienced it from a beginner’s perspective in a series of parade laps that got my blood pumping.  If a “parade lap” can do that, imagine what kind of full-on competitive racing could do.  Matt and his team welcomed us with an introduction to the history and the infrastructure.  Apex is located in Maricopa, Arizona, a small community on the outskirts of the greater Phoenix area.

Today, the amenities are relatively scarce aside from a shade pavilion and some portable toilets.  But there are plans in the works to build a clubhouse, restaurant/bar, pro shop, and private garages on the property.  Considering the entire project just broke ground less than a year ago, there has already been some impressive momentum.  Over 100 memberships have already been sold.

The highlight of my trip was when journalists were invites to experience the track firsthand.  I was sandwiched between a Corvette and a Porsche, and we followed a Camaro pilot car.  My little ILX felt understandably a little out of place.  But for each of the 5 successive laps, I got a little more confident in not only the layout of the track but in how to best control my vehicle.  For a “parade” lap it was a pretty spirited experience, and I can confidently say I left plenty of tire tread – and probably a good deal of my brake rotor lifespan – out on the track.  I definitely had a grin on my face when it was all said and done.

In a fitting conclusion to the trip, my 2013 ILX rolled 215,000 miles on the way back to Phoenix – perfect timing since that day was the 7-year anniversary of the day I first took ownership in 2012.

Entry to Apex in Maricopa

Some of the Apex-branded vehicles on-site

Staging area for vehicles

Getting our introduction to the lay of the land

Brittany from Apex, and Matt Ferguson from Barrett-Jackson

Some of the Apex team including co-founder Matt Williams (second from left)

Track tour in a Ford Raptor pickup

Entry to the 2.2-mile course in the ILX

This wasn’t my ILX’s first time on a track.  In 2012 I drove it on the high speed oval at Nissan’s proving ground.

2 for 1: NSX WestFest 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Posted in California, Nevada, NSX, Racing, Road Trip on April 16, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (NSX):  115,508

Trip Distance:  1,100 Miles

The last time we talked, I was just getting ready for the third-annual WestFest NSX meet-up in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I had a great time interacting with my friends and seeing some of the sights and sounds of the area.  Friday, Findlay Acura in Henderson hosted us for an open house.  That night, I met up with a few local friends for dinner.  On Saturday, we went to Valley of Fire State Park.  I explored the Strip with Chris Tobias from AcuraConnected who had flown in from Edmonton, Alberta for the occasion.

Now, are you ready for a serving of alphabet soup?  Then come along for an NSX ride from NV to CA for the NTT-sponsored, IMSA-sanctioned, AGPLB.  Because, YOLO!  If that all flew over your head, it’s okay.  I’m new to the IndyCar thing, so I still have my training wheels on.

As the successful WestFest was winding down, my 1,000-mile, 3-state weekend road trip adventure was ready to move to the next chapter.  Accompanied by Chris, we saddled up in my trusty 1992 NSX and headed out on Interstate 15 to southern California bright and early on Sunday morning, April 14th.  We laughed as we passed a billboard near the Nevada-California state line that read:  “Get even before you get out.”  Unfortunately for both of us, we left Las Vegas a little bit poorer than when we’d arrived.

Our first destination was the world’s tallest thermometer in Baker, at the gateway to Death Valley.  But the real target was about 300 miles ahead:  the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, an IndyCar race that’s been around since 1975 which holds an important place in the IndyCar Series as well as in southern California car culture in general.  From the moment Andrew Quillin from Acura Public Relations greeted us at the entrance, the need for speed was resonating in the air, and the Acura presence was strong.

When designer Jon Ikeda took the driver’s seat of the entire Acura brand as General Manager in August 2015, he made it clear that he was looking to return the brand to a lineup worthy of its “Precision Crafted Performance” slogan from the early days in the 1980s and 1990s.  Now about 4 years later, Ikeda’s influence is evident in the return of A-Spec nomenclature, a performance focus that’s derived from the NSX halo car to other vehicles in the lineup, and most importantly a revitalization and expansion of the brand’s presence in the racing industry.

