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Author Ryan Leecock
Categories RSX, Motorsports
Create Date October 03, 2002 13:13
Last Update February 08, 2005 18:35
Peter Cunningham Interview

We were able to take a moment from Peter Cunningham's hectic race schedule to ask him some questions regarding the imminent debut of RealTime Racing's new RSX. As you may know, RealTime currently runs the proven Integra Type-R in the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship. And with only two races remaining on the 2002 schedule, Peter and his young Brazilian teammate Pierre Kleinubing are first and second in the points. I know many enthusiasts will be eager to see what RTR has done to the RSX.

-With the points situation being what it is, who's going to drive the RSX at Road Atlanta next week, you, or Pierre?

Actually, neither one of us. The points race is so tight, we've thought long and hard about even taking that chance at all, but Acura would like to see the new car on the race track before the end of the year. So we decided to look outside the box, or the team, anyway, as the case may be. So we've asked one of our former RealTime drivers, Kevin Schrantz, to do the honors. Kevin won the Rookie Championship for our team in 1999, and finished third in the Drivers' Championship the following year. This year, he was hired to drive a pretty trick Volkswagen Jetta. That program started the year strong, but succumbed to mechanical gremlins which has forced Kevin to miss a few races, and Atlanta was one of them, so he was available.

-Why is driving the RSX a risky proposition? Is the new car not as fast as the Integra?

The team is very excited about the potential of the RSX, and depending on the particular track, the new car is at least as quick as the tried and true one. We've tested the RSX at Blackhawk, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Ginger Man. And reliability has been 100%. But the Integra is a known entity, and rather than taking a chance with the points, Pierre and I decided not to mess with a proven package.

- When did you start to work on the RSX to make it your next race car?

We took delivery of our first RSX just after the end of the 2001 World Challenge season, and began to tear into it by November. Testing didn't commence as early as we'd have liked, but the race schedule hampered things a bit. Our first wheels were turned in early May, and we've been out as recently as the week before Laguna. We've got two other cars in the queue in various stages of completion, but they won't see any competition this season.

- How many people at RealTime are responsible for the car?

We have ten full time guys dedicated to the race program, and each of them has played a role in the development of the RSX. Touring Car crew chief Jerome Zimmermann gets special recognition for leading the RSX development charge, and for building the engines. And the one guy that put in the most hours on the project had to be Duane Wickham. And when he wasn't actually working on the cars, he was designing the RTR T-shirt. Honorable mention goes to Matt 'Mook' Moga, who builds the gearboxes and axles. Andy Kanael is our cage specialist and fabricator; Curt Jung tunes the engine management; Team Manager Nathan Bonneau figures out what else we can spend money on; and I occasionally leave the carpeted area to go back to the shop to see why we have to spend it.

- What modifications from stock have you done to it?

Exactly how one of our RSXs is prepared makes for an article in and of itself, but in a nutshell, and based on the limitations of the rules, the modifications have to do with unibody-prep and safety cage, suspension and brake upgrades, weight reductions, and engine tuning. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Well let me tell you, the SPEED Touring Car (and GT) Championship is a team sport. I remember hearing about how many hours it took to prepare an M-Sport WRC Ford Focus. I forget how many thousands of hours each tub spent in their shop before completion, but the number was unfathomable. The cars we run are much closer to stock configuration than a World Rally Car, but if we sat down and added up (no, we don't have time) how much time it takes from start to finish for one of these Touring Cars, it would definitely be scary. Now imagine if you will, the teams out there who didn't choose a Honda or Acura as their platform. Mr. T would take pity on them all.

- What is the suspension brand/type, including type of bushings, shocks, springs, anti-roll bars, and brake pads?

We replace all the stock rubber suspension bushings with monoballs, replace the stock strut package with Moton triple-adjustable dampers and Eibach springs, and to help steer with the back tires, we replace the rear sway bar with a very fancy RTR Mombo anti-roll bar. And the brakes on this car are amazing: Brembo four-pot monoblock calipers & 12.6" rotors on the front, and lightweight European Touring Car two-piston Brembos & solid 11" rotors on the rear. The brake fluid only travels through Goodridge lines, applying pressure to the Hawk brake pads. The thing to remember here is, we don't want to stop fast, we only want to slow down enough to make the next corner...

- Have you made any motor mods? What is the HP? What are the intake/exhaust/header brand/types?

