Honda throws down front-drive gauntlet with five-track attack

Honda throws down front-drive gauntlet with five-track attack

Honda has gone five steps further than other manufacturers – by slamming its Civic Type-R across Europe, benchmarking five of the continent’s legendary circuits.

Manufacturers of all kinds of vehicles struggle to resist the allure and clubhouse gloat rights that come with a successful assault on Green Hell, the northern loop of the legendary old Nurburgring circuit. So many try but a great many fail dismally. In fact, the list is so long that if the Nordschleife wasn’t so utterly incredible in every way, most would simply dismiss it as cliche.

Honda took the front wheel drive lap record in 2014 – so played the “been there, done that” card and took the Civic on a tour of duty, using top drivers to benchmark the car on five different circuits.

Starting with Silverstone in April, Honda used triple British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal – the first outing turned on England’s famed weather, and the soaked track allowed a best lap of 2:44.45. Perfectionist Neal was understandably unhappy, returning later in the month to set a dry lap of 2:31.85.

At the beginning of last month the 228kW, direct-injected and turbocharged two-litre Civic Type R got the call-up to an even more serious circuit – the iconic Spa-Francorchamps with its super-technical corners, wild elevation changes and very hard, late, braking points. The Belgian circuit was taken on by Honda Racing’s newbie Rob Huff – done and dusted, an impressive 2:56.91.

Italy’s historic Monza was next, with Hungarian Honda WTCC driver Norbert Michelisz, There are parts of Monza that aren’t exactly built for front-drivers even those with fairly neutral balance like the Type R – the Parabolica being the toughest test – but 2:15.16.

Estoril next, with Tiago Monteiro taking on his local track, but a horror crash at WTCC in Germany wrecked the plan. Another Portuguese race driver, and WTCC safety car driver, Bruno Correia was called in at short notice – posting a solid 2:04.08 after just a day in the car.

Hungaroring, just last week, saw the final session with Michelisz back. The natural choice for the track, he had a race win at the wheel of a Type R WTCC car last year, racing for Zengo Motorsport. Two days of pushing the car to the absolute limit, and he set a very quick 2:10.85 benchmark.

It’s five track attack complete – and impressively – saw Honda Europe senior vice president Philip Ross unable to resist poking the front wheel drive bear…

“This challenge secures Civic Type R’s position as the benchmark in the front wheel drive performance segment,” he said, obviously throwing down the gauntlet to the car’s natural enemies – Renault Sport RS275, Volkswagen GTi et al.

So it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes the competition to come knocking. We’re guessing it’ll happen quickly, and then progressively quicker after that.

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