Many people feel the 2017 Honda Civic Type R will be the fastest thing since the invention of the automobile, while others say it’s a slap in the face to the Type R heritage. However, the platform’s true reputation won’t be cemented until enthusiasts start tracking it in numbers. Well, Clement Kwong brought his FK8 CTR out to FF Battle this year with Raceline USA to see what it really can do. Did it take top honors and blow away the competition? Or did it perform worse than people expected?
Many of us on the media side of things have driven the Type R in some guise, either on the streets or at the track with Honda looking over our shoulders while doing it, so we do have an idea of how well this car could perform. But until it sees real competition, we’re just taking guesses off of feelings. While there have been a few Type Rs that have seen track time already from Evasive Motorsports and a few others, none have seen competition until FF Battle.
Here, Kwong brought out his brand new 2017 with about 1,500-miles on the odometer with support from Raceline USA, a race shop in Temple City, Calif., run by Elton Lo. Now, this car isn’t stock, as Elton and Clement both pointed out, and it’s kind of obvious. The springs have been changed out to Swift units that Elton is developing to use under the Type R, so he wasn’t ready to give up the specs just yet. It’s also running a set of 19-inch Gram Lights 57Transcend with a set of the control Continental ExtremeContact Sport tires in 275/30ZR19.
Coming in, many at Super Street and Honda Tuning thought the car would run away from the rest of the entries in the field. Other than Jon Lugod and his 400-horsepower OS Giken Ford Focus ST, none of the other cars were over the 250-horsepower mark. Streets of Willow Springs, though, isn’t as much of a power track as Big Willow is, as it has far more technical features on the back side, but the power does play a factor coming down the straight and leading into the final portions of course before you get to the skid pad.
There were other factors that would come into play at FFB that the Type R wouldn’t be able to overcome: experience and development. Many of the chassis running in FF Battle have been worked on, tweaked, changed, and tested for many, many years. Even with a horsepower deficiency, these chassis have been developed to work with what they have and be driven fast. The Type R has OEM development, sure, and that’s hard to beat, but track time will usually cancel that out.
There was also the issue that Clement has never raced in a front-wheel-drive car before. The Streets of Willow is considered his home track, but he’s only run in a RWD Honda S2000. FF Battle would be his first run in a FWD car in a competition format. So while he’s very familiar with the track, that lack of FWD experience was going to play a factor as well. That’s another demerit against the Type R (though no fault of its own).
In the first session of FF Battle, it was clear these guys were out for blood. No one was taking it easy and wanted to get their fastest lap in this early session. Despite all of those issues listed above, Clement looked pretty good and was sitting in third fastest of the session, starting with a 1:27.280. However, both he and Elton knew there was more in the car and were expecting that time to drop into the 1:25s. The two drivers sitting on top of Clement at the end were Lugod with a 1:26.127, who was sliding around thanks to too much front downforce but beat his previous third place finishing time of 1:28.558, and Joel Etrata in his Acura Integra Sedan with a 1:24.935 and already beating his winning time from last year, a 1:25.427 that broke the previous record of 1:27.963 that stayed there for two years. This could be a tough battle for Clement and the Type R.
The final session would be the place where Clement brought back some time. With more confidence in the car and the Continental Tires, he went out and set his best time with a 1:25.540. This hit the mark that both he and Elton expected, but both still felt like there was still more in it. The car did feel somewhat familiar by the end of the event and felt the handling was more in line to what he was used to. “There was a little bit of a learning curve,” he admitted, “the car understeers initially but mid-corner, that’s where it reacted like a RWD car and just carried its way out. I’m pretty happy.”
“The handling is 50-percent better than stock,” he said when I asked him about the minor changes over the stock Type R. “There is a lot less body roll, less compliance, and it’s very good overall.” That time was enough for second place overall, edging out the more powerful Focus ST of Lugod with his best time with a 1:25.916 for third place. However, that 1:24.901 by Etrata was just too much for anyone to touch; even with more power, Joel’s car has more development time and shows what a good chassis that’s been massaged for several years can do when compared to a slightly stock rocket.
That being said, the Type R did far better than most expected. With more time behind the wheel and more time under the knife, Clement and Elton think this car will hit sub-2-minutes at Buttonwillow for Super Lap Battle and take away the long standing Enthusiast FWD Record of 2:01.314, a record that’s been on the books since 2013. Can they do it? Well, you’ll just have to wait for the legendary Super Lap Battle coming up on November 9, 2017. On ething we can verify: it won’t be the only Type R in attendance.