From Boxster to Honda: a good move?

ITR_PJA_7_491dc82abdffa-lightboxThis was a good thing in general but the reduction in remuneration that comes with no longer being on expenses would mean that two cars would be a struggle to run. I was thinking of what I could own next and I was coming to just one conclusion. I had passengered and had a quick drive of a friends ITR and it was really the only thing that interested me besides a Porsche 968 and the Porsche would cost more to buy and run. I wanted something that I could enjoy and give a bit of stick to without getting too worried about the abuse it was receiving, so an ITR seemed like the right direction in terms of spirit of drive and cost to purchase/run.

In May 2005 I was notified by an Evo forum member about a car advertised for sale in the north east. I went to look at the car and ended up travelling back up a couple of weeks later to collect it. The previous owner had bought it a couple of months before from the local dealer but decided that he wanted a Leon Cupra R instead. Price paid was £10k. A lot of money for a five year old car but it was relatively low mileage (28k) and in excellent condition. Also because it had been supplied through the Honda used car scheme it came with a two-year warranty and free breakdown assistance. I found out from ringing the dealer to check on the car that the initial owners were a couple who loved their Type-R’s and had run all models at some point or other. It seemed they had taken good care of it.

After 45 days of usage under temporary insurance cover I still hadn’t sold the Boxster or the Golf so I decided to put the Integra off the road until I had sorted the other cars out. Eventually I did manage to sell both the other cars so on my return after a long break abroad I finally got around to re-taxing and insuring the ITR. Back to one car now but at least every journey had the potential to be a fun one!

I find as an everyday car it’s fine to live with – the only really annoying thing about it is driving it on motorways. 4,000rpm at 70mph does not make for relaxed cruising. Still I know that the Honda reliability (touches wood) is going to stop it from breaking down and I’ve had no issues apart from a dead battery – caused by it being stood for 6 weeks.

Running costs haven’t been that cheap but that’s mainly because of the amount of use the car has had in the last year. The annual service and a replacement battery came to £210 and apart from some new tyres for the MOT that would have been it. However the car has been used and used hard. It’s seen time at Bruntingthorpe proving ground twice, Elvington, Oulton Park, Bedford Autodrome, Millbrook proving ground, ProDrive proving ground and more recently the Nürburgring (more about that next time). Because of this track use the car has had two intermediate oil changes and I’ve had to buy 6 tyres for it in the last year. Thankfully the tyre usage has been cut down thanks to a friend lending me his track wheels for a couple of events. Soon I hope to sort out my own set. Annual insurance would be about £800 for a standard policy. However my policy also covers my driving club friends to drive the car fully comprehensively and also covers me for all track days and subsequently costs a bit more.

The car has been a lot of fun on track and on most occasions I’ve found the OEM brakes to be adequate for what the car has been asked to do. However a trip to Bedford circuit in February 2006 showed the brakes in poor light. After a mere two hot laps of the track the brakes were juddering considerably (although still managing to stop me). Before paying out for some big brake set up I thought I would try a more performance orientated pad (Ferrodo DS2500) and some new discs. The result is impressive. I’ve yet to try the car again at Bedford, which I consider to be pretty hard on brakes but the retardation they provide feels much stronger and they have not yet faded or shown any negative characteristics.

The Recaro seats do a reasonable job of holding you in place laterally on the road and track but the standard belts are a big disadvantage on track. A friend had a pair of Sabelt 4-way harnesses for sale and they were purchased and fitted with help from a fellow ITR owner (they’re a friendly bunch). Due to the requirement for good mounting points this has meant the removal of the rear seats but the difference in having harnesses on track is amazing. You can feel what the steering is doing as you are not using your arms to hold you up in corners or under braking. Having heard lots of rumours about the risks of harnesses in cars without roll-cages I spoke to a friend who spent many years working as an accident investigator and he dispelled most of the fears that are brought up on the Internet. A month or so after taking his advice I drove with him in my car at Millbrook proving ground and given a choice of harness or OEM belt he chose the harness. If they’re good enough for him then they’re good enough for me! Clearly a cage would be safer still but at the moment it’s not going to happen.

The only other modification I’ve made to the car is the addition of a Mugen accelerator pedal. This was bought for the distinct purpose of making heel and toe changes easier to do and it has made a big difference.

Most cars are only driven by their owners and spouses but my membership of the High Performance Club has led to the car been driven by at least a dozen other drivers. Overall the feedback on what they think about the car has been very positive. In fact you can tell who’s been driving it by the huge “VTEC-grin” on their face at the tea stops. On one particular drive out I got to drive a members chipped Octavia RS. Surely when he drove the ITR he would hate its comparative lack of midrange? After a couple of pointers about how to get the best out of the car he soon got into his stride and his earlier comment about “not being used to using so many revs” was soon forgotten about as we howled along in the VTEC range looking for an overtaking opportunity. After about ten minutes driving along the excellent B1275 to Helmsley, he turned towards me in the passenger seat, displayed the VTEC-grin and said, “Yes, I understand why you bought it now”. Another new fan of the so called “torqueless-wonder”!

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Phil Abbot