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Guest Blog: Dave Pratte from Modified Mag

by Dave September 27, 2017 8 min read

Hello there Hybrid Racing fans. My name is Dave Pratte and I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to what my racing friends and I call “ripping TEC”. You may have your own saying for this glorious moment, when the Honda engine of your choice switches from the small camshaft lobes to the big ones, but regardless of what you call it, chances are it’s this sudden rush of power that hooked you on the Honda go-fast crackpipe. I know for me it was the goodness that is VTEC (and Honda engine design in general) plus the lightweight nimbleness of just about any 1990′s vintage Honda chassis that drew me in and hasn’t let go since.

My Honda odyssey and eventual employment as an automotive journalist and editor at Modified Magazine began back in 1998 when I bought a 5th generation Prelude. What I really wanted was a DC2 Integra Type R, but at the time none were available at my local Acura stealership and after driving a Prelude it seemed like the next best thing. The H22 engine made those sweet VTEC noises and the chassis, though heavier than the ITR, was still plenty responsive down a twisty country road.

After breaking the engine in for a thousand miles, I began autocrossing my BB6 Prelude at local events in completely stock form. This is when I met a great group of local Honda enthusiasts (www.hadamotorsport.com) who began teaching me the ways of the wrench, with my first hands-on oil change, brake pad change, and suspension upgrades all taking place under the guidance of more experienced club members. As many of you can probably relate, it was these early experiences wrenching on my Prelude when I discovered just how simple and elegant Honda’s engineering really is and how receptive these cars are to aftermarket tuning.

As much fun as cone dodging is, I had a need for speed that couldn’t be satisfied in a parking lot. So I soon found myself attending my first Solo 1 event (better known as Time Trial or Time Attack these days), where I could start to explore my Prelude’s performance potential and develop my driving ability around a proper race track. I was hooked for life after my first few hot laps, both because of the adrenaline rush that comes from sliding a car through a high-speed corner but also because of the competitive aspect of the sport. I was running against some well prepared and driven Eagle Talon TSi’s in my class and these guys were handing me my ass at first. I was determined to beat these DSMers as well as a couple of quick BMW 328s I was running against.

That’s when I started to get serious about go-fast tuning, learning valuable lessons about the importance of a proper 4-wheel race alignment, carefully dialled in tire pressures, and well matched shock damping, spring rates and anti-sway bars. During the last event of my first season of Solo 1, I beat those pesky DSMers and took my first class victory. The taste was sweet and I wanted more, but I also knew that I was pushing the limit of safety in my daily driven Prelude, so it was time to step up to a dedicated track car that I could put a roll bar in and not bankrupt myself building.

In the winter of 2000 I picked up a Milano Red ’93 Civic CX hatch. The price was right and the mileage relatively low, though it did have the usual rust starting to show around the rear wheel wells. Still, I knew it was the perfect candidate for a B-series engine swap and at just 2100 lbs it’d be a real rocketship compared to my Prelude once a B18C was dropped in. B-swaps weren’t quite commonplace yet, but there was certainly a well beaten path, so with the help of a few friends who’d done a swap or two in their day we yanked out the greasy old D16 and dropped in a USDM B18C1 longblock with a ITR transmission.

But rather than rockin’ it stock, I jumped in with both feet and modified my B18C1 before installing it. We’re talking Toda Spec B camshafts, Portflow valvetrain, a ported cylinder head and a built block including Toda 12.5:1 pistons, Eagle rods, and ARP rod bolts. Using an old school Hondata for tuning, the goal was to reach the then elusive 200 wheel horsepower mark, something we came pretty close to on the first tune of 194 whp. The results were several Solo 1 class championships in a row and even a cross-country adventure to compete in the now defunct Open Track Challenge (7 different tracks in 7 days across Nevada and California), though not without a few blown engines along the way (baffle that oil pan, kids!).

At the same time, I started doing a little writing and photography for car magazines, reporting on some of the race events I was attending as well as writing the occasional feature car story for mags like Grassroots Motorports, S3, Inside Track and a few others. I was doing this purely as a hobby and an outlet for my creative side. Little did I know I was actually embarking on a new career path (I was working on a Ph.D at the time and had every intention of becoming a university professor).

