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In The Middle Of It All: Spoon’s Center-Drive Civic

Car Features

In The Middle Of It All: Spoon’s Center-Drive Civic


History Lessons

It’s a name that brings about the idea of pure Honda performance, taking the ideas of Soichiro, building upon them, and improving performance of those cars to create what is known as Spoon Sports.

With that in mind, Spoon Sports USA has a lot to live up to, but with the Japan brand behind them they have the best support one could ask for. To prove that example, the FD2 Honda Civic Type R that they’ve used since 2014 has undergone a transformation into what you see now. However, it’s not for the reasons you may initially think.

Spoon Sports has been around since 1988, but Tatsuru Ichishima was building race cars before that under Tatsuru Ichishima Company and worked as a test driver for Honda and Mugen. His Honda Civic E-AT was the first Civic to ever enter the Japan Touring Car Championship, even before Honda. This car was the basis of Spoon and remains that way to this day, so it’s rather fitting that a Honda Civic Type R would represent Spoon Sports USA.

For Spoon, cars must be fast and durable, which is why you’ll mostly see its race cars in endurance racing over time attack. That’s not to say that you won’t see Spoon machines setting lap records, although it wasn’t the case for this particular car in the beginning. It was plenty fast but lacked durability.

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Spoon Sports has been in the USA for over 10 years, but in 2007 Aaron Wang of Go Tuning Unlimited in Orange, CA stepped up and offered to help improve the brand. Since 2010, they have been the authorized dealer and sole representative of Spoon in the USA; from branding and merchandizing to importing Spoon parts, Go Tuning and Aaron have overseen it, but even they knew that they had to have something that properly represented the brand and would appeal to most Honda enthusiasts.

While we’ve already showed you their S2000, it would be the Honda Civic Type R that would become the face of Spoon in the US with Daijiro Yoshihara behind the wheel.

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Despite what you might think, that is the sole purpose of this Civic – to be the representation of Spoon in the USA. It’s a marketing tool, and Aaron doesn’t hide that fact. “We run time attack for a much different reason than most guys do,” he says. “They go out to best their times and compete. While we want to go out, compete, and want to win, we’re out there to market the brand, get eyes on it.”

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It should also be noted that this Civic wasn’t the first choice for them. While they imported this car, which was first built by 5Zigen for Tsukuba time attack event, they also imported the Spoon NSX-R GT that ran the Macau Grand Prix. While the NSX was crashed in 2008, it was also rebuilt afterwards to be run again, but unfortunately didn’t. It was brought out of its mothballed state to the US to be compared to the Civic Type R to decide which to run in 2014 as the official race car for the USA effort. The idea from the start was to use the NSX since it had more recognition, but then something odd happened. The Civic should have been the more inferior car, but it became the car they would end up with. How, you ask? “Dai came back to us and told us it was easier to drive,” says Aaron. It was also lapping the track they were testing at faster than the NSX. So, despite its iconic status, the NSX was passed over for the FD2.

Center-Drive

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The switch to center-drive happened last year and, while it was looked as a marketing idea, there is another benefit: the shifter can be moved from the left-hand side to the right and back again.

With the original right-hand drive seating, only drivers who were comfortable with driving on that side could drive it and, in the US, that limits the driver availability. They won’t replace Dai anytime soon, but if they do need another driver to run the Civic at any point they’ll have a larger pool to choose from.

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That wasn’t the only change, either. When the Civic was first brought over from Japan it was still in Tsukuba spec with a bolt-in JDM roll-cage, no alternator, and set up to run only within the lap and a half of the short circuit. So, changes were made first in 2014 to get it a ready state for Super Lap Battle at Buttonwillow Raceway. Unfortunately, that first run resulted in the splitter falling off because it just wasn’t designed for the speeds and track. The next year in 2015, the manifold cracked and they lost a gearbox. For 2016, it was changed to what you see before you at this very moment.

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Let’s start with that center-drive configuration. Upon thinking of the idea, you probably have an idea but wonder what they do with that center tunnel. Simple, they cut it out and replaced it with flat metal. As you rightly know, nothing but the exhaust goes through that tunnel, but by relocating the exhaust exit to the front of the car, the tunnel has no use. This also means the cage needed some changes and that bolt-in one had to go in favor of a far more extensive weld-in roll-cage from Chris Eimer of Eimer Engineering (who also does work on Dai’s Formula Drift car). We’re going to touch on roll-cage design and theory in a future article, but the biggest changes were made to help strengthen the chassis and protect the driver better in the new central position.

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To simplify, the cage fits much tighter to the car with reinforcing tubes and gussets at cage junctions, coupling it to the unibody at the A- and B-pillars, and tying in the front and rear strut towers. One last point on that cage, since the driver is in the center-most position, it means the door bars can be simple crosses rather than those of a NASCAR style. The combination of those roll-cage bars and being at the B-pillar means there is a lot of impact absorption and about the least amount of risk of vehicle penetration and hitting the driver as you can get in a full-fender car.

