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Cadwell 4/4 – Nicole Harashima’s 1997 B16 Turbo Honda Civic Type R EK9

The most iconic car in the Honda world is, in my opinion, the Honda Civic Type R EK9. It’s every Honda enthusiasts dream to own one. Due to it being the original Civic Type R it has become one of the centre pieces for all Honda car culture around the world. It is a very important car because it was the car that made Honda’s VTEC engines as popular as they were back in the 90s and thus are today.

The EK9 epitomises everything that Honda owners love. It started out as the JDM EK4 SiR Civic. Honda then took this Civic, tweaked and fettled with it until it was a track ready machine. Its B16 set the record of the most powerful naturally aspirated production engine. It produced 182hp from a 1600cc, the highest ever (at the time) for an engine of that capacity. Honda ripped out the sound deadening and many other things in the interest of saving weight and making this car faster on track. They even gave it a limited slip differential so that it could put down its huge power on to the road. It was as if Honda gave the people the pencil and told them to draw what they wanted.

So not only had Honda designed arguably one of the best and most iconic hot hatches ever, they then decided to release another version known as the Motor Sports Edition. This very rare example was even more track focussed. It said goodbye to even more luxuries such as electric windows, mirrors, air conditioning, power steering; even the stereo was thrown out! Later, many people have adopted this approach with the EK9 and took it even further. Some of the 9s that your see on the Kanjozoku videos barely have anything left in them.

EK9s are incredibly rare over here and I remember the first time I ever saw one in the flesh. I was about 15 and was on a day out with my family in a town called Harrogate a few hours from where I live. It was in the famous Championship White, a colour which just seems to stand out when you see one on the roads. Whenever I see a car painted in this colour it immediately catches my attention and I know that I’m looking at something very special and probably rare. This colour alongside the iconic red Recaro racing seats have become the focus point for all Type Rs and seem to spark a strange feeling in all Honda enthusiasts. It instantly makes the car look faster and more powerful. You immediately get the sense that the car you’re looking at is an absolute pleasure to drive and it provokes you to spend hours on auction websites fantasising about buying one for yourself and selling all of your belongings in an attempt to make it so.

In every car scene there are cars that are regarded as “famous”. Cars that are so special that everybody within that car scene knows about them. Usually this is because the car is so different and unique that it becomes a trendsetting masterpiece. In the Honda scene there are some cars that are more popular than others; I guess that can be said about most car scenes but usually, the rarer the car the more people are interested in it. The EK9 definitely fits into this popular group. It’s probably the most modified of all the Civics. The vast number of aftermarket parts means that people everywhere are coming up with new and inventive ways of making their EK unique.

The first time I ever heard about the owner of this gorgeous Black 1997 EK9 was when I saw an article/post from a popular motoring website which stated that “this girl builds and races her own EK9”. Yupp that’s right Nicole is a female. As in a girl. Like a female girl. With an EK9. That she built herself. (I’ll give you a moment)…….

As if that wasn’t cool enough she also made the big decision last year to turbo her B16. Following her build over the past year has been very exciting to watch. Especially considering she did a large amount of it herself. So it was a delight for me when I heard Nicole would be racing at Cadwell on the day that I was visiting.

When I arrived the first thing that I noticed was that it is an exceptionally clean car. If any of you know Nicole you’ll know that she takes great pride in her cars and always likes to make sure they are clean. It’s a very rare occasion that you’ll see her with a mucky car. Under the bonnet was more of the same a very clean bay with a perfectly engineered turbo setup looked right at home alongside the B16.

Watching her smash it round Cadwell was a pleasure and listening to the noises that the car makes you get a sense of how dedicated she is to this build. Everything that she does, she does properly. Only the best parts will do. This became evident when I looked at her tyre/wheel set up. Genuine TE-37s wrapped in very sticky looking Toyo Proxes and peeking through where a set of Spoon brakes. Lots of time, money and effort has been spent getting this car to how she wants it. She has slowly made her dreams come true and the most refreshing part about it, is that she still drives this car like it’s supposed to be driven. Many people who have this much devotion towards their car get caught up in the show boating side of it. Half the cars you see at the shows will only be brought out on special occasions. Not Nicole’s, she has driven a considerable amount of the UK track network and she doesn’t hold back either.

Nicole is also very loyal to her cars. She has owned a series of Citroen Saxo’s that she also used to drive on track from relatively early on in her driving career. In addition, Nicole has since purchased a second EK9, this time it’s in that iconic Championship White colour. Judging from what I’ve seen so far it’s going to be a lot of work to get it up to her standard but I’m fairly confident we can have no doubts that it’ll get there. (So, that’s two EK9s! Yeah.)

