Su­perb track out­ing ul­ti­mately cut short

Motor (Australia) - - LONG TERMERS -

CU­RI­OUSLY, in the USA the Honda Civic Type R has a cult fol­low­ing for – no kid­ding – how it looks. Im­me­di­ately after tak­ing de­liv­ery, many own­ers fit lower, stiffer springs along with more ag­gres­sive wheels. Granted, this has a fairly trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect on the car’s looks, yet messes with the han­dling of pos­si­bly the most ac­com­plished front­drive per­for­mance car ever made.

We think we’ll stick with the way it looks if it means the han­dling is un­touched. This month, we were re­minded of the Type R’s chas­sis bril­liance yet again as we sub­jected our Cham­pi­onship White long-ter­mer to a proper hard out­ing at the track. Sandown Race­way, in fact (and de­spite the Win­ton pho­tos) with Evolve Driv­ing.

Able to fo­cus on the Type R over mul­ti­ple ses­sions, we gained a deeper un­der­stand­ing of its not-in­signif­i­cant tal­ent. For a start, it’s very easy to get com­fort­able in the Type R – it takes very lit­tle time to work your way up to its lim­its. From there, you are struck by its lovely con­trols, tena­cious lat­eral grip, im­prob­a­bly good trac­tion and fre­netic ac­cel­er­a­tion, 206km/h reached at the end of the back straight.

But also, you no­tice it has the sta­bil­ity of a car with a longer

wheel­base – prob­a­bly ow­ing to the in­de­pen­dent rear end – yet you can still hus­tle it through tight cor­ners like a smaller ve­hi­cle, no doubt thanks to the fact it weighs a rel­a­tively lithe 1380kg.

The weight, or lack of, sub­tly en­hances al­most ev­ery as­pect of the Type R ex­pe­ri­ence on track. There is no pa­tience re­quired of the tyres and brakes like in a heav­ier car.

The Type R, too, is su­perbly poised, a slight de­fault un­der­steer eas­ily tweaked the other way on the brakes into cor­ners, where you find your­self ask­ing more and more of the out­side front tyre – and it oblig­ing – bal­anc­ing an obe­di­ent rear end on the brakes.

And boy does it work its out­side­front hard at Sandown. Erm, sorry Honda, you might want to or­der a new set of Con­ti­nen­tals for the car.

And for those who own a Type R and in­tend to track it, we sug­gest re­plac­ing the SportCon­tact 6s with more track­fo­cused rub­ber like a Miche­lin Pilot Sport Cup 2, the tyre Honda used for its Nur­bur­gring front-drive record.

The ex­cel­lent Con­tis, while re­main­ing the pick for road use, need to be care­fully mon­i­tored and nursed dur­ing a track day and ideally ro­tated be­tween ses­sions. Their ad­dic­tive lat­eral grip and feel, com­bined with rel­a­tive on-track fragility, is ex­actly the test of self-re­straint you go to a track day to get away from. And so there was very lit­tle tyre nurs­ing on our part, and no ro­ta­tion, the out­side front tyre last­ing three 20-minute ses­sions be­fore we had to park the car.

The Brembo brakes fared much bet­ter, with­stand­ing more con­sec­u­tive hard laps than a nor­mal mer­ci­ful owner might sub­ject them to. The pedal was al­ways there and al­ways worked, although to­wards the end of their very heavy work­out the stock pads and ro­tors started to wilt. Later, back on the road, un­for­tu­nately they very much felt like they had spent time on a track.

We would sug­gest fit­ting af­ter­mar­ket pads and ro­tors if you in­tend to track your R. Also, keep off the curbs on the stock wheels. It seems that the 30-pro­file tyres dis­tort enough at the ragged edge that if you let the car run out onto an exit curb, you can scratch a rim. Which will make you feel very guilty and sad, take it from us...

When you aren’t wor­ry­ing about the tyres or stress­ing about giv­ing the brakes a han­gover, on track the Type R is a grat­i­fy­ing, sen­sa­tional drive. There is some­thing deeply spe­cial about its han­dling we’ve only ex­pe­ri­enced in a few cars many times its price. You and the car eas­ily be­come one or­gan­ism; rarely do you feel to be cajoling it. It’s fun in a how-fast-and-how-good-is-this-thing kind of way – rather than sur­prise-here’s-some-over­steer. But if you want over­steer, it will hap­pily do that as well if you know how to ask.

The Type R did a 1:26.4 at Sandown in the hands of this am­a­teur, a 1:24.9 pos­si­ble by com­bin­ing best sec­tors ac­cord­ing to our VBOX tim­ing gear. Un­doubt­edly it would go faster again with more brav­ery or a race driver. –


BE­LOW Out­stand­ing chas­sis bal­ance and con­trol puts the fo­cus on you, the driver

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