Just like the Integra Type R, the rules for the RSX are quite limited. We have close to stock compression, stock block & cylinder head, JDM-spec Type R camshafts, stock intake manifold, and RTR/Gemini stainless exhaust header with RTR exhaust system. All fluids are replaced with Red Line Synthetic Lubricants and the sparking plugs are upgraded to BOSCH Platinum units. The horsepower number is not published at this time, but you can imagine, it's hard to improve too much on a good thing.

- Are there any tranny mods, gear changes, or an LSD?

We're using the stock JDM-spec Type R six-speed LSD with no mods.

- Can you tell us the wheels/tires type/sizes?

At this time, we use SSR 17"x7.5" wheels. These are some of the lightest road wheels we've found, but they are not cheap and you can't hit anything very hard with them, or they'll look like stop signs. The specification-tire used in the Touring Car Championship by every car is a Z-rated street tire: Toyo Proxes T1-S with a tread width of 225mm. And with few exceptions, an aspect ratio of 45 fitted on 17inch wheels. Some people have argued that we should be running on a race tire, but it is my contention that it really doesn't matter when everyone is on the same stuff. In fact, some would say these tires make the cars harder to drive, which has the driver playing a larger role in the outcome of a race distance. In any case, we don't have a choice as we once did, so end of story.

- What ECU brand/type is being used?

Previously we used the replacement Mugen computer, which was very reliable and, in our own dyno tests, did not leave much HP on the table. For the RSX, we've employed a similar system to the NSX -- made by EFI Technologies. This set up includes the ECU, data logging, and the complete wiring harness from the front of the engine to the taillights. It uses all military-spec connecters, and is very clean and sanitary.

- Are you using an aero/body kit?

The rules require all stock bodies and approved aero kits. In our case, we use the Acura dealer-offered body kit, with an RTR front splitter and spec-rear wing.

- Are you required to have the same minimum weight as the Type-R?

The Integra Type R minimum weight is 2510lbs, with driver and minus REWARDS weight. The RSX minimum weight is 2475.

- Are you allowed different modifications to the engine compared to the Type-R?

Not really. The Integra runs US-spec Type R cams as delivered, but on the RSX, since the US doesn't (yet) have a Type R version, SCCA Pro Racing has allowed us this upgrade. For the record, every single car running in the SPEED Touring Car Championship is allowed big cams, with the exception of the Integra Type R. And the RSX is not far behind in this distinction considering its stock part number.

- Was the RSX more difficult to build up than the Type-R?

Intrinsically? No. But the price of admission in this championship is a moving target. In 1997, our Integras were considered high-zoot. Compared to the CRX days in the late Eighties when we'd bolt in an Autopower roll cage and show up at the track, or even the Prelude days of 1993-'96 that upped that ante; those Integras were built to a significantly higher standard. And that standard is not impeding their continuing ability to run up front. The point is, as the series has grown since '97, the bar is always being raised. Anyone who's done an inspection of the 2002 Touring Car paddock knows this firsthand. When the RSX gets unloaded from the RealTime transporter for the first time, I believe the team's hard work will be appreciated in a variety of ways. From the TOTAL Auto Body paintwork to the Valley Graphix. And at the risk of sounding like BAR prior to the start of the 1999 F1 season, I think some folks might be a little scared when they see the new car.

- Do you think the RSX has more potential than the Type-R?

Ultimately, I believe it does. But any model of automobile has a very long road to travel before surpassing the record of the Integra Type R. That model is the most successful Touring Car in the history of the series. More poles, more race wins, and between Pierre Kleinubing (1997, 2000, 2001) and Michael Galati (1998, 1999), the last time some other make won the Driver's Championship was when Galati won Rookie-of-the-Year and the title driving a RealTime Honda Prelude in 1996.

- What do you like better on the RSX than on the Type-R?

I like the 200cc boost. There is no substitute for cubic inches (centimeters).

- What do you like better on the Type-R than on the RSX?

I like the amount of development that the Integra has enjoyed. Upon its debut, it started at a point that took advantage of the degree of suspension knowledge from the Prelude. On the other hand, the RSX has an all-new suspension system, and as much as we've learned about it in testing thus far, there is no substitute for a five-and-a-half year romance.

The Temple of VTEC will be at the Road Atlanta race on October 10-12th. We will have more details and pictures of the RSX Touring car afterwards. Stay tuned. -tn

Copyright 2002, Temple of VTEC

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