Pat Cranham, BTCC Correspondent
On the eve of Knockhill, Honda Racing have already confirmed their plans for 2012 British Touring Car season where they will enter the all new ninth generation Honda Civic Type R which will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motorshow at the end of this month.
Honda Racing confirmed that a pair of race prepared Honda Civics are already underway being built by long term partners Team Dynamics to the New Generation Touring Car format which has been introduced this season.
We are delighted to enter the new Civic in next year’s BTCC
Honda were a long term participant during the old Super Touring Car days running the Accord for drivers such as James Thompson, Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Kristiensen, Peter Kox and David Leslie to name a few up until the Super Touring regulations were phased out at the end of the 2000 season run by West Surrey Racing for the latter part of this era.
Honda Racing came back in 2002 with Arena Motorsport in a btcc-spec Civic Type R for Alan Morrison and Triple WTCC Champion Andy Priaulx where he took his first ever Touring Car victory at Knockhill. The team returned for 2003 with Matt Neal and Tom Chilton joining Morrison for a successful season where Neal finished third in the Championship.
For 2004 Honda withdrew and Team Dynamics continued to run the Civics for Neal and Dan Eaves under the banner Team Halfords. For 2005/06 Team Dynamics built the all conquering Honda Integra which took the drivers title fin both years in the hands of Neal while in 2006 Gordon Shedden replaced Eaves as Neal’s team mate.
Still with Halfords sponsorship Team Dynamics entered the new Civic Type R for 2007 winning in their first meeting at Brands Hatch. The team couldn’t match their two previous years and at the end of the season Neal departed for VX Racing with Tom Chilton coming in the other direction for 2008.
Halfords withdrew their sponsorship for 2009 and Dave Pinkney came in along with James Thompson replacing the unlucky Shedden after the opening meeting. However for 2010 back came Neal, Shedden and Honda for a full works assault for their most successful champagne to date just missing out on the drivers’ championship finishing 2nd and 3rd having to settle for the teams and Manufactures/Constructors crown instead.
For 2011 it has been much the same except for the introduction of the all new NGTC turbo engine designed by Neil Brown Engineering. So far the Civic has been the car to beat although they do not at present lead the drivers’ championship with Shedden trailing current leader Mat Jackson from Airwaves Racing by 8 points with Neal a further 2 points behind. Although this would surely be different had it not been for a disastrous clash between the two in race 2 at Oulton when the pair clashed on the final corner of the last lap with the pair in 1st and 2nd eliminating Neal and dropping Shedden back down to 6th. Neal also had a nightmare weekend last time out at Snetterton with two DNF’s losing his lead while Shedden also had bad early season luck which included disqualification from 3rd at Donington and a heavy crash on a Saturday at Brands Hatch eliminating him from Qualifying during the opening meeting. Despite this one of the pair remains favourite to take the crown with Honda Racing likely to retain both other Championships.
Honda’s UK managing Director Dave Hodgetts is clearly excited by the prospect of entering the new car in the championship and said, “We are delighted to enter the new Civic in next year’s BTCC, and hope to build on the success we’ve already had with the current model. We’ve made significant improvements to the new road car, and we’re confident those changes will make for a competitive race car too. The Civic is the perfect model to compete in British Touring Cars, as it has been born and bred in the UK. The new car has been tested on more UK roads than any other Honda, and it will continue to be built exclusively in Swindon.”
Double BTCC Champion Neal whose father Steve owns and runs Team Dynamics also is very excited by the news and said, "We are all looking forward to 2012, and from my point of view it is very exciting to have the prospect of driving the new Honda Civic. The team’s development of the car is already well underway, and the new Civic will fit the BTCC's 'Next Generation Touring Car' regulations. I'm sure it will keep Honda at the front, and in the winner's circle, both off and on track!"
Meanwhile heading back to Knockhill Matt Neal has confirmed that he will be taking part this weekend despite the injury he sustained as already reported in the preview story through Martial Arts. Despite still being in some pain Neal confirmed its business as usual and said, “I did the team shakedown today (Wednesday) and managed to steer the car around a bit but it’s not that comfortable, I can only grip the steering wheel with three fingers on that hand which isn’t ideal. If it was Silverstone coming up I wouldn’t have any qualms but Knockhill is a different kettle of fish. There’s a lot of bouncing over kerbs and sawing away at the wheel there which will definitely smart a bit. I’ll definitely race but I still need a final check-up at hospital this Friday and the doctor has warned me of cramping in my right forearm. Hopefully the adrenaline will kick in and I won’t feel a thing until we’re on our way home on Sunday night.”
So to find out how Neal and his team mate Shedden does around his home circuit along with the rest of the field stay tuned to Motorsport.com for regular BTCC updates throughout the weekend.
Quotes provided by BTCC.net