Privately-Owned Honda Civic Type R Hits the Track: Fast, but with an Asterisk
Hits and misses as people start to get their Civic Type Rs on track.
The 2017 Honda Civic Type R has been on sale for about a month now. It’s only natural that privately-owned CTRs are finally hitting race circuits around the country. However, not all first impressions seem to be positive ones. Renowned tuners Evasive Motorsports picked up a Type R as a development car, much like many other tuning companies. After putting a few break-in miles on the car, the Evasive team took their CTR to Buttonwillow Raceway Park for testing.
Let the record show that yours truly has a fair amount of seat time at Buttonwillow. As such, I feel fairly justified in my opinions of the above video. First things first, a bone stock Type R turning a 2:03 lap time around the “13” clockwise configuration is super impressive! That said, the guys at Evasive know how to really wheel around Buttonwillow, and there are a few spots where Mike, the driver, seems to have intentionally backed off. It seems like Evasive left about a second on the table by not being more aggressive in the Cotton Corners, Grapevine, and especially through the Bus Stop, which is a corner best taken with the inside wheel almost off the track, bouncing the curbing. Check the track map over there on the right for context.
I’m guessing Mike was a bit hesitant about really thrashing such a new car. Regardless, the lap time is super impressive for a stock, front-wheel drive production car on production tires. The CTR will clearly be an animal with the simple addition of some track day rubber.
However, the story doesn’t end there.
As the day progressed, and Evasive got more comfortable wheeling the Type R around Buttonwillow, an issue started to present itself to the team. As ambient temperatures touched on 90 degrees Fahrenheit the CTR began to overheat, uh-oh. It eventually got to the point where the Type R could only do one flying lap at a time before overheating and giving up the ghost. A combination of high intake air temperatures (IATs), and a water temperature gauge creeping upwards prompted the Evasive team to call it quits before things got ugly.
Sadly, this situation isn’t entirely uncommon. Many turbocharged cars struggle when it comes to track work, simply put, IAT’s skyrocket causing reduced engine performance. Beyond that, the cooling systems of many cars simply don’t cut it under hard use. Upgraded radiators, intercoolers and oil coolers are standard sights on boosted track cars, and the CTR won’t be the exception to that.
It’s not the end of the world for current, and future Civic Type R owners.
Here is some food for thought, mixed with some personal experience. Buttonwillow is hard on car cooling systems, especially during the Summer months. Ambient temperatures routinely crack 100 degrees all Summer long in California’s Central Desert. Though, for what it’s worth, Evasive said it was approximately 90 degrees during their testing. However, ambient (and on-track) temperatures are just part of the equation.
Buttonwillow is a relatively low speed track, with most cars averaging between 75-80 mph throughout a decent hot lap. That means there are a lot of low speed sections, where the car may only be going 30-40 mph. When the car is on-throttle, and then immediately braking hard for these low speed corners, there is very little time for the engine to cool down before going full throttle again on corner exit. This is an excellent way to see high engine operating temperatures. I have experienced this first hand at this track, running in similar conditions. On the flip side, tracks with higher average speeds, i.e. circuits with longer straightaways, and high speed corners tend to keep cars running cooler. Even if the car is full throttle for longer, it’s getting more time to be stuffed full of cool, moving air. That keeps your radiator and turbo intercooler happy.
If you own a CTR, live in the Southern California area, and plan to track it, you may want to modify or upgrade the cooling system in some capacity. This could be as simple as using 100% water in lieu of 50/50 coolant in your radiator, and running a racing oil better suited to high running temperatures.
If you live in a more mild climate, or, more importantly, race on higher-speed circuits that allow for more cool down periods, you’ll likely be fine out of the box. Check the comments in the video, if you don’t believe me. Other people are reporting issue-free lapping sessions with their Type Rs.
I’ll be track testing the Civic Type R soon.
Honda has very graciously invited me to a track event to drive the Civic Type R. So, if the conjecture above isn’t enough to assuage your fears, I, personally, will be thrashing the Type R later this month. I have high hopes for it, too. The hot lap above was wicked fast and proves that the car is super capable right out of the box. Let’s find out if it heatsoaks when I drive it. Or, if like I said, this overheating issue is on an individual basis and won’t affect all owners at all tracks. That Honda is inviting me to track test Type R is indicative that the brand is confident that the car will perform. Stay tuned…