Watching her do this turbo build has only confirmed how determined she can be. She has taken a car that for most would be their dream to own and improved it further to fulfil hers. Adding the turbo has meant that she could keep everything that we loved about the EK9 whilst releasing more of the potential bound up within it and in the process, she has achieved things that most will never experience. She has created her perfect driving machine. Surely that is what modifying cars is all about and I’m pretty sure that’s what Honda set out to do when they built the first EK9. To inspire and push people to achieve things they never thought they could; that truly is, the power of dreams.

Nicole’s Instagram - @nicoleharashima

Cadwell 3/4 – Steve Gray’s 1996 K20 Honda Integra Type R DC2

When I first started getting into Honda’s a big part of my obsession was with the Kanjo. For those of you who don’t know the Kanjo is another name for a road that encompasses the city of Osaka in Japan. Its actual name is Loop 1 and it’s used by two kinds of people. The first of the kind that use it to get to work - the second for those who use it as a race track. Yes that’s right. Kanjo racers use Loop 1 as their very own race track. It originated when one of the “One Make” racing series formed in Japan during the late 80’s. One make meaning only cars from the same manufacture could compete. Stricter series limited this further to “One Model” series where only certain models of cars (In this case Civics) where allowed to partake. The Kanjo racers took that and applied it to the Loop.

What I loved most about all of this was the fact that those guys where and still are building their very own budget race cars out of their garages at home. I loved the idea that a little Civic could be built into something so quick. Even though it was designed to be a small economical family run around. The Civic has proven to be a pretty much perfect platform for a little racer. In the Kanjo videos the Civic looks so nimble and light, but then, they need to be when they are dipping and diving in and out of traffic. The Kanjo has a real home grown feel to it and that is what I love most. They don’t waste their money or worry about things getting broken. They buy decent parts and when they break and need to repair something they throw aside aesthetics and just go for the most functional approach possible. Most of the time this means fabricating and building their own parts, or even recycling them from old Kanjo Civics.

Before I owned a Honda I used to see people over here in the UK with Civics that where modified in a way that was obviously Kanjo inspired. More commonly however, some people will modify their car somewhere in between this and a generic track car. I always thought that it looked awesome. Daily cars that can also be used as track cars and I said that if I ever owned a Honda I would take a similar approach with my car. However I have since come to realise that it takes a special kind of person to do this and follow it through.

When I bought my DC2 I was so happy just to own it. The last thing I wanted to do was start ripping parts out of it and racing it on track. I wanted to use it to get to work and back, giving people lifts etc etc and stripping out the interior would have made it pretty damn unbearable. It doesn’t have sound deadening as it is, never mind with all the interior ripped out. It was this realisation that lead me to the view that if you drive your car every day and you can still take it to the track and keep up with most stuff, then you are just a superior human being.

When I turned up at Cadwell on this particular morning I was very happy to see some DC2’s in attendance and eager to get a closer look at what one would look like when it had been modified to be used as a track car. It was then that I was introduced to Steve Gray, a heavily Welsh man who owns this insane K20 powered DC2. Although Steve hasn’t adopted the Kanjo approach with his car build he has gone down the road of making it into a track car whilst still using it as his daily. Yeah, you heard me, this is his daily…..with that roll cage.

Steve is someone who I would place in this special crop of people. He has built this amazing track DC2, with its massive roll cage and race car interior, yet he still uses it to get to work and back. He made the 5 hour journey back to Wales from Cadwell in it for god sakes. If that’s not superhuman I don’t know what is. These kind of people don’t think twice about weight saving and spending massive amounts of money on racing tyres and brakes. They just do it, because to them, nothing compares to the rush and exhilaration that comes with driving your car on track. A feeling that I imagine pushes the Kanjo racers to do what they do. Striving to make their cars perform at the best possible level.

Steve has built a beautiful car in his quest for faster lap times. This example is fitted with a K20 engine from an EP3, the aforementioned roll cage is pretty hard to miss, a flocked dash and of corse those beautiful Advan RG’s giving you a glimpse of his Willwood brake setup making this DC2 one of the best looking ones I’ve seen on track. I found myself circling this car all day every time just thinking to myself: “that’s his daily, that’s his daily, THAT’S HIS GODDAMN DAILY!” Little things about this car stand out to me making it more and more obvious that this isn’t just a very fast car on track but it has a function as well. The stone chipped carbon splitter highlights just how much this car gets used.

I wish I could be more like people such as Steve, Josh and Pete. The primary goal for their cars are to be low budget race cars. It just so happens that they can get them to work and back on Monday morning. They Throw away the if’s and the but’s and they just drive and fast. After that, whatever happens, happens. I’m hoping that one day I will pluck up the courage to take my car on track and not worry about it breaking. I have a feeling that that day, whenever it arrives, will be the start of a journey much similar to Steve’s. I just hope I can put the same amount of love into it that he has with his build.

Steve’s Instagram - @stevieg_dck20