My trip to Long Beach for its 45th annual Grand Prix race has solidified my conviction that Ikeda was the right man for the job.  I was surrounded by the pride and innovation of the brand everywhere I looked.  Acura took over title sponsorship for the event from Toyota with a 3-year commitment just earlier this year.  Aside from the obvious branding and signage, there was an entire conference show hall filled with heritage Acura performance cars from over the years – preserved and displayed as a way to showcase the brand’s achievements.  And that’s before Chris and I even got to see the view from the Pit Suites.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is the 4th of 17 “IndyCar Series” races during the 2019 program year.  It is carried out on a series of public roads that are transformed temporarily into a racetrack for the occasion.  They are the same streets, in fact, that I drive when I attend the Japanese Classic Car Show each year – hardly recognizable among all the concrete barricades and bleachers.  Our perspective from the Acura Media Suite #21 faced south across Shoreline Drive – a stretch straight enough that the IndyCars are flying by at upwards of 175 miles per hour.  If it weren’t for the roar of a 12,000-RPM, twin-turbocharged engine, you could blink and never know a car went by.

Just two days prior to the “official” race, NSXCA President and awarded race driver Peter Cunningham blazed around the same 1.96-mile circuit in a production-spec Thermal Orange 2019 NSX, setting a lap record and making the rest of us all feel a little more inadequate about our skills behind the wheel.  The course itself has changed just slightly a few times since the 1975 inaugural year, but has been the same since 2000.  There are 11 turns with little margin for error – this is a lot more high stakes than the go-kart track I used as a kid.

Chris and I joined journalists from Motor Trend, Kelley Blue Book, and The Drive, along with a handful of senior leaders and their families.  It was the perfect perspective above the pits, especially being able to watch the speedy work of pit crews.  A Curva Red NSX Pace Car led the way through the course initially, and then 23 drivers put the pedal to the metal IndyCars right on time at the 1:42 planned start.  Luckily for us in the pit suites, we had visibility to bird’s eye and first-person camera angles on TV screens, along with live updates about the leaderboard for the 85 laps that were underway.  And they went by quickly!  In fact, the race took fewer than 2 hours from start to finish.

Alexander Rossi, 27, won the race with 20 second margin, his second consecutive win for the event.  This wasn’t his first impressive racing feat:  As a rookie in 2016, he won the Indianapolis 500.  And his time behind the wheel started many years prior to that:  Before he raced IndyCars, he got his childhood start championing go-karts.  Rossi was up against some stiff competition, including Marco Andretti – grandson of famous racing legend Mario Andretti.  It seems that an appetite for speed runs in the Andretti family.

The sights and sounds of an IndyCar race gave me a glimpse of why the racing lifestyle can be so addicting.  The culture and community around the entire atmosphere provide endless entertainment even if you’re not a race fan.  If you’ve never been to an event like this, I highly recommend it!  Now, if only Acura had let me throw my 115,000 mile, 27-year-old NA1 NSX around the curves for a couple of laps!

Below is a 5-minute video and a series of photos from the conclusion of WestFest and the AGPLB.

Group shot from WestFest on Friday

I met up with Brad, who drove down from Boise, Idaho with his wife Linda in their immaculate Formula Red.  Pictured here also is my local friend Brandon, who has a Legend and a TL-S.

Long Beach Blue is still my favorite color.  Fitting that I left this event to go directly to Long Beach.

With some lovely ladies inside the dealership.

Evening meet-up at my friend Jeff’s place in North Las Vegas, with Romeo and his Legend.

Here’s Jeff, who went from a 1989 Legend to a 1993 Legend to a 2003 CL-S to a 2008 TL-S.  I’ve known him for over 15 years now.

Best fajitas in town, thanks to Michoacan restaurant.

Jeff, Tyson, Nick, Brandon, Romeo

Saturday morning on the escalator with Chris and Nick

Valley of Fire drive

Group shot – I actually didn’t make it into this one!

Banquet dinner back at Gold Coast

The Bellagio casino’s fountain show was set to the Game of Thrones theme song.

Rolling 115,000 in the NSX on Sunday morning.  I bought the car with 80,000 on it in 2011.

Arriving at the Acura Long Beach Grand Prix with Andrew.

Headed to the Pit Suites

Woot woot!

Andrew and his wife Katie

Marco – grandson of Mario – Andretti was one of the drivers.

