Exhaust manifold from one of Race Concepts' trademark Honda City VTECs
Exhaust manifold from one of Race Concepts' trademark Honda City VTECs|Race Concepts
Car Features

Tuner Specials: Some of Race Concepts' best builds

Race Concepts is one of India’s leading tuning houses having made their name with turbo-charged City VTECs both for the road and race tracks. Joel Joseph, founder, Race Concepts, talks us thorugh five of the brand's top builds, from a tuned 1.6-litre Zen to a resto-mod BMW E36 and, of course, the obligatory City VTEC

Team Evo India

Honda City VTEC: Naturally aspirated street build

Car looks virtually stock from outside save for the bigger wheels and tyres
Car looks virtually stock from outside save for the bigger wheels and tyres Race Concepts Honda City VTEC

Builds like this naturally aspirated Honda City VTEC define our heart and soul here at Race Concepts. The objective was simple — maximise the potential of the SOHC VTEC engine, while keeping the car reliable and requiring low maintenance. Having built Honda Citys whose power output varies from 150bhp+ to a slightly crazy 600bhp+ in our turbo-dragster, we have covered it all with this engine. Also our ITC racing program running since 2011 has resulted in the baddest and maddest R&D of our naturally-aspirated B15C2 builds (in 2019 we switched to the turbo engine, till then it was the nat-asp motor).

A close-up of that breathed-upon engine

A close-up of that breathed-upon engine

This car started life as a bone-stock factory VTEC with the owner wanting Stage 2 updates initially. Being a great fan of our ITC NA car, he was always fascinated by the revs and the purity of the VTEC engine. He then commissioned a full-blown NA build and to deliver on his needs we had to make it fast, yet keeping it within street reliability limits. The engine was uprated to our custom competition-spec internals with the cylinder head getting our signature motorsport development. Our custom ground camshaft with a special VTEC profile was fitted into the engine, along with uprated valve train components. A full close ratio gearbox with driveline updates and brake upgrade with rear disc and braided lines completed the rest of the package.

Race Dynamics ECU to handle the fuelling

Race Dynamics ECU to handle the fuelling

The chassis was also tweaked with coilovers and strut braces front and rear. So what does this result in? 190bhp from its 1500cc NA engine with 8400 revs in street, on 97 octane fuel and on a single throttle body. That’s like turning the 106bhp SOHC B15C2 motor into a DOHC B18C Type R!

Honda Accord 2.4-litre: Turbo Dragster

To aid aerodynamics the nose is blanked out save for the radiator intakes
To aid aerodynamics the nose is blanked out save for the radiator intakes Race Concepts Honda Accord

We’ve had significant success on the drag strip, building the fastest Indian front-wheel drive car to date. Our Honda City VTEC dragster was the first 1500cc FWD car to make the 11-second mark over a quarter mile and put out over 600 horses with its B15C2 turbocharged engine. Our success in drag racing has led to quite a few builds for customers looking to make a mark on the drag strip. Among the many drag cars we’ve built over the years, the one that stands out has to be the Honda Accord 2.4 in which, we turbo-charged its original K24 engine while stripping it down and caging it to be a purpose-built dragster. This was our first turn-key project car, and the objective was to deliver massive power while also keeping it reliable and running it at the races without having to need any crew or major support. Arrive, swap tyres, fill gas and race. Everything is preset and good to go — those were the goals of this project.

The first event that the car competed in was the Valley Run in 2019, two days after we delivered a box-fresh race car. The car is a full-blown package with fully-forged internals, our Stage 4 cylinder head update, competition clutch and flywheel parts, a massive Garrett twin scroll turbo and all the bells and whistles that go into building the most powerful Honda K series car in the country. The transmission was factory stock and we wanted to see how much we could push the engine and later get to the drivetrain bits, since it was a much simpler thing to do. Running 20.4psi of boost we got a massive 705bhp at the crank. This was when we knew that we’d finally untapped some of the potential of the K24 engine but nothing close to its limits. We wanted to first ensure the other parts could handle all this power and I still feel there is massive potential to unlock few hundred more horses once we have better drivetrain components and an LSD.

2.4 motor has been cranked out to 700 horses. Custom exhaust that exits from the side
2.4 motor has been cranked out to 700 horses. Custom exhaust that exits from the side Race Concepts Honda Accord

The most satisfying part of the build was that the car participated in the event without needing a service crew. The driver, who was still getting used to handling that kind of power, managed to do mid-12 seconds runs in its first shakedown with a really tall stock gearbox, no LSD and sitting at a pretty heavy 1280kg despite all the chassis teardown and roll cage setup. The feeling of having 700+ horses at your disposal is a great one, but to us, it is just as crucial to have this level of reliability to go along with the power since it's a remote project. It is proof that we’ve come a long way, and so have our projects. The lessons we learn by building cars for the road will always be a crucial reason for our success in motorsport.

