Front-Drive Invasion: How SportCar Motion’s Integra Type R Keeps Climbing The Ranks In Global Time Attack

January 10, 2019 / by Bradley Iger

From NHRA drag-racing to Time Attack, Loi Song and the SportCar Motion crew have done it all and set records in the process. We go under the hood of their current record-setting Acura Integra Type R race car. “We started the shop back in 2005,” explains Loi Song, owner of SportCar Motion in San Marcos, California. “Like most Honda shops at the time, we were mainly focused on drag racing – we had a car competing in the NHRA’s sport compact classes, and we were the first team in a front-drive class to break the nine second barrier in street trim at an NHRA-sanctioned event.”

After the NHRA shut down the sport compact class Song's team competed in, SportCar Motion decided to try their hand at road racing. Though it took a season or two to work out the kinks, their current collection of lap records is evidence that they appear to have gotten everything sorted out.

Clearly Song and the SportCar Motion team were on to something. However, fate would later step in and change their trajectory. NHRA shut down the class and the team found themselves without a venue to race at. “Around the same time, Redline started Time Attack,” said Song. 

The new series convinced Song to pivot from the strip to the road course. “When we started we really didn’t know what we were doing,” he jokingly admits. “At those first few events, we basically just showed up with what we had and nothing would pass tech inspection. Coming from a drag racing background was a big change, so a lot of the first year was about figuring out the rules and what car setups would work.”

The team eventually got those early teething issues sorted out, though. “Last season we did really well,” he says. “We placed second in the overall standings, and we set a couple track records along the way at Willow Springs and Fontana.”

Though the Integra is certainly more race car than street machine these days, the rule set in the Limited class stipulates that factory-installed interior components like the dashboard, glass, and door panels must stay. That will change when they step up to Unlimited, though.

These days SportCar Motion effectively splits their expertise between builds focused on the drag strip and the road course. “My favorite thing to do is the road racing stuff, but we still do a lot of drag cars too,” Song says. “Lately the drag car stuff has been picking back up in popularity here on the West Coast, so right now it’s like a 50-50 ratio.”

But when it comes to the cars Song campaigns, he’s all-in with Time Attack. The first build for road racing was a fifth generation Honda Civic with a DOHC 2.0-liter K20 four cylinder engine under the hood. “The engine was pretty much stock at the time,” he tells us. “That thing made about 210 horsepower, and the car weighed roughly 2200 pounds.”

The team runs a staggered setup with wide tread up front and skinnier tires in the back. The big wing helps keep the car pinned to the ground.

That equates to a respectable power-to-weight ratio, but it wasn’t long before the SportCar Motion team was ready to take things to the next level. “These days we’re competing in Global Time Attack,” Song says. “Some of the fastest cars in North America are racing in GTA now, so it has become a very competitive series.”

SportCar Motion’s current weapon of choice is a 1998 Acura Integra Type R powered by a built 2.4-liter K24 motor. Output currently stands at about 600 horsepower thanks in part to a beefy Rotrex C3892 centrifugal supercharger and a stout bottom end.

Song says the aero kit is an important part of the car’s setup, particularly with a front-wheel drive machine. The team has massive aero up front to compensate for understeer. It’s something they developed over time from experience racing all the other front-drive cars they’ve campaigned over the years.

Though the K24 is new for this season, Song says JE Pistons have been a part of the equation for some time. “We’re currently using an off-the-shelf 87mm asymmetrical JE piston with an upgraded wrist pin, and it works beautifully,” he tells us. “We’ve been using these for quite a while and we’ve never had an issue with them. We refresh them after every season, and most of the time when we take them out they still look brand new, so we’ll put some new rings on them and go. The only time they get changed out is when there’s an engine swap or we switch bore sizes.”

Song says the current challenge isn’t about making power, but getting it to the ground. “Traction is the main issue right now, so the car now has Hondata traction control to help with that, and we’ve developed a great aero kit, which is really important for front-wheel drive cars.”

Moving up to the Integra Type R from the fifth generation Civic hatchback they’d previously campaigned was a big step forward. Song tells us that compared to the Civic it’s a better, stiffer chassis with great balance, and it has factory ABS, which is another really important feature for a fast front-wheel drive car.

Switching to the Type R wasn’t just a bid to score some cool points, he explains. “Compared to the Civic it’s a better, stiffer chassis with great balance, and it has factory ABS, which is another really important feature for a fast front-wheel drive car. Acura built the Type R for performance, and it shows everywhere. The wheelbase is also much better suited to road racing.”

The Integra sits on Tein SRC two-way adjustable coilovers. “We use a pretty high spring rate,” he notes. “24K in the front and 18K in the rear, and we use custom valving from Tein that’s designed to work with our aero package.”

The Integra is currently outfitted for Global Time Attack’s Limited class, which essentially splits the difference between the lightly modified Street class and the anything-goes rule set of the Unlimited class. “We have to run a factory dash and factory windows, along with D.O.T.-legal competition tires, like the Toyo R888 and Maxxis RC1.” 

Though the team has yet to compete this season – Global Time Attack’s recent events have been on the East Coast – Song says they’re looking forward to getting out there and seeing what the new setup can do. “We re-did the whole car this year, and it’ll be the first time we’re competing with the new K24 engine, so we plan to attend the races in September, October, and November.”

The Integra rolls on SSR Type F wheels wrapped in Maxxis RC1 competition rubber.

He adds that one of the main goals for the immediate future is to recapture their record at Buttonwillow, which a Canadian team took from them last year. After that, they’re looking to push the Integra to the next level: Unlimited class. “A sequential gearbox will be part of the upgrades,” he says. “We also want to take some weight out of the car, and of course Unlimited class allows us to use slicks rather than R-compounds.”

Front-wheel drive cars are competing for the top spots overall in these time attack events now, a development that took many by surprise, Song says. “We’ve had to figure out most of this on our own – nobody’s been telling us how to get the car to run fast times, and a lot of people have said that we couldn’t run a front-wheel drive setup with this much power. But with the right tires, traction control, and a good aero package, we’ve gotten it to work pretty well.”


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Written by Bradley Iger

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