Acura head of Public Relations, Matt Sloustcher, with his wife and son.

Display booth inside the convention center, complete with a 1986 Legend and 2001 Integra Type-R

Events throughout the day

Thanks for coming along!

NSX Performance Driving Event at Honda Proving Ground – Cantil, California

Posted in California, Integra, NSX, Racing, Road Trip on January 1, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend coupe):  557,630

Odometer (Integra):  245,708

Odometer (ILX):  203,182

Odometer (Legend sedan):  156,131

Odometer (NSX):  109,664

Odometer (Vigor):  108,672

Trip Distance:  874 Miles

Happy New Year!

I haven’t been to a theme park since 1994.  This is a picture of 12-year-old me (in socks & sandles — that fashion was OK back then, I think) with my brother Bentley trying out the mini golf course at Disneyland in California.  We got our fill of roller coaster rides, cotton candy, and entertainment.  Fast forward 13 years and I think I found an “adult” Disneyland.  It’s a 45,000-acre playground in the middle of nowhere in the California desert, and it’s called the Honda Proving Center.  I got a behind the scenes look at this magical place on Saturday, December 9th.  It may just be the happiest place on Earth.

It’s not every day you’re sitting in the driver seat of a $180,000, 573-horsepower supercar with a professional coach in your passenger seat.  Doing 118 miles per hour on cruise control on a 7-mile-long high-speed oval track.  And getting to the straightaway and having the coach say, “Ok, put the gas to the floor and hold it there.”  My eyes got as big as pie plates.  “What?!”  “Punch it.”  I obeyed, and we shot to 155 miles per hour – a personal land speed record for me – in a matter of a few seconds.  By the time I’d completed two laps and we exited the track, 80 miles per hour felt like idling through a school zone.  My sense of speed was completely out of whack.

My track time was part of an “NSX Drive Experience,” made possible by special invitation by some of my friends at Acura.  It catered largely to folks who are long time brand advocates or potential NSX shoppers.

My track experience credentials prior to this event were pretty pathetic.

  • I did a 105-mph open-road race in 2007 & 2008 (Bonneville 100 in northern Nevada)
  • I did an SCCA autocross course in 2009 (NALM – Branson, Missouri)
  • I drove on a road course in 2010 (Miller Motorsports Park – Salt Lake City, Utah)
  • I 1/4-mile drag raced my car in 2016 (Atlanta Dragway – Atlanta, Georgia)

Needless to say, I’m still very much a novice when it comes to putting on a race helmet and getting out on a racetrack.  That changed to a small degree this weekend when I took advantage of the opportunity to experience 2 hours in the seat of a Nouvelle Blue Pearl 2017 Acura NSX.  And my coach – professional driver Ken Hill – actually said my skills were pretty impressive.  “Quick hands,” he told me.  I’ll take it!

I drove out to California City late Friday night in the Integra, whirring at 4,500 RPM all the way to the Riverside area, then on up the Cajon Pass to Victorville on I-15, then taking two-laners the remaining 80 or so miles to my hotel, the Best Western.  Roads were lonely and it was a clear night for the 7-hour drive.  The following morning, I made my way north to the entrance to Honda’s facility in Cantil – a nondescript turnoff after miles and miles of nothing but telephone poles, where a white sign and HONDA in red block lettering guided me in.

Honda has owned the property since 1990 and it was used by the company’s Research & Development team for its first 20 or so years.  It went through a $28 million renovation in 2015 as part of a conversion from “durability” testing to “dynamic” testing as its focus.  Today it’s a closed course that allows test engineers to put prototype vehicles through their paces.  I saw a couple of vehicles in camouflage while behind closed gates, but any photography was of course strictly prohibited.

The session kicked off with Acura Senior Manager John Watts and pro driver Ken Hill giving us the lay of the land – some NSX model-specific background, the story on the facility, and some safety briefings along with a description of what we were about to experience.  Our “class” of 8 or so people was able to see inside the building’s operations center, with its wall full of TV screens capturing surveillance of every jackrabbit or tortoise that moves on the property – along with each and every vehicle, of course.

