It's hard to say why, exactly, but it's probably safe to say that there's something simply special about the Spoon Sports Hondas. There always has been, in my eyes. Even as an enthusiast that unwaveringly pledges my allegiance to German Engineering, the blue and yellow Spoon cars have always offered a bit of something to fawn over. Of course, their prowess is an obvious reason to hold them in such high regard, as is the brand's renowned quality. It's their speed, their engineering, and of course, their style too; it all plays a part. In fact, those three elements are crucial, not only in their presence, but in how Spoon Sports manages to combine them unlike anyone else.
The beginning of the story at hand reveals that this particular FD2 Civic has its roots in Japan, originally campaigned by 5Zigen as a Time Attack racer. It was heralded as a hero, having put down the fastest FF (front engine, front-wheel-drive) lap time at the Tsukuba Circuit, ever. And chances are, if you've ever played any racing simulator, you know the world-famous Tsukuba Circuit well. Eventually, the car was acquired by Spoon Sports Japan, and then later sent here to the United States, where it has held its own in the Global Time Attack series.
For years it has raced stateside, slowly evolving to meet the needs of the team and the ever-increasing competition for the Buttonwillow 13CW record. While we likely do a disservice to the Japanese with the comparison, central California's Buttonwillow Raceway is the standard when it comes to American time attack racing - it's our very own Tsukuba, in many ways. Laptimes on the #13 Clockwise layout are where it counts most, and in recent years, the FF record has been a point of contention.
Six years ago, Scion Racing's "F-Wing" TC, piloted by Chris Rado, set the Unlimited Class FWD record at Buttonwillow with a time of 1:46.730 - a time so fast, many presumed it wouldn't be beat. The "F-Wing," as it's known, is one of the most radical FWD time attack cars ever built, sporting 1200 horsepower and over-the-top aerodynamics. Chances are you've seen photos of it sprinting around the track, not only sporting a rear wing, but an impressively large one mounted off the front of the car, too. All-in-all, it's one of the most aggressive and high-tech time attack cars, period, and that means its record wouldn't be easy to beat.
It should come as no surprise then, through standard storytelling context clues, that the Spoon Sports Civic not only beat the record, but smashed it at the 2015 Super Lap Battle. With a time of 1:45.585, Spoon earned a new position at the top of the charts by more than a full second. Breaking the record is impressive in its own right, but while most of the car has been updated since the 2015 record-breaking run, it's the details that make the Spoon Sports Civic worth taking a second look.
In comparison to the unbridled F-Wing, the Spoon Sports USA Civic is rather tame. The same K20 has been under the hood for years, varying in levels of power output. Today, with its most recent evolution of parts and tuning, it produces right at 500WHP, up more than 70WHP from 2015's setup, with which it broke the record. That's just over one third of the horsepower of the competition, to be clear. A Motec ECU offers tuning and management, while a Garrett GTX35R turbocharger provides the necessary manifold pressure to produce such a power figure. The turbo is mounted to a Full Race turbo manifold, and the exhaust is plumbed right out the left hand fender, offering nothing in the way of restriction. The team at Spoon Sports envisions one final revision to the power plant for 2017, before the car is retired in favor of the upcoming Type R.
Perhaps the wildest part of the Spoon Civic - a change made for the 2016 season - is the central driving position. Major changes to the floor pan have allowed Dai Yoshihara, the car's driver, to sit at the car's center of mass, much like a McLaren F1, helping to balance the weight of the car. Centralized controls and instruments are of course part of the equation, and from the driver's seat, the experience is unique to say the least. A Momo seat and steering wheel offer some of the only tactile feedback in the otherwise barren white interior, and a Motec display reads out any necessary info Dai isn't capable of discerning himself through the pedals, wheel, and seat.
The inside of the car was further modified with a new cage layout for last year, aiming to improve strength and rigidity over the previous cage it sported from its days in Japan. While the cage offers a number of improvements, it also added weight, meaning a few bits were adjusted to shave some pounds here and there. For example, the Honda's factory headlamps have been replaced with carbon fiber blanks - thankfully, Super Lap Battle is run during daylight hours. The total weight of the car tallies in at just over 2000 pounds, meaning that despite the weight increase, it's still a featherweight by modern standards.
Underneath the car, 3-way adjustable KW Motorsport Coilovers have given the Civic its agile handling characteristics, allowing for complete control and suspension tuning, needed to achieve record-breaking speeds through Buttonwillow's corners. Mounted to the suspension components are Brembo brakes up front and stock brakes in the rear. For wheels, the car sports a set of Titan 7 forged wheels in 18x9.5 square, wrapped in soft-compound Yokohama Advan race slicks.
As for aerodynamics, it's quite clear that the Spoon Sports Civic takes a radically different approach than the team at Scion Racing. Where the F-Wing goes for broke, the team at Spoon Sports keeps things reigned in. While a serious set of canards hangs from the rear, a huge splitter juts from the front, and a wing towers over the roofline, it seems almost quaint in comparison. Clearly, it works, and it plays to their favor in more ways than one. While other teams allow form to follow function on their hunt for the best lap times, Spoon Sports USA embraces an ideology that places the importance of style and aesthetics higher than one might expect.
In fact, that's what brings the car full circle: where speed and engineering come to meet style hand-in-hand. It's one thing to make a car fast, and it's another to make one that truly looks outstanding. It's Spoon Sports' balance of both that earns them that familiar "near and dear" place in most enthusiasts' minds. Embracing the thought of "what good is going fast if you don't look good doing it" is why the Spoon colorway, and their cars as a whole, likely won't be forgotten. Then again, I suppose that could be the records doing the work too. They've got their work cut out for them; the Unlimited FWD record has been broken once again... perhaps the Spoon Sports USA team can do what they do best, and claim it once more? We'll see.