Having won the first ever Canadian Solo 1 National Championship in a friend’s EF CRX Si, I decided it was time to give door-to-door road racing a try. The welded-in roll bar was converted to a full roll cage and what little was left of my EG’s interior was tossed in the dumpster. That’s when I got the bright idea that more power wouldn’t be a bad idea and having Googled my way onto K20a.org it wasn’t long until I found myself ordering up some K-swap engine mounts and a wiring harness and clutch line from Hybrid Racing. So in the winter of 2005 me and a few of those same Honda buddies pulled the 3rd or 4th B-series engine that had called my EG’s engine bay home and prepared it for a mildly modified K20A2 out of a wrecked 2002 Acura RSX Type S. Oh, and as you can see, I also went all JDM on the situation and had the car painted a JDM NSX color called Lime Green Metallic (that’s me on the right with my good friend and co-driver Kenneth “Turtle” Lau whose one of the most respected Honda race car builders and tuners in the country).

With a totally stock bottom end and Skunk2 Stage 2 cams and valvetrain, the K20 pumped out 230 whp. This made for a pretty potent race car, as I discovered during the first weekend of racing I did in the Canadian Touring Car Championship. This series has a Touring class for less powerful cars on max 205 section width tires and a Super Touring class for more powerful cars with wider wheels and tires and more permitted downforce (via wings and splitters). My EG fit perfectly into the lower Touring class, and at our very first race we qualified 3rd overall and 1st in our class. Noice! The race was not without it’s fair share of drama, including having an aggressive series veteran folding in the driver’s side mirror on my car in the first corner (where he warned me he was going to slam the door on me…and he did!), but we managed to hold off a hard charging MINI Cooper S for the victory. This resulted in my first champagne shower on the podium, an experience I’ll never forget and one my wife still describes as “looking very gay”. Can you feel the love?

That first season of road racing proved to be very successful, Turtle and I winning every race we entered, even starting from the back of the pack due to a failed throttle body cable during qualifying and then charging to the front during the 40-minute long race. At the last race of the year the series organizers told us our car was too fast for Touring and that we’d have to move up to Super Touring next year. Fair enough! Time for a K24 and some aero upgrades.

We showed up the following year with a custom made carbon-kevlar front splitter, J’s Racing rear wing, and a K24A2 with Skunk2 Stage 3 cams that pumped out a very reliable 250 whp, which combined with our lightweight EG should have made for a competitive package. Sadly, because of work commitments I only made it out to 2 races, finishing a best of 5th overall and 5th in class. Turns out the competition in Super Touring was a lot stiffer than we thought and with the taller 235/40-17 tires on 17×8” wheels we couldn’t generate the kind of grip or downforce that we needed to be truly competitive.

Not that it really mattered, since the next year the series introduced an age rule, where the chassis cannot be more than 13-years old. This rendered my EG incompatible with the series, something I didn’t mind since my career was taking me all over the world driving cool cars and I didn’t have much time for racing anyway. I was also intrigued by the growing popularity of Time Attack in the States, thanks in large part to Redline and also the Super Lap Battle event hosted by the parent company of Modified Mag. So rather than retire the EG entirely, I decided to turn it into more of a pure Time Attack car.

Without the limitations of a road racing rulebook, forced induction now became an attractive option. After mulling over several different options I decided on a new Kraftwerks supercharger kit, based on the Rotrex C38 blower. For more info on this kit and my installing and dyno testing of it, check out my personal website, tune2win.com We haven’t had time to put much new content up lately, but you may enjoy what’s already there, including some good info on my EG’s build.

As you’ll see over on tune2win, with the Kraftwerks kit installed my stock block K24A2 (still with Skunk2 Stage 3 cams) pumped out an impressive 412 whp at just 7600 rpm. I’ve also gone back to 15” wheels and tires, so that less airflow is allowed under the car (which was causing some rear lift, making the car a real handful to drive at the limit around high-speed circuits like Mosport and VIR). I also have a Hybrid Racing shifter kit waiting to be installed as well as one of their new timing chain tensioners (and yes, I have had a tensioner failure in the past, so I’m a big fan of this particular upgrade). Unfortunately I haven’t had time to track test the EG since installing all these new parts, but as soon as I do I’ll post a video. In the meantime, here’s a video from GT Live at VIR a few years back.

K24 EG Civic at GT Live Time Attack from David Pratte on Vimeo.

Which brings me to the end of this long-winded introduction, which is really just meant to be a “hello, I’ll be posting here from time to time about anything and everything Honda. I’ve been lucky enough to build and race quite a few other Hondas in my day, including Integra Type Rs, the afore mentioned Prelude and CRX, and of course my Lime Green Metallic EG hatch. I’ve actually come full circle with my EG at this point, with thoughts of returning it to street-legal status so that I can ditch the truck and trailer. What do you guys think? Keep it simple by taking it back to the street, or go even crazier with the Time Attack prep by lightening it and doing some super crazy DTM style areo?

Dave
Dave


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