B20 Driving Impressions

updated 1-24-01

Taking the B20Z to the track
Buttonwillow Raceway, Jan 20th, 2001.

Engine: B20Z all stock, JDM R 4-1, greddy exhaust, LS ecu and intake manifold
Tranny: JDM Y21 with LS 5th gear. Tight ITR-spec 1-4 with a freeway 5th gear.
Power: 138hp, 132ft-lbs
Tires: Kumho Victoracers, 195/55/14.
Suspension: ITR shocks, cut ITR springs, GSR swaybars, Zspeed upper A-arms

First time on race tires for me, and the EG was awesome. But the tranny was not right for this track. With Kumhos, I was in 3rd and 4th gear all the time. Only time I saw second was after braking too hard or after screwing up the Off-ramp by coming in too hot and scrubbing off speed by plowing. Fourth gear tops out at 100mph at 7000 rpm, and when i shifted to 5th, I would lose more speed shifting than I could make up in the distance to braking point. The LS 5th gear is just too low for a fast track like Buttonwillow. A GSR tranny would have been a better choice for this track, or perhaps I'll make a new hybrid tranny.

The other problem is my on-going issues with my O2 sensor. It's operating range seems to drop down when the headlights or heater fan is on, due to some yet undiscovered grounding problem. But when it seems normal, if I can beleive it, the B20 is running lean on the LS ecu at WOT (DUH!). I tried adding some resistance to the air temperature sensor, IAT (TA on the OBD0 cars), to trick the ecu into adding more fuel. It certainly adds a bit more fuel, but only in the midrange, where the injectors are operating within their range. At WOT, it remained several light bars from full rich. Pulling the plugs also confirmed the lean mix.

I did buy a FPR for the event, but the event planning kept me from installing it. I had hoped to get the fuel and cam gears dialed in before the event. So even without, the B20 rocked my world. Pulling out of corners in 3rd gear was awesome anywhere from 4000 rpm up. Frequently I could just slightly spin the inside Kumho on corner exit, so there was no reason to downshift to second. On the dyno, the power falls off starting at 5700, but I frequently found myself pulling out to 7k before shifting. I guess I was too busy braking and pointing at the next corner to feel the power fall off. 4th gear suffers from shifting so late, but it would still top out 4th very quickly. Through Riverside, and the Club Corner, I would be flat out, either holding it just below or bouncing off the rev limiter. When I took the correct line out of Sunrise, I would top out 4th gear before the start-finish. A quick shift to the too tall 5th would only net 2 more mph.

So I don't think I need the super short gears of the Y21. If I had the correct Y21 5th gear, (same as the ITR) I would have shifted from 4th to 5th at about 6000 rpm, dropping to 4800. That's right in the thick of the torque band, so it should be able to pull to at least 6000 rpm in 5th. So what is 6000 rpm in 5th? 108 mph. Oh yeah, the B20Z would have easily seen that on the main straight.

Next time: more power, taller gears.


Second Opinon: Jeff Ho-See, MR2 Turbo, 241 ft-lbs:

The last time I drove Joe's B20[B] EG hatchback was at Hybrid Track Day #1 [Streets of Willow Springs]. In the weeks leading up to Track Day #2, I had been pestering Joe to order some Kumho Victoracers instead of scratching his itch for go-fast parts. Joe seemed hesitant about doing so; after all he hardly went trackracing and what good would a second set of non-street tires do for him when he's not at the track? I pointed out that sticky tires would cut his lap times more than any other parts he could buy AND that the additional stick would really help him change his perspective about his driving technique. So finally, he bought into my propaganda (evil grin) and had the Kumho's installed on his extra set of wheels. [joe says: and he was sooooo very right!] So naturally, I jumped at the chance to drive his car with nice sticky rubber at ButtonWillow Raceway!

So while Joe fiddled with his camera, I belted myself into the driver's seat and adjusted my seating position. Time for a systems check. Now I've seen Joe do some funky things over the years with his EF hatchback, but somehow he managed to assemble a pretty nice package of parts. Joe's car had some sort of suspension work done as it handled pretty neutrally and could be balanced with throttle, gobs of torque on demand from the 2.0L B20, strong brakes with plenty of heat capacity, and a short geared transmission that needed a 5th gear that would accelerate. I don't know about you, but that looks like a recipe for asphalt kicking fun to me! I reminded myself that I ought to let his tires warm up before I drove off into the dirt with him aboard.

I'm not one for suspense, so let's get to the bottom line here. The little EG can easily shame a lot of other sports cars. This car only has basic preparation and I say that. Imagine if Joe got serious and starting getting the hardcore parts! Yikes! Anyhow I won't bore you with the details of learning how to drive his car the first lap or two, so I'll just jump right into the play-by-play.

