FORMULA 1 world champion Jenson Button has driven a Honda Civic Type R to a new benchmark time at Mount Panorama during a secret test day over the Easter long weekend.
With a time of 2:35.2017, Button and Honda have set a yardstick for all other hot hatch manufacturers to measure themselves against. However, calling it a record breaking lap would be inaccurate, as no front-drive production car has officially attempted a record before.
Button was flown to Australia in secrecy, and given a single task – to pedal the Civic Type R as fast as possible around the country’s most prestigious circuit. The 6.213-kilometre Mount Panorama circuit uses public roads, includes 23 corners and rises 174-metres with gradients as steep as 16 percent.
The Type R used for the lap was identical to what can be bought in showrooms around Australia for $51,990. Honda says the car was in completely stock trim – including the Continental SportContact 6 tyres.
Honda’s hot hatch hero is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that sends 228kW and 400Nm to the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. The official kerb weight is 1393kg.
Putting the stock Type R’s time into perspective, it would have been good enough to qualify second in class for this year’s Bathurst 6 Hour, held the day prior to the record attempt.
Button completed just 14 laps of the circuit, spread across a one hour session in the morning, and a 10 minute session in the afternoon.
“Anything you drive around Mount Panorama is pretty amazing. Up across the top of the mountain, the Type R is so fast through there, so once I got into a rhythm and got used to the speed you can carry, it was really good fun,” the 2009 Formula 1 champion said.
“I think if it was cooler you could go a bit quicker, but I do feel like I got everything out of the car.”
The official outright production car record at Mount Panorama is a 2:16.5, set by Bernd Schneider in a Mercedes-AMG GT R in 2017.
Fittingly, Button also holds the unofficial outright quickest lap of Mount Panorama, setting a 1:48.8 time in a 2008-spec McLaren MP4-23 wearing 2011-spec Pirelli tyres during a sponsor event.
Brabham’s BT62 cut an unofficial 1:58.69 during demonstration laps at this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour, making it the quickest tin-top to lap the circuit, while Christopher Mies holds the outright official record at 1:59.291 set in a derestricted Audi R8 GT3 during the Challenge Bathurst event last year.
The Group 3E Series Production car record (ostensibly the racing production car category) of 2:25.802 was set by Chaz Mostert during the Bathurst 6 Hour in 2017 with a Ford Focus RS.
Button’s mission was part of Honda Australia’s year-long 50th birthday bash, and is the first leg of the Type R Challenge set outside Europe.
The Type R Challenge has seen the Japanese hot hatch flown to some of the world’s finest tracks to have a lash at various records. It has had five previous legs, with Button also setting a front-drive production car record at the Hungaroring grand prix circuit with a time of 2:10.19.
Our sister magazine Motor awarded the Civic Type R its coveted Performance Car of the Year title in 2018. During testing, with Supercars driver David Reynolds at the wheel, the hot hatch set a new benchmark time at Winton, “comfortably burying previous efforts in any production front-drive car”.
While Honda has laid down the gauntlet, it’s time for other manufacturer’s to step up to the plate. Your move, Hyundai.