There’s something special about seeing fully restored race cars from back in the day go wheel-to-wheel on track—especially when its a high-strung Honda banging off the rev limiter. Recently, period driver Peter Cunningham and his team at RealTime Racing re-acquired one of its former Integras and completed an extensive restoration of the car, returning it back to its iconic orange-and-white glory. Not long after that, the car was back out on track, ripping the car around Road America in a vintage race that saw Cunningham cutting it up with Porsche 911s, Datsun 240Zs, and other race cars from bygone eras.
The Acura Integra Type R (ITR, for short) has a lofty reputation, which has lately engendered some outlandish sales. The car was laser-focused, impossibly precise, and meticulously crafted. And like many ‘90s Hondas, it was a balanced whole that was vastly more than the sum of its parts. Credit for this goes to Honda’s world-class team of engineers, led by Chief Engineer Shigeru Uehara, the development lead of other Honda legends such as the S2000 and the NSX. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
Uehara and his team obsessively optimized the car’s suspension and handling. The result is arguably the best-handling front-wheel-drive car ever created, surpassing the likes of other Honda greats like the CRX Si. It’s clear from where the modern Civic Type R draws its inspiration.
A carefully massaged 1.8-liter DOHC inline-four with VTEC revved to a stratospheric 8400 rpm and produced more horsepower-per-liter than any other naturally-aspirated car of the time, including the Ferrari F355.
The car was a perfect candidate for racing; Uehara and his team went to great lengths to maximize extreme weight-saving and chassis-reinforcement. (To say nothing of the drivetrain combination.)
Eter Peter Cunningham, owner and racer for the legendary RealTime Racing team. Cunningham’s team had built a solid resume of racing success with Honda and Acura products leading up to the arrival of the Integra Type R in 1997. It was a natural fit for the Real Time’s 1997 campaign into the Speed Touring Car Championship.
From 1997–2002, the RealTime Type R’s dominated the series, securing five of six drivers’ championships, four manufacturers titles, and 23 race wins. Perhaps more impressive—the cars arrived at the RealTime shop essentially race-ready. “We put in a fancy cage, changed the springs and shocks, and that was about it,” said Cunningham. RealTime tuned the engine to run a slightly higher redline than the road cars—9000 rpm versus 8400—and ran a bone-stock gearbox.
In 2019, Cunningham is hardly tip-toeing around out there at Road America. Acura followed Cunningham to the race and created the video below with some history and on-board highlights from the race. Cunningham left it all on the track as he sliced and diced with the other drivers—and even beyond that, there’s something magical about listening to an inline-four scream up beyond the 7000 mark.
Sit back and enjoy a brief history lesson and a driving tour-de-force in one of the most dominant race cars of its time. Oh, and don’t forget to crank up that volume.