Maruti Suzuki Zen Steel: 1.6-litre build

The two-door Zen Steel and Carbon are gaining cult status among the enthusiast community
The two-door Zen Steel and Carbon are gaining cult status among the enthusiast community Race Concepts Maruti Suzuki Zen Steel

Another great story of a naturally aspirated build maintaining the real character of the engine without boosting it is this 2-door Zen. The car started life as a normal 1.0-litre Zen Steel. Being an avid enthusiast, the client wanted a Stage 2 update with a 1.6 engine swap from the Baleno a.k.a G16B.

Exterior changes guarantee it looks the business
Exterior changes guarantee it looks the business Race Concepts Maruti Suzuki Zen Steel

After a few months we then decided to give it everything, since the owner wanted a weekend-only car and didn’t mind doing occasional races. As usual we started with the bottom of the engine to ensure reliability and core strength. In went our custom rods and pistons and a Stage 4 full race cylinder head treatment with massive flow improvements. Everyone knows the G16 for its long-stroke nature and absolute laziness to rev. We went about doing everything to address that bit.

Tuner Specials: Some of Race Concepts' best builds

A custom ground cam and individual throttle bodies completed the top half. Added to that mix a standalone ECU, close-ratio transmission upgrade, uprated fuel system, ignition and most importantly better brakes. We designed a radical exhaust system but it was big, it could not be housed within the engine bay so we had to bring it out of the front subframe and route it in a complete bespoke fashion. And it looked completely rad! All the work on this pocket rocket helped us crank out over 190bhp from the G16B motor at 7600rpm and setting a late 13-second pass on the quarter mile drag strip.

BMW E36: 316i Restomod

Understated elegance
Understated elegance Race Concepts BMW E36 316i

The 1997 BMW E36 3 Series is one of BMW’s all-time classics, designed to give the driver an immersive driving experience. It looks beautiful with BMW’s timeless line, low drag thanks to the aerodynamic body shape and the vortex generators. Of course what I am most interested in is the zippy M40 1.6-litre petrol motor, naturally aspirated of course, and mated to the responsive and dynamic chassis this makes it one of my favourite cars from the 90s.

Careful paint treatment and interior treatment to bring out the charm of the old girl.
Careful paint treatment and interior treatment to bring out the charm of the old girl. Race Concepts BMW E36 316i

When this particular example rolled into the Race Concepts garage, it had succumbed to thermal issues. The engine needed a rebuild and the exhaust was rusted. The car was immaculate on the outside and it had a special place in the owner’s garage, having been in the family since new. Ou job was to get the power train right and give it a new lease of life.

Nursing this car back to health was a labour of love. We went about rebuilding the M40 motor and re-engineered the entire plumbing so the cooling system would work more effectively. We did a complete tear down and installed original BMW parts to return the engine back to full factory tolerances while further improving flow in the cylinder head to make this engine work reliably as a daily driver.

Engine completely re-built keeping in mind street use and with a custom exhaust job
Engine completely re-built keeping in mind street use and with a custom exhaust job Race Concepts BMW E36 316i

We then gave it our signature stainless-steel free flow exhaust BMW E36 316i Restomod for the in-line-4 engine, mainly because the stock exhaust system had almost disintegrated. Finally, we gave the interior some TLC and the exterior was treated to paint correction and some detailed touches. This BMW E36 now reminds the owner of the joy of 90s motoring, with all the reliability expected of a modern car.

Mini Cooper S R56: Street Build

240 horses and an ideal size make for an everyday pocket-rocket
240 horses and an ideal size make for an everyday pocket-rocket Race Concepts Mini Cooper S R56

The Mini Cooper is a car that has made a reputation for itself as a peppy car with a huge motorsport heritage. So when a Mini rolled into our workshop, it was important that we maintain the DNA of the vehicle while crafting a set of modifications that helps the car play to its strengths.

Custom intake fits perfectly within the engine bay
Custom intake fits perfectly within the engine bay Race Concepts Mini Cooper S R56

The first thing we set out to do was to create a fully-custom performance intake and exhaust system and ensure we got the dimensions and fitment correct so that there wasn’t much drone to make it usable on the road. Then we re-mapped the ECU with extensive dyno tests to arrive at a map that suited the turbo size, turbo reliability and enable it to run on regular pump gas.

Custom dampers improve high speed handling as well as improve the low-speed ride
Custom dampers improve high speed handling as well as improve the low-speed ride Race Concepts Mini Cooper S R56

The next addition was swapping out the slightly softer OEM dampers to get the car more corner more happily. For this we put on a set of K-sport coilovers with our custom valving and spring rates to give the car better ride quality at speed, adequate stiffness, remove the damping harshness that the R56 Mini is typically known for and of course lower the car to get that perfect stance.

The perfect spot to be in for loads of fun!
The perfect spot to be in for loads of fun! Race Concepts Mini Cooper S R56

Going faster with 240bhp at the crank and with improved dynamics, this Mini was a proper pocket-rocket. This car clearly syncs-in with our philosophy of building the most fun to drive car for the road with perfectly handy track-oriented dynamics and of course this car is the perfect size!

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