Into the Eses, I already topped out his 4th gear. His car tackled them well, considering that FWD cars typically do not tackle slaloms well. What I could do with his EG entering the sweeper amazed me! At first I had been downshifting to 2nd while trying to straight line brake and make the corner. This is a very tight sequence under braking and it happens fast! Trying to accomplish this really unsettles the car. Next time around the magic happened : I downshifted into 3rd under braking and got the car into the sweeper at a much higher rate of speed. It felt a little too fast, but the EG didn't complain. Even in what I thought was a tall gear for a NA four banger, the torquey B20 pulled the car through the sweeper as I fed in throttle to stabilize the car and then floored it out of the sweeper. Wow o wow! You gotta love that!

Again I topped out his 4th gear in the drag strip and slowed down for Lost Hill. Coming over the Lost Hill, I accelerated into Riverside again taching out 4th gear. In retrospect, I believe Joe's EG can go with a light throttle lift into Riverside. Regardless, the light EG chassis is capable of very high entry speed into Riverside. I tached out 4th gear through it all the way into Truck Stop.

I wasn't sure if the EG could make short work of the Bus Stop. Earlier Joe had use the EG underbody to railslide the curbing. So I was slightly worried about repeating such a performance. I scrubbed off some speed with the strong brakes, shifted to 3rd gear, and dived in for the apex. The EG responded by taking the tight kink without drama as if to scold me for doubting it's abilities. I rewarded it by powering out and shifting back to 4th and again topped it out. It easily took on Club Corner at full throttle without ever a lift on entry. Drifting out to the right, I set up the car for braking going into Grapevine.

Again the strong brakes confidently got the car down to speed. The light chassis amazed me by carrying through the corner at a higher speed and I powered out and set up the car for braking again on the hill rise into the Cotton Corners.

Not much to write about the Corners, slow in and fast out. I scooted the EG out of the sequence onto the I-5 and again topped out 4th gear. What gives?

I never found a entry speed or braking line I was happy with for the Off-Ramp, but the EG handled it just fine. The magic of the B20 appeared again on exit. I simply left it in 3rd gear and the B20 pulled the car strong out of the off-ramp and we rocketed up to Sunrise.

Because the brakes provided great confidence, I dived deep into Sunrise and performed light trail braking to keep the speed up through Sunset. Again 4th gear was topped out on the front straight. *sigh* It would be hard to pass cars here without a 5th gear fix.

I called upon the brakes again to stop us in time for Sunset, and the little EG didn't seem to mind the overzealous amount of bumps at the apex of Sunset. That's what I call composure! And again topping out 4th gear, I charged back into the Esses for another lap. Repeat until tired or Joe wants to drive. :)

The EG is a joy to drive : plenty of brakes, plenty of stick, torque on demand, lightweight, high entry speeds, and easy to drive. Where do I get one? Fixing the gearing should be a top priority, but once that's done the understated EG will be a source of great irritation for other trackracers.



B20B driving impressions...

On the freeway:
Because of the B20Bs low rev limit, I installed a LS 5th gear into my Y21 tranny. The resulting gear is shorter than a true LS tranny 5th and taller than a GSR 5th. If you wanted to avoid hybrid-izing a tranny, I'd recomend a GSR tranny. Stay away from the LS tranny for NA cars. The LS 5th gear in 4.40 FD tranny like the GSR/ITR/Y21 is nice. But 5th feels like a 6th gear compared to 4th. Sometimes you will miss having a gear between 4th and '6th', but that is the compromise I chose.

But the B20 has enough torque from 2000-5000 to pull the LS 5th gear even up hills. At 60 mph all you have to do is press harder and it will accelerate without bogging or pinging. With 87 octane too. It takes a couple seconds to get from 60 to 65, but then the speeds increase faster as the B20 picks pulls out of the torque hole.

Traffic and the streets:

DAMN this engine kicks ass in traffic. Torque every where means your are always ready to pass. With the GSR, I had to be above 5000 to get the killer passing power. With the B20 it seems it is always there, anytime I am ready to pounce. Just sick sick torque from idle. So easy to catch other cars off guard, and leave the crowd behind without sounding like you are. 2000 rpm passing is so easy. 4000 rpm is even easier. I love to leave it in 4th gear on freeway in 60-65 mph go-home traffic.. just about 4000 rpm at 60, and passing is quick and clean. Just press and squirt.

I love how the engine is like a stealth powerplant. Since it makes so much power at low revs, there is little noise. No buzz. Quiet. Low revs equals stealth power.

Street Racing:
I can't beat a B18C1 EG hatch with intake and exhaust. But its close. Evev with the advantage of the Y21, the power isn't quite there yet. 1st and 2nd I feel I have an advantage, but they are over so fast it is hard to tell. 3rd we are neck and neck until I get to about 5500 rpm, and the horsepower disadvantage starts to show up.

So lets talk about shift points. Shifting by feel:
1st to 6800 rpm (LS fuel cut is 6800)
2nd to 6500 or fuel cut if it gets there fast
3rd shift at about 6300
4th shift by 6000
Then you are in the LS 5th wishing for a 6speed tranny.

Keep in mind this is basically a stock engine. And its the lower compression B20.

