Playing race car driver for a day
Honda’s turn-key Civic TCR racer is a $172,000 thrill ride.
By Jon Wong; June 11, 2019 2:00 AM PDT
It’s not often I get nervous behind the wheel of a car, but as the Atlanta Speedwerks crew straps me into one of its two Honda Civic Type R TCR racers, I feel my heart rate quicken. The walkthrough of the ignition system and getting the sequential transmission in and out of gear doesn’t faze me, but learning how to arm the fire extinguisher system and unlatch the window nets should I need to make a quick escape, well, that’s something else.
My fear isn’t so much for my own wellbeing, but more so that I don’t want to do anything to hurt the $172,000 car with the crew and team owner and driver Todd Lamb watching from pit lane. His baby is without a doubt the most expensive Civic I’ve ever sat in, and one that needs to be racing in a couple of weeks at the next round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series at New York’s Watkins Glen International.
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When it rains, it pours. Except when it doesn’t.
With the radar showing rain quickly approaching at the mid-point of Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge, the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks Honda Civic TCR team had to choose between staying on the Michelin slicks or switch to rain tires. When that rain didn’t quite come to fruition, drivers Brian Henderson and Todd Lamb were left with an eighth-place finish in the TCR class of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Henderson led twice for a total of 13 laps, including the opening nine laps. By the midway point of the two-hour timed race, every team up and down pit lane was trying to decide when and how much it would rain.
Ultimately, the TCR class winners were cars that elected to stay on slicks. When the skies didn’t open up until after the checkered flag, the Atlanta Speedwerks Civic came home in eighth.
“We made the best decision we could at the time,” Lamb, also the Atlanta Speedwerks owner, said. “It’s easy to sit here and second guess it now, but all of the information we had said that it was going to rain. It’s a frustrating finish, but we had the pace to run with the leaders, we led laps for the third race, and I’m certain we’re going to see the results we expect very soon. We unloaded and were fast right away. Brian led laps again. Everyone did a great job this weekend, and we’re already turning our attention to Watkins Glen.”
Henderson moved into the lead on the first of 68 laps and turned the fourth-fastest lap of the race in a time of 1:30.826 (89.498 mph). The No. 84 machine, running with support from HPD and Pagid Brakes and carrying the Friends of Jaclyn charity, stayed clean throughout the two-hour race.
“We had a lot of speed this whole weekend,” Henderson said. “We led at the beginning of the race then fell back a little bit, but the strategy didn’t play out for us. The team did a great job, we just had an unfortunate finish. We’ll get them next time.”
Despite some hard luck to open the season, Lamb and Henderson sit just 22 points out of the Championship lead through three of 10 Championship rounds. The Mid-Ohio race will air on Saturday, May 11th at 11 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
Drivers Brian Henderson and Todd Lamb had the TCR podium in hand until late in the race
SEBRING, Florida (March 16, 2019) – For the second time in this young IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge season, Atlanta Speedwerks worked a combination of speed and strategy to perfection to put Brian Henderson and Todd Lamb in position to score a podium finish in the TCR class.
And for the second time this season, bad luck cost the No. 84 Atlanta Speedwerks/BHR Honda Civic TCR late in the race.
The team leaves the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 at Sebring International Raceway on Friday with an eighth-place finish that doesn’t tell how strongly the blue and yellow Honda ran throughout the race for the team, making their debut in the series this season.
Henderson started second but was already in the lead as a full-course yellow came out on the race’s opening lap. Though he relinquished the lead on the lap four restart, Henderson ran in the top-three for the first hour of the two-hour timed race.
A small bobble on lap 18, 45 minutes into the race, dropped Henderson to third, behind the leading Audi and another Honda Civic TCR. Running third in class, but with the GS cars beginning their pit stops, Henderson was running fifth overall.
With an hour remaining in the race, the Atlanta Speedwerks team called Henderson to pit lane – the first of the class leaders to make their lone stop of the race.
“What a fun weekend at Sebring, right up until the finish,” Henderson said. “It was great to run in that lead battle. The Honda Civic TCR is such a great car. Even on a difficult track like Sebring, it handled the bumps and our Pagid Brakes helped get us into the corner. That kept us up front, and the Atlanta Speedwerks team made a great call to pit when we did. Hopefully we’ve got our bad luck out of the way, because we’re really looking forward to the rest of the year.”
After a stop for fuel, fresh Michelin tires on the front and a driver change to Lamb, the Honda was back on track. As the remaining leaders made their stops over the next three laps, Lamb cycled back to a 2.37-second gap over second-running Tom O’Gorman’s Honda.
But less than one lap later, the race’s second and final full course caution erased that gap, as well as the 14 seconds to third place and the 21 second lead over fourth. With the GS class cars making their second and final pit stop under yellow, Lamb was riding in 2nd overall position, still leading the TCR class, behind the pace car.
Poised for the final 30-minute dash to the finish on the lap 35 restart, Lamb’s momentum literally disappeared. The Civic unexpectedly lost power at the green flag, dropping several positions.
“We really don’t know what happened yet,” Lamb said. “At one point, it felt like it was at 50 percent power. I reset the car and fired it back up, and everything seemed fine. We came to the green flag and as soon I stepped on it coming out of turn 17 I could feel it switch to low power mode. I just got out of the way. We fell right to the back of the pack and I spent the rest of the race resetting it every lap and trying to keep every position I could.”
Though the car made it to the finish, it was a lap behind the eventual winning Honda. Despite the disappointing finish, the season-long momentum continues. Lamb’s best lap of 2:15.757 (98.129 mph) was the second quickest of the race in the TCR class. And, of course, the team found itself out in front – just like in Daytona, when Lamb led a flat tire with minutes remaining in the four-hour race.
“We keep putting each other in position to win, and that’s all you can do,” Lamb said. “We’ll come back the next time and hope to put it all together.”
The Atlanta Speedwerks team has a lengthy break in the schedule until round three during the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, May 3-5. The Mid-Ohio race is another two-hour race for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge championship.
The Sebring race will air on NBC Sports Network on Thursday, March 28 at 3 p.m. EDT.
About Atlanta Speedwerks
Atlanta Speedwerks is a professional road racing team and prep shop, providing road racing services, car builds, roll cages, and parts. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the company runs winning arrive & drive programs in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup and SCCA Spec Miata, among others. Professional coaching and driver development round out the company’s offerings.
Ready to make your racing plans for 2019? Atlanta Speedwerks has several options to make it easy for you to show up with your helmet and race!
Join us for one of the following programs:
Option 1: PRO LEVEL IMSA TCR arrive and drive program in Honda TCR car with sequential gearbox. Includes coaching, tires, entry fees, fuel, crew, car rental, and all consumables. Top level program, 10 race weekends plus Daytona Roar test. $250k per driver (2 drivers) for the season plus insurance. Option to co-drive with a pro driver for additional cost.
Option 2: Global MX-5 Cup series arrive & drive program with front running team in 2019 spec Global MX-5 Cup (ND2) racecar. Includes coaching, tires, entry fees, fuel, crew, car rental, and all consumables at $120k/season. 2018 spec (ND1) racecar available for $100k/season.
Option 3: Spec MX-5 Challenge arrive and drive program. Includes tires, entry fees, fuel, crew, car rental, and all consumables. Identically prepped, series owned Mazda MX-5 (NC) racecars. $50k per season.
Downloadable/printable version: Racing opportunities 2019
Contact Todd Lamb 248-797-0309 or todd(at)atlspeedwerks(dot)com for more info or to sign up.