Did the Honda Civic Type R cheat its Nurburgring lap record?
Did the Honda Civic Type R cheat its Nurburgring lap record?
A video published over the weekend has made a bombshell allegation that the Honda Civic Type R hot hatch cheated its way to a Nurburgring lap record – beyond the use of lightweight parts, and special tyres not available in showrooms.
Unsubstantiated reports on social media have alleged the Honda Civic Type R that broke the lap record for front-wheel-drive cars around Germany’s Nurburgring race track was modified beyond what the Japanese car-maker had disclosed – and was specially tuned to produce more power and accelerate faster than showroom-standard vehicles and the special edition it will spawn in Europe.
As reported by Drive last week, the Honda Civic Type R posted a seven-minute, 44.881-second lap around the Nurburgring Nordschleife – verified by Nurburgring officials – half a second quicker than the previous front-wheel-drive record holder, the Renault Megane RS Trophy-R.
Soon after the announcement, Honda clarified the Type R that set the record lap was a lightweight Europe-only edition known as the ‘S grade’, without features such as air conditioning to reduce weight, and equipped with special track-ready (but road-legal) tyres not available in Honda showrooms.
Now it has been alleged on social media the record-breaking car was modified beyond the changes Honda has outlined.
A YouTube video published by Misha Charoudin – a Nurburgring driving instructor and expert with a decade of experience on the circuit – alleges the Honda Civic Type R in the record run was modified to deliver more turbo boost than usual in certain gears, and was possibly equipped with a different gear ratio or ratios.
The Nurburgring expert, responding to tips from Honda enthusiasts, forensically compared in-car footage from other high-speed runs in showroom-standard Honda Civic Type R hot hatches with the vehicle used in the record attempt.
“We have high suspicions that the gearing was not stock, and the car was running high boost,” Mr Charoudin says in the video.
A Honda Australia response to the allegations appears to raise more questions than answers: “We have been advised that aside from the removal of the features mentioned (previously), there are no additional specification differences between the current Type R available for Europe and the S Grade.”
As this article was published, Honda Japan and Honda Europe were yet to address the claims about suspected changes to turbo power or gear ratios.
To date, Honda has only detailed a reduction in the vehicle’s weight for the Type R S ‘record’ edition – and not disclosed any upgrades to engine power and/or changes to the transmission and final drive ratios.
The video claims the ratio of sixth gear in the Honda Civic Type R’s six-speed manual transmission has been shortened compared to the standard vehicle in Europe – and the turbocharger boost pressure has been increased by up to 30 per cent in certain gears, including fifth and sixth.
Citing observations by Mr Charoudin and his viewers – including Instagram user @midshipcrisis, and UK-based 2023 Civic Type R owner Alistair – the video notes discrepancies between the Honda lap record video, and footage of other latest-generation Honda Civic Type R hot hatches at similarly high speeds.
Analysis of the video shows at 232km/h in sixth gear, two sets of shift lights are visible on the dashboard in Honda’s lap record car – with the third set appearing at an indicated 240km/h.
But in another video showing a new Type R on an unlimited-speed section of Germany’s Autobahn, the first row of shift lights in sixth gear does not appear until an indicated 247km/h, with two sets appearing at 256km/h, and three at 265km/h.
This would suggest sixth gear in the record car is shorter than the production model – which would deliver improved acceleration.
Honda has confirmed the Civic Type R ‘S grade’ used for the record-setting lap was fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 Connect track-day tyres, replacing the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres.
It is understood the grippier tyres are fitted to the same 19-inch alloy wheels as the standard model – and are the same 265/30 R19 size.
Changing the size of the tyres would impact the calibration of the car’s speedometer and internal systems, and possibly affect its instrument cluster readout.
Meanwhile, the video claims the turbocharger in the Civic Type R used to set the lap record is running at increased boost pressure – which delivers more engine power – than examples in European showrooms.
Information shown in the video – from the owner of a new Civic Type R who has driven their own vehicle on the Nurburgring – reveals the highest turbo boost readout shown on the showroom-standard car’s instrument cluster was 20.7psi (or 1.43 bar), on the ‘Kesselchen’ straight.
