A national championship title is something that can never be won. If you want to win something, pick up a lottery ticket or throw down a pair of dice. Better yet, go buy an oversized highlighter and stamp your way to victory one letter and number at a time. Those are all popular games of chance, with far better odds of winning than haphazardly entering in a competitive automotive race, especially if it’s for the title of National Champion in the HPD Honda Challenge series. That’s because the title can’t be won, it must be earned. Here is the story of Jonathan Meris’ Civic and how it was carefully built to take first place at the year’s biggest race.
In early 2010, Meris began working on the recipe for his H2-spec B16A. Two identical engines were built and tuned separately. The first served merely as a backup and initial test mule for dyno time. Both bottom ends were blueprinted with optimum clearances for maximum power gains on the entire rotating assembly. As per the H2 rules, Meris used a set of CTR cams, intake manifold and throttle body, while increasing the compression to the 10.9:1 H2 B16A limit. Revving to 9,400 rpm at times on the track required an extremely reliable valvetrain. Skunk2 titanium retainers and valvesprings prevented valve float during dives into stratospheric revs. Arguably the single most crucial asset that granted the largest gains was the precision valve job performed by RLZ Engineering. Although the rules allowed for cylinder heads to be ported 1 inch into the ports, this was not done to Meris’ head, a true testament of RLZ’s advanced practices. AEM cam gears were used for cam timing adjustments as well as an AEM fuel pressure regulator and fuel rail to control the flow of 100-octane gas to the RC Engineering injectors.
One of the most important decisions to be made was what size tires to use. The mandated spec rubber for Honda Challenge is the Toyo RA-1 DOT race tire. Meris knew that most, if not all of the H2 racers at the championships would be using 225/45-15s. With that in mind, he opted to try 235/40-17 tires mounted on Konig 17x7 Lightspeed wheels. After a test day of comparing both sizes, there was no question that the 17s were significantly faster. He determined there was not only more grip, but the increased diameter made it possible to use only third and fourth gear through almost the entire Miller Motorsports Park circuit.
Meris chose to use an Integra Type R transmission for its close-ratio gearing, but he didn’t stop there. Because of the taller tires, a Gear-X straight-cut 4.9 final drive was selected. To ensure the power met the concrete at will, an OS Giken Superlock LSD was chosen. Lastly, Syncrotech carbon synchros were installed to ensure every shift would remain smooth and positive during track abuse.
Carefully selected suspension upgrades included Koni 2812 dampers complete with 800-pound front and 1,200-pound rear Eibach race springs, while Hardrace spherical bearings on both the front and rear lower control arms replaced the factory rubber. SPC Performance Extreme upper control arms allowed 4.7 degrees of negative camber and 4.5 degrees of negative caster up front, while Wicked Tuning’s rear camber kit with spherical eyelets were used to set 2.5 degrees of negative camber in the rear. In addition, Pro Car Innovations’ (PCI) trick spherical rear trailing arm bearings replaced the torn and worn rubber pieces that anchor the trailing arms to the body of the car. Finally, a CT Engineering 22mm adjustable rear antisway bar was connected to a beefier Civic Type R rear subframe. Testing revealed that the car performed best with 1⁄16 inch of toe-out in the front, with zero toe-in the rear and cold tire pressures of 23 psi front and 27 psi rear.