Production of the latest Honda Civic Type R already began last month at the Japanese company’s Swindon plant in England, which is also the world hub for the manufacturing of the 10th-generation Civic hatchback body style.
So it didn’t take long, then, for Honda to put engineer Ryuichi Kijima’s latest baby to good use and smash a front-wheel-drive production-car lap record around the Nürburgring Nordschleife, also affectionately known as the Green Hell. With a lap time of 7min:43.8sec, the 2018 Civic Type R has already snatched the record off the Volkswagen GTI Clubsport S, which set its best front-wheel drive time over three seconds slower last October.
Chassis boss Kijima also honed a car that’s nearly seven seconds quicker around the Nürburgring Nordschleife than the previous-generation Civic Type R, and he was kind enough to explain how his team achieved that speed: “The car features a wider track and tyres, a longer wheelbase, new multi-link suspension in the rear and optimised aerodynamics that improves stability, ” said Kijima-san. “For example, drivers typically enter the corner after Metzgesfeld at around 150kph. Even at this medium-speed corner, the speed is around 10kph higher due to the new Type R’s excellent stability. So, with improved cornering performance, we can increase the speed throughout the lap, helping the new Type R to achieve a much quicker lap time.”
Of course, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder VTEC engine making 315 horsepower and 400Nm of torque helps. As does the car’s frame, now 16kg lighter than before and 38 per cent stiffer to boot. The multi-link rear Kijima mentioned, helps the car brake in a stable manner so you can stomp on the middle pedal later and carry more speed into turns.
The Japanese say that the very example of the Civic Type R that set the ’Ring record — on German plates from Hesse, where Honda opened a European Training Centre back in 2009 — is perfectly representative of a car you can actually go and buy from your nearest Honda showroom, which means there were no fancy engine tunes and high-octane fuels at play or any bespoke tyres mounted on the standard 20in wheels. Brakes were also normal, standard 350mm front discs and 305mm rears gripped by Brembo callipers. As for the gearbox, get your left leg in shape because the 10th-gen Civic Type R is available exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission working with a limited-slip front differential.
In fact, when going for the lap record Honda actually had to add weight to the car, in the form of a full roll cage installed for safety reasons, without adding any additional rigidity to the frame. To compensate for the extra weight the rear seats and audio system was removed, but everything else stayed stock including the 245/30 Continental ContiSportContact 6 track-rated tyres.
Best of the rest
Honda is leading the front-wheel drive charge at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, but these records tend to get reset every couple of months — it was only last October that Volkswagen went about three seconds slower with a Golf Clubsport S… Who will it be next? We don’t have any budget for a crystal ball, but our pay-as-you-go internet tells us that these cars are the next Top 5 fastest (2-6) front-drivers around the Green Hell.
2 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S — 7min:49.2sec
Last year Volkswagen launched the GTI 40th-anniversary special in the form of the 310bhp Clubsport S and put German racing driver Benny Leuchter behind the wheel to set the ’Ring record.
3 Honda Civic Type R — 7min:50.6sec
The previous-generation Civic Type R was the first to get a turbocharger, although it ‘only’ produced 280 horsepower — Honda had to remove the air conditioning and the rear seats as well as the sound system to set the record.
4 Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy-R — 7min:54.3sec
The French marque has been missing from the Nürburgring roster for a while but Renault used to dominate front-wheel drive proceedings around the Green Hell with its 275bhp cup-tuned beast.
5 Seat Leon Cupra — 7min:58.4sec
This car was one of the first hatchbacks to roll out wearing supercar-rated Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber, even if in nearly every single other way it was just a Golf GTI made in Spain, in Seat’s Martorell factory near Barcelona…
6 Renault Mégane RS Trophy — 8min:7.97sec
Renault’s Mégane RS Trophy made us sit up and take notice of the fast-evolving world of hot-hatchery and front-wheel drive wizardry, because it was also the first such car to get anywhere near the eight-minute mark.