My first of four track experiences was the oval, followed by a demonstration of a zero-to-100-mph-to-zero acceleration and braking exercise.  Ken showed me how to activate the NSX’s “Track / Launch” mode by holding the selector knob to the right for 5 seconds.  The power and grip that this unleashed was unreal.  From a dead stop, 60 miles per hour came up in only 2.7 seconds, my helmet deeply planted against the headrest.  We rocketed to 100 miles per hour, then clamped down on the brakes.  The carbon ceramic brake equipment brought us to a sudden and controlled stop.  Nausea anyone?  It’s a good thing I wasn’t doing this on an empty stomach.

We made our way to a small autocross track where I tried my hand at keeping an NSX inside some painted white lines while dodging cones, and finally went to the Winding Road course which is a true simulation of what a curvy mountain road might look and feel like.  The road itself has a few tricks up its sleeve, like a steep hill that makes you feel like you’re going to launch the car, and a decreasing-radius turn that catches a lot of people by surprise.  Ken and I took several laps and with each one, I became more and more comfortable with the car.  This picture is not me!

My heart raced and my palms were sweaty but I gained confidence and continued to be blown away by the NSX and its capability.  My skills were so good, in fact (patting myself on the back here), that I caught up to the car in front of me and we had to pull off the track to wait for them to get more of a head start.  After this segment, we went to a reception where lunch was served and iPads were available for surveys and NSX Build Configurator access.  All participants were provided a poster and goody bag for their participation which was a nice souvenir to take home.  Organizers even offered to top off my fuel tank prior to departing, but my Integra was already sitting at full capacity.

It was a dose of reality to get back into my 4-cylinder, 160-horsepower, 244,000 mile Integra to start heading home but my nerves needed a break anyway after so many thrills.  I had just one more sight to see on my drive home, so I made a special point to visit the “Musical Road” off Highway 14 on Avenue G in Lancaster, California.  It’s a road paved with grooves in it that when driven across, plays a song.  I tried it at 60, 45, and 75 miles per hour.  Check out the video below for what that ended up sounding like!

Many thanks to the folks at Acura for such an awesome event.  More to come in the next couple of weeks as I play catch-up on current events and get 2018 off to a timely start!

Late night arrival into California City

Chilly day the following morning!  The Integra took an extra crank to start.

Departing my Best Western

Long and lonely road to get to the proving ground

Made it!

Parked next to a “Still Night Pearl” 2018 TLX A-Spec.  I knew I was in the right place.

With my friend Curtis from Acura’s agency

Pre-drive briefing in the lobby

VIP status!

Photo on display from Mr. Honda’s visit to the facility in the early 1990s

2018 RLX out front

Detail on the different driving experiences available at the track

Heading out in the afternoon!

Arrival at the Musical Road in Lancaster

Visiting my friend Jerry in Palmdale who has a 1993 Integra GS sedan

I thought this spot on the top of a pass on Highway 138 was pretty cool.  Mountain Top Cafe.  It’s been there since 1940.

Descending toward my junction with Interstate 15.

“Mormon Rocks” along the San Bernardino National Forest.

Swag that I brought home!  Nice shirt + some reading material.

I sent a text message to Ted Klaus, project leader for the NSX, and thanked him for building such a magical machine.  He had a nice reply!

It made me appreciate my generation 1 NSX even more.

I liked this image showing the NSX, Vigor, and Integras.  Missing Legends!

A couple of weeks ago there was a ‘twin’ to my Legend coupe (one VIN apart, in fact, #833 and mine is #832) for around $2,900.  I was tempted to grab it and keep for eventual restoration.  Or spare parts!

Speaking of blue NSXs, I wanted to share this sweet one that ScienceofSpeed in Chandler, Arizona built for this year’s SEMA show in Las Vegas.  Shout out to my friend Erik for sharing the pics.

When was the last time you saw a 1989 Honda Accord SE-i coupe?  This beauty has only 42,300 miles on it, and was recently acquired by my friend Kai who is doing some mechanical restoration work on it.

The local Arizona NSX Club of America chapter members got together last month for a holiday dinner at ScienceofSpeed.  I got to park my 1992 indoors next to our dining tables.

It was nice to reconnect with the 20 or so members who came out.

That Audi R8 on the lift was a little out of place!

Talk soon!