• All eyes on Honda at annual BTCC Season Launch
• Civic Type R the talk of the Donington Park pit-lane
• Neal and Shedden put laps on the clock in new car
Honda Yuasa Racing’s two new Civic Type R Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship contenders hit the track today (24 March) at the series’ annual Season Launch at Donington Park – showing off their striking new livery in the process.
All eyes were on Honda as the multiple championship-winning manufacturer took the wraps off its pair of new Civic Type R racecars, which will do battle for the 2015 titles in the hands of front-running duo Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal.
Motor sport’s assembled media flocked around the Honda Yuasa Racing garage to see 2012 BTCC Champion Shedden and three-time title-winner Neal remove the dust covers from the two cars, before they took to the circuit alongside their competitors for the first time.
Although outright pace was never the goal with such little prior mileage under their belts, Neal and Shedden nevertheless turned heads out on-track and are looking forward to further testing between now and the start of the season at Brands Hatch Indy in Kent over Easter weekend, 4/5 April.
“First of all, I have to say this car looks mega!” enthused Neal, who tallied 35 laps at Donington. “It’s a completely new animal this year, so this is all a learning curve for us. We’ve essentially been trying to run through a checklist, finding out what works and what doesn’t work and what effect different changes have on the car.
“The bottom line is that this car is an improvement in practically every area over what we’ve run before – and it’s probably the most powerful Honda engine we’ve ever had in the BTCC. Of course, the proof of the pudding will come during qualifying at Brands Hatch – but we’re very confident of mounting a serious challenge this year.”
“Like with any new car, we encountered a few shakedown gremlins that limited our running today, but we will work through them,” added Shedden, whose track time was restricted by throttle issues. “Despite not getting that many laps on the board here, we still learnt a lot and most importantly, the attention-to-detail on the new Civic Type R is fantastic. We are incredibly excited by the potential of this car!”
Those sentiments are shared by Honda Yuasa Racing Team Manager James Rodgers, who is eagerly anticipating the beginning of the BTCC campaign to discover exactly what Honda’s new weapon will be capable of when it is let off the leash.
“The car created a huge buzz and stirred up plenty of interest amongst both media and fans,” he acknowledged, “and we’d much rather have the kind of issues we saw today crop up now than at the first round – that’s what testing is for. We ran conservatively to learn as much as possible about the car; we weren’t chasing lap times by any stretch of the imagination and didn’t show anything like our full hand. Believe me, there is plenty more still to come!”