By using one of Honda’s lightest chassis and adding one of their most powerful four-cylinder motors, a group of Swiss club racers have achieved acceleration that rivals that of the Porsche 997 Turbo and the Ferrari 458 Italia.
Tuned by Emmental Garage, this stripped CRX is outfitted with a six-speed gearbox and a 2.4-liter K24 from an Accord Type-S. Not only is this powertrain light, but it offers an accessible powerband, horsepower, and 221 lb-ft of torque to play with. It’s not earth-moving power, but it’s enough to spin the driven wheels easily.
Additionally, the shift action has been optimized so there’s very little time lost when shifting between the closely-stacked gears. Keep in mind this lightened Honda weighs a mere 1,760 pounds, so it isn’t hard to see why it can nearly match a 997 Turbo in a drag race down Hockenheim’s straighter sections.
Yet, it is outgunned by the Turbo, which benefits from four wheel-drive and 457 lb-ft of torque from just 2,000 rpm. What really keeps the CRX in contention—and ultimately gives it an edge—are its KW coilovers, widened track, aerodynamic pieces, EBC yellow pads, and K Sport six-piston brakes. These allow the Honda to carry more entry speed into all but the slowest corners, accelerate with similar urgency, and stop more abruptly than the Porker—ehm, Porsche.
When up against a normally-aspirated Ferrari 458, it has the enough grunt to just keep in touch. In fact, it’s low-speed acceleration is slightly better than the Ferrari’s, but Imola’s long straights don’t suit the Honda’s short gearing.
It is also an undeniably demanding car to drive. Since it’s an analog machine, it requires a delicate touch and a cool head to get the most of. It isn’t sanitized or softened by any electronic aids, and so wheelspin is never out of the question at slower speeds.
Eager to catch the elusive Ferrari, the Honda’s driver occasionally stabs at the throttle and lights up the front tires; forcing him to lift off the throttle, regain his intended line, and then accelerate again. Exacerbated by lots of steering lock, this wheelspin hampers his exit speeds dramatically.
Fortunately, the CRX’s handling grows more manageable with speed. The aerodynamic elements help it trace tidy lines through the faster sections at Imola, and in these high-speed corners, the tires are never traction-limited. However, his efforts go to waste after he fails to heel-toe properly while braking for the Variante Alta (3:50), and locks his front tires long enough to send him off into the grass and spoil what chance he had. It was a hard-fought battle and a truly respectable attempt, but perhaps the prospect of outrunning a Ferrari in a Honda and the potential bragging rights went to his head and spoiled his concentration.