West Michigan Honda Meet 2019
by Rob Wilkinson - 08/01/19
Once a year in Southwest Michigan every single Honda in the world converges at Gingerman Raceway for the annual West Michigan Honda Meet. Ok, maybe not every single one, but standing in the middle of grid and seeing three full lanes of Hondas from top to bottom, it feels like it.
The precursor to #GRIDLIFE, West Michigan Honda Meet is where it all started for Chris Stewart and the gang who produce the Midwest’s favorite motorsports festival. They wanted to hang with their friends and do hoodrat racecar stuff, and Gingerman provided the perfect backdrop for a track day. Starting 16 years ago, friends and family from all over the Midwest started to gather at the track to share their passion for life, liberty and the pursuit of Honda. Take away the competitive nature of Time Attack and the huge festival crowd, add a few more barbecues and a roaming chop-top limousine bar, and you've got Honda Meet. And boy are there Hondas, as far as the eye can see.
The badges are familiar. EG, ITR, EF, CTR, EK, NSX. All the big ones, all the hits. Every time you spot something clean across pitlane, another one breaks your neck from the other direction. JDM fronts, Volks everywhere, widebodies and carbon splitters, sticker Hoosiers... the hotness is hard to keep track of, but here we go.
With delays holding the build back right before #GRIDLIFE Midwest, co-founder Adam Jabbay's top-to-bottom DIY EF hatch finally made an appearance in all its vintage glory. With WMHM regular Ryan Kristoff absent for the weekend, Ryan’s “mini Nascar” tube-front CRX STL racer was no longer the big attention getter. “Night Ripper,” Jabbay's newly finished GLTC build, had taken the title of most popular car before it even rolled off the trailer. This thing is a ground up build, with repositioned driver seating, extended steering column, custom built cage and fuel cell, the list goes on. Stay tuned for a feature from #Gridlife photographer Chris Sullivan!
One quick glance around pitlane and you realize that this whole event might as well be called s2000 Meet. They’re everywhere, and it makes perfect sense. The s2k is renowned for its balance and handling, so that makes it a perfect grassroots track car with a potent little motor. At WMHM you’ll find an example for every part of the spectrum, from stanced show cars to fully prepped racecars that spit flames and push major psi, the s2000 has huge representation at Honda Meet.
Instructor Scott Hollingsworth brought out his wild looking turbo F20c time attack car, Will Long had his THMotorsports s2k wrapped in Nyan cat, the East Coast Boys brought a couple of Voltex-equipped track monsters and set some of the fastest times of the day, and a number of stock units played on track for the first time. It’s a super welcoming event for anyone with any level of track experience. There is even an instructor class for the novice driver looking to improve their speed and comfort level.
The next thing you notice is that everyone seems to really, really love Honda Fits. Like really love them. They’re everywhere too. But a lot of them sound different. Like really different. Open the hood and half these Fits have a 220+whp K-swap. In fully gutted trim under 2000lbs, some of these things are absolutely flying out on track. For those with stock motors and street-trim cars, #Gridlife offers a Spec Fit class with a budget friendly formula that encourages moderate builds and super close racing. For a Honda fan, it’s super cool to see a pack of these all pit out at once and stay nose to tail for the whole session.
For another good time, head down to the Hard Times Racing camp to chat up Charlie Ensslin about his recently acquired Honda Fit “Klapp Trap,” professional driver Tom O’Gorman’s storied racecar in which he got his crowd funded start. Charlie now runs the former Hasport car in the Gridlife Touring Cup series, and was kind enough to hand me the keys at one point over the weekend for a session. Although the greatest weakness of the car (outside that it doesn’t go very fast) felt like some hefty movement under braking, it rotated like a champ on entry with a little trail braking and left you filled with confidence driving hard to the apex. With a Solo II running on the dash, it was incredible to try different entries and watch the delta on exit, knowing immediately what worked and what didn’t without having to review data afterwards. The immediate feedback from the display was invaluable.
Jackie Ding was present and accounted for in his soon-to-be-retired TFWorks s2000, Danny Dang brought out his show worthy ITR, Brian Gillespie and the team from Hasport brought their turbo Prelude Time Attack car, Ben Ford of Gears and Gasoline brought his EK CTR, and of course the K-Miata team were on hand to showcase their awesome Honda-swapped Mazdas. Company founder Dave Calzada had his k-powered NC Miata track build out on Formula Atlantic rubber, and John Koster brought his GTX3076R-powered 550whp NC street monster to showcase their work.
Koster also brought his Honda EG time attack car “Panda,” in which he gave rides all weekend, battled it out with the Hasport Prelude, and was setting blistering times on Hoosiers. Honda Meet regulars Levi Brown and Mikey Brzezinski also had their super quick K-swap EFs out on track for Ramblers Racing and Chirp’n 3rd. If you ever need to find them, just look for the wacky waiving inflatable arm flailing tube man flying high above Levi’s camp. He’ll be out on track running sub 40s but will be happy to chat about his Coors overflow bottle or T11 braking points when he gets back.
Or course there was no shortage of Integras either. We saw a number of clean ITRs, a couple of JDM fronts, a few trackrats, and a couple of boosted Tegs that were taking people to Gapplebees on the straights. The highlight for me was definitely seeing Danny Dang’s in person and getting to check out his cage work up close.
All in all, Honda Meet is about family. We see new cars and faces every year, but the concept remains the same: Have fun, go fast, and look out for each other. In no other place have I found a better way to combine all those things with our favorite 90s Honda shitboxes. See you next year!