The Momo seat has its own tubular structure that ties into the OEM center unibody structure, so it’s a secure area. To get the Momo steering wheel to the right spot, a couple of universal links had to be added, and a dash bar designed for center-drive had to be factored in. A PE Engineering pedal box was also fitted.

The MoTeC C127 dash feeds Dai info that the MoTeC M800 ECU relays to him about the engine and is tuned by Nathan Tasukon of Forward Motion Technologies. It also functions as a data-logger. To aid in steering, an electric-over-hydraulic power-steering pump is used so there is still steering assist but without the power robbing, engine-driven power steering pump found on the stock K-series engines.

The Spinning Bits

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Now, we get to the heart of the build. Well, for some people, anyhow. The K20A2 is the same Spoon Sports engine that came with the car; it’s been a very reliable piece but it has been the things around it that made it seem less so. The original turbo header was replaced by a Full Race 4-1 that was designed to work with the Honeywell Garrett GTX3576R and place it so that the compressed air doesn’t have far to go before reaching the K-Tuned intake manifold. Though, there is a GReddy Type R intercooler between them to reduce the intake charge air temperatures.

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Controlling the boost is a Turbosmart Pro-Gate 50 which dumps into the four-inch exhaust designed by Chris Eimer, which routes out of the body just behind the left-front strut tower. That’s a feat because there is a chassis structure it must pass through and was designed to do it with Vibrant 304 stainless steel tubing. By doing this, the exhaust is introduced as parallel to the car’s airflow as possible to reduce drag. Plus, it’s cool watching the flames come out of the fender.

The transmission was also once a weak factor, but Special Projects Motorsports rebuilt it with a set of Gear-X gear sets that can hold up to 600hp with 2.313 first, 1.650 second, 1.304 third, 1.080 fourth, 0.958 fifth, and 0.851 sixth ratios that put torque to an OS Giken 1-way differential.

Aero Dominance

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The aerodynamics and bodywork have not changed terribly much from the original to the current iteration. The Spoon Sports S-Tai front bumper was modified to close off unused vents but allow air to still flow to the radiator and intercooler, and the air dam was also modified to work with the APR splitter and the flat-bottom undertray. The headlights were replaced with carbon fiber reproductions while the Ings N-Spec hood was once again modified to draw air into the new location of the turbo inlet.

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The windshield tray is still missing, but it’s for a good reason. As the air passes through the radiator and intercooler, it would normally build up pressure inside it if left closed and the flow for them would be reduced or the air would exit in some fashion that wasn’t intended. The air now flows over the windshield to aid in aerodynamics all the way to the 5Zigen rear wing. That flat bottom is also the main secret of its speed, according to Mike Kojima from KW and Dai’s car chief. His reasoning is that it’s very hard to make a rear diffuser work with a car that has a belly pan, even a partial one. A flat bottom does allow it to work better by smoothing out the airflow and making sure the air stays ‘attached’ to the diffuser rather than flowing around it. A diffuser will still work on a non-flat floor, but it just won’t be as efficient. Though, I’m sure Andrew Brilliant will correct me on this one.

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The diffuser extension probably doesn’t do a whole lot considering it’s in the turbulent airflow of the rear tires, but combined with the rear canards probably does help with some air flow. It doesn’t seem to cause the rear wing to stall out, so there might only be a small drag penalty when running them. The side skirts are also interesting as they have side plates and extensions to reduce spill over to prevent a reduction in the efficiency of the diffuser. The rear wing is also there to make the diffuser more effective over providing more downforce at the rear wheels and is usually trimmed back for minimal drag.

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The wheels also changed to a prototype set of Titan 7 T-R10s in 18×9.5-inch sizing with 250/650-18 Yokohama Advan slick tires in a soft compound. The front brakes are still the Brembo monoblock four-piston calipers with a 355mm rotor. The Endless pads have been replaced in favor of a set of Hawk Performance DTC-70s, while the rear, with the original Type R calipers, have Hawk Blue 9012 pads. The dampers are KW Competition units tuned by Chris Marion of KW Suspension during Super Lap Battle. Spring rates are still considered too high, despite the downforce and relocation of the driver to center-drive.

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Daijiro Yoshihara was able to pilot the Spoon Sports USA Honda Civic Type R to an incredible 1:45.802, but it wasn’t enough to take the win at the recent Super Lap Battle in the Unlimited FWD category. The winning car beat Dai by 2.4-seconds and beat the record set by Spoon last year.

However, while it would have been nice, that wasn’t the purpose of the center-drive Civic. Its purpose was to get your attention and make you look at it. With its central driver setup, the unmistakable Spoon colors, and Dai behind the wheel, it did that in spades. If it continues to do this, it will continue doing its job. Though a win and a new Buttonwillow record would still be nice before it gets retired…

Justin Banner
Instagram: jb27tt
Facebook: racerbanner
Twitter: RacerBanner

Photos by Louis Yio
louis@speedhunters.com
Instagram: lusciousy

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