The Civic Type R is fast. We know, for we’ve just driven it. But it could well get faster.
Here’s fighting talk: “If someone takes our fastest lap, we’ll take it back.” All I’d done was ask Hisayuki Yagi, the chief engineer of the Civic Type R, why Honda was making such a fuss of his car’s Nurburgring front-drive hatchback record.
We’d been talking for a while about his new car, and all his answers had been lengthy and considered. But this reply was entirely different – quick and direct and blunt.
So how would they take it back? Change the car, or simply drive a bit faster? He looks a bit affronted at the implication Honda didn’t go absolutely flat out. “We didn’t leave ourselves any margin of safety in that lap. We would have to modify the car.”
Right at the start of the Type R’s development three years ago, the target was to be the fastest front-drive hatch around the ‘Ring. The time of 7m50.63s was actually set nearly a year ago. But Yagi insists that the prototype’s engine, suspension and tyres were exactly as per the production car.
Sure, it didn’t have air-conditioning, but that was just hacked out to save weight, offsetting the mass of the roll cage. And before you ask, the cage didn’t improve the shell’s rigidity, because it was fixed to the car via rubber blocks.
Anyway, I ask Yagi-san, what if a rival came along with some super-specialised ‘Ring monster, a car irrelevant to normal hot-hatchery?
“Well,” he concedes, “if it’s a strictly limited edition, then we would have to think carefully whether we would do a car to beat that. But on the other hand if a rival makes a car of comparable spec and features as the Type R, we would have to go back and beat it.”
What sort of modifications would it take? “Weight, and power output. You’ve driven it,” Yagi says. “You can feel there is headroom for more power from the engine. It’s all about power-to-weight ratio.”
How about, I ask, minus 50kg and plus 20bhp? That’s possible? Yagi nods.
So if you want a Civic Type R plus (shall we call it Type RR?), I’d suggest the easiest thing isn’t to ask Honda directly.
Instead just persuade Seat and Renault to get their hot hatches circulating the ‘Ring a bit quicker. And then Honda will rejoin the arms race.