We all knew this was coming. Although Honda wouldn’t explicitly say it when the new Civic Type R was revealed in Geneva, it was pretty heavily hinted that the hot hatch monster was going to have a crack at the front-wheel drive Nurburgring lap record formerly owned by its predecessor.
Had a crack it certainly has, and it’s snatched the FWD ‘Ring crown from the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S by around three seconds with a stunning 7min 43.8 lap.
As much as we love the Clubsport S - and we really do love it - you can’t escape the fact it’s a limited-run special. With no back seats.
The Type R you see here on the other hand is - according to Honda - a development car with “technical specifications representative of the final production car”. It has a roll cage for safety reasons, which Honda insists didn’t make a difference to rigidity, and to compensate for the weight increase, the rear seats and infotainment system were temporarily removed. So, find a handy driver who doesn’t care about the lack of roll cage and strap him into a box fresh, production Type R, and a similar time should in theory be achievable.
There is however one detail we couldn’t help but notice in the press release, and it concerns the boots the car was wearing. These were apparently “road legal track-focused tyres”. We wouldn’t call the Continental Sport Contact 6s the Type R will have fitted as standard “track-focused,” and sure enough a quick email to Honda UK confirmed that the car was running on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s.
The last time we asked, the Sport Contact 6s were the only tyres available on the car from factory, but it looks as though that has changed. We’ll know for sure if the Cup 2s are available as an option closer to the car’s launch.
So, potentially stickier tyre compounds aside, how has the new Type R managed to be nearly seven seconds faster than the old car, despite only having a 10bhp increase from its 2.0-litre engine? It’s a variety of factors: the torsion beam suspension setup has been ditched for an independent, multilink affair, the tyres are 10mm wider front and rear, the wheelbase is longer, the aero package is even more developed than that last car’s, and the body frame is 38 per cent stiffer than before.
Nurburgring lap records are always best taken with a little pinch of salt, but this latest one certainly suggests the new Type R is as bonkers fast as we’ve been hoping. We’ll be taking our first drive in a couple of months, and we can’t wait.