The Civic Type R-GT test car that will form the basis of Honda’s 2024 challenger was revealed last week ahead of its first test outing at Okayama.
Naoki Yamamoto and Tomoki Nojiri took turns behind the wheel of the carbon-liveried #99 machine across a largely smooth two days of running alongside 2024 models from Honda’s rival manufacturers Nissan and Toyota.
Honda is breaking new ground in SUPER GT’s top GT500 class with its choice of the four-door Civic as its base model, with the new car a radical departure from the NSX-GT that it has used in various incarnations since 2014.
While Honda SUPER GT head of car development Tomohiro Onishi admits the change is a “big challenge”, he added he sees it as an opportunity, especially in terms of creating a car that generates less drag than the current model.
“With the SUPER GT regulations as they are now, with a narrow development area, changing the base car is a huge change,” said Onishi. “The Civic has a body shape that has never been used before, so it will be a big challenge for us.
“But when I say challenge, I don’t mean just that it’s a ‘difficult situation’. Because we are using a shape of car that has never been used before, we are learning new things every day.
“Of course there were things we could do with the NSX that we can’t do with the Civic, but we know there are also certain things that we can do because we are using the Civic.
“The NSX has a lot of drag due to the shape of the base vehicle. The Civic will allow us to reduce drag in a way that we could not do with the NSX.
“We have to determine what kind of characteristics and lift-to-drag ratio is best to use in the end. But we have more options with the Civic than we had with the NSX, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses between now and the opening round.”
While opting for a radical change in terms of body shape with the Civic, Honda will not seek to significantly alter its four-cylinder turbo engine upon the new machine’s introduction.
The brand’s SUPER GT project leader Masahiro Saiki said that any major change to the engine could impede its efforts to get on top of the new car.
“Basically, we are not going to change the engine significantly from this year,” said Saiki. “Since the body shape is changing significantly, changing the engine as well would mean there will be many things we don’t understand properly.
“We’ll aim to increase the power output, as we have been doing this year as well, while maintaining the current characteristics.”