Streets of Willow:
I surely wasn't the fastest NA car there. But I felt it held it's own against the B16A cars, like the B16A1 powered EFs. But not Tam, and not Locash. The torque made it easy to drive. It took me a few laps to learn that I didn't need to shift as much. Eventually I figured out if I just stuck it in third and focus on my lines, I was much faster around the track. Ah the luxury of torque.

However, when going up the main straight, it was clear that it needs more top end. Especially with the LS 5th gear, it needs more rev range in 4th gear. The original y21 5th would have been nice. Oh well.

What others have to say
I let a few people drive my car. Here is what they said:

Jeff Ho-See, MR2 Turbo, 241 ft-lbs:

I guess you can consider me lucky. I've driven just about every incarnation of Joe_R's Civic (EF w/ XYZ motor and EG w/ the ABC motor)

So Joe tells me to give his B20B powered EG a spin at Hybrid Track Day (Streets of Willow); how could I say no?

Damn! Where do I get one!? Hey I've had this idea longer than Kit has, I swear it! :) I mean I've been very tempted to come back to the Honda-side for an EG B-series hybrid but the lack of torque just doesn't inspire me. This B20 motor gets respect! And the overwhelming part? It was basically a stock engine!

The B20 yields great throttle-torque response. Now I'm not talking about the buzz-buzz zip-zip throttle response Honda-heads get from lightening the car, light alloy wheels, and lightened flywheels. I'm talking about real tire smoking force at your disposal as soon as you want it.

B20 torque does a lot of great things for the EG at the Streets of Willow. The EG scampers out of the slow turns very quickly. Going from cornering or braking to accelerating happens very effortlessly. I felt more focused on my driving than keeping my eyes on the tach and paying attention to my gear choice. And how about the uphill sections? Hands down, every Honda's Achilles heel is an uphill section. The neglected B series big brother showed up it's little brothers; it commandingly terrorized the uphill sections. This thing isn't even boosted yet!

Does it need VTEC? I didn't think so. It just needed a bit more cam and maybe a ported head, and this badboy could really fly. Of course, VTEC lets you have the best of both worlds so if slapping on a B16 head works... do it!

The only strange thing I noticed was the gearbox Joe mated to the B20. I actually needed a 5th gear down the straight! But his 5th gear was a dog. I'll let him explain that one. :)

Before you go out and get a B20, be sure to get a LSD too. Heh heh!


Jeff Sloan, B18C1 EG HB:

I drove the B20 at Hybrid track day. I immediately learned why this motor is so highly regarded, and why it badly needs work to deliver it's full potential. The power delivery on the low end is where this motor shines in stock form. If you love high cam and high RPM action, a stock B20 will not make you happy. Think of the motor as an LS motor on steroids, a giant LS. It has a power band that delivers from about 3000-6000 RPMs. While in this range the motor is absolutely amazing, with plenty or torque to get you where you want to go. On the track the low end torque was great for exiting turns faster and at a higher speed. The tops end is where this motor terribly lacks right now. It rolls over and dies by 6200 RPMs. This motor badly needs a VTEC head to truly shine.

The best way to understand the B20 is to compare it to a B18C. Imagine a B18C at 7200 RPM. When you lay into the throttle at 6500-7000 RPM the car jumps. There is a lot of torque there. With the B20, that same amount of torque is available, but at 3200 RPM. When driving the B20, you can lay into the throttle in the lower RPMs and get that same jumpy responsiveness. This is where a VTEC head comes into play. The B20 is a truly impressive motor. It has low end torque numbers that the GSR motor only peaks with. The response, while in the power band, is like the response of a revved out GSR motor. Imagine starting with that much torque and going up. With a VTEC head, this motor is going to be a formidable contender on any track, street, or strip.

- Jeff

Kit Wetzler, S2000:

I drove Joe Roger's B20 equipped EG both on the track and on the
street. My car at the time was a Honda S2000. Sticking the shifter
in first, and pulling away surprised me from the start; one could tell
that there was power available RIGHT THERE. I've driven B18B cars,
which people claim are torquey, and *yawn* sure, they have some power,
but I wouldn't go so far as to describe them as torquey. When I think
of torquey, I think of the Nissan SR20DE motors in the SE-R. The B20
reminded more of an SR20, than any Honda motor I've driven.

Around town the car was marvelously pleasant, there was acceleration
available at any rpm, passing someone was just a matter of cracking
the throttle open, rather than the dropping two gears that I usually
do in even my S2000. The car felt fast to me, torquier than my S2000,
but without the high end shriek.

On the racetrack (Streets of Willow Springs) the car felt good coming out of corners. You could get on the gas and not downshift as much,
but have the torque to really squirt you out of corners. Some of the
faster hybrids were pulling us on the straights, but we'd get them
coming out of corners. The car could really use an LSD, especially
considering how torquey it is.

All and all, a very nice setup, with a VTEC head, this motor is going
to be scary fast.



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