However, the instrument cluster of the record-setting Honda Civic Type R is seen showing readouts of 1.7 to 1.75 bar (24.7 to 25.4psi) “consistently”, according to the video, with “the briefest of flickers to 1.83 bar” (26.5psi).
These readouts appear to reveal an anomaly as they were from the same race track. The allegations made by the Honda Civic Type R owner are supported by similar readings in a Civic Type R Nurburgring hot-lap video by French magazine L’Argus.
Mr Charoudin notes the increased turbo boost pressure readouts appear primarily in higher gears where, he argues, they would be less noticeable, and not trigger additional wheelspin at low speeds, which could interrupt acceleration and slow the car.
The video also notes the L’Argus driver only needs to use sixth gear once over the Nurburgring lap, compared to four times for the Honda record lap driver.
It is worth noting one of these uses is on the Nurburgring’s main straight, which the L’Argus driver does not complete as the lap was completed in a ‘tourist day’ open to the public – where much of the main straight is used for exiting and entering the track, and no lap times are recorded – rather than a closed, private session for official lap timing.
The standard Honda Civic Type R sold in Europe is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with claimed outputs of 242kW and 420Nm – 7kW more than Australian models, believed to be due to better fuel quality overseas.
While Honda has been accused of modifying the vehicle beyond what it has already disclosed, Mr Charoudin says the Japanese car maker would not be the first manufacturer to do “these kinds of cheats”.
“After my almost decade long experience at the Nurburgring I can tell you that the majority of manufacturers – not all of them – do these kinds of cheats,” Mr Charoudin says in his whistleblower video.
“[Some are] small things like we’re going to discuss later on, or big ones like showing up with a GT3 car and saying like, that’s a production-spec car, it’s OK.
“And because of that, over the last two years the Nurburgring started inviting TUV [German vehicle certification] engineers … [who] check the car and say this looks like a normal car, normal tyres, normal everything, you’re good to go. Or [they] say … that’s way too far fetched.
“And the ‘cheats’ we’re going to discuss in today’s video are not things you can see from the outside. You may not even be able to see them from the inside, unless you open up the [engine and gearbox],” said Mr Charoudin.
While there are comments on the video that agree with Mr Charoudin’s allegations, some social media users don’t believe Honda took a short cut to achieve a record time.
“The benefit of the doubt we can give is that they will make a ‘special version’ of the car, much like Porsche with the Taycan Turbo S, Tesla releasing the Carbon Ceramic package, and Manthey Racing making MR-Package an official Porsche dealer option,” wrote one YouTube commenter.
“I’ve noticed [car makers] have made alterations to a record breaker car and then sell a package of the mods to qualify it as a ‘production car’. The only hope is that Honda will disclose the sneaky changes like a new sixth gear and a secret over-boost.”
Another YouTube commenter said: “I was awestruck after watching the video, even though I thought to myself ‘that was almost too fast to be true’.”
“I never gave it much thought. I noticed the short sixth [gear] straight away, but I assumed that all Type Rs had that ratio. The fact they changed it along with running 0.3 bar more boost just proves that they were aiming for more top speed on the straights (it hit an indicated 258km/h at Schwedenkreuz).
“The ‘S grade’ thing is interesting, and I hope as well as being lighter this model also comes standard with the shorter sixth and runs higher boost, because that is the only real way that this record can be legitimised. Honda [is] literally the last manufacturer I’d think of that would try and pull a fast one like this,” the YouTube viewer wrote.
When contacted by Drive for comment on the video – and to confirm the changes planned for the Europe-only Civic Type R S edition, which is lighter than the standard model and reportedly used for the record Nurburgring lap – a Honda Australia spokesperson said:
“We can confirm that The Type R which was used for the time attack is a mass-production base however, some parts have been removed to reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. For example, air conditioning, electric mirrors for folding, parking sensors and navigation.
“In Europe, there is a regulation that anything presented with a fastest record in Nurburgring must be available, therefore a special version is being prepared for the European market.”