Honda have admitted that they expect to continue to be on the pace at the start of the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season, despite Gordon Shedden admitting that there are still many unknowns.
Honda will campaign the touring version of their Civic racer in 2014, marking the first appearance of an estate car in the series since Volvo in 1994. The team have opted to reuse components from their 2013 hatchback Civic with a Tourer bodyshell.
Barry Plowman, Technical Director of Honda Yuasa Racing, hopes that the team will be able to continue using data from 2013 and admits he’ll be disappointed if the car is not on the pace straight away.
“If we’re not right where we were at the end of last year, right at the sharp end of it, I’d be very, very surprised,” said Plowman to TouringCars.Net. “In fact, I’d be disappointed.
“I think set-up wise, everything we’ve learnt so far should still relate. There’ll be a few minor changes – the rear wing is a little bit further back but the fact that’s balanced out by TOCA on the road car – everybody gets a basic 27 kg of downforce on the rear – in theory that should be the same.
“There’ll be a little bit more weight on the rear end. It will need a few minor adjustments but nothing major.”
Plowman admits that due to the heavier base weight of the Tourer shell, the team will have fewer options regarding the set-up of the car for each driver.
“In the hatchback car we had a little bit of lead laid in the floor of the car to offset the driver weight and in this car that won’t be an option because obviously the base weight of the shell is heavier,” added Plowman.
2012 champion Gordon Shedden adds that it’s hard to say how the new car will compare to the hatchback Civic until it has been driven for the first time.
“It still has the heart of the Civic,” said Shedden. “There’s so much that we’ve learned over the last couple of years and obviously we’re going to transfer a lot of that into the tourer.
“Until you actually get it on the track, you can look at all the numbers in the wind tunnel, look at the numbers on the CFD, but until you physically, actually drive it, it is going to be different. It is a little bit of a step into the unknown. It might not quite be as nimble as the other Civic but it might be better aero-wise – you just don’t quite know what we’ve got.
In order to get the maximum benefit out of any testing mileage, Honda plan to run both the Civic Tourer and Hatchback side-by-side to allow for a direct comparison between the two cars.
“I think we’ll run both cars initially to try and give ourselves a platform to see exactly what we’ve got,” added Shedden. “I think that’s the sensible thing to do.”
Shedden expects the 2014 season to be one of the closest yet, and the Scot has singled out newcomer Marc Hynes as one to watch in the coming season.
“It’s going to be good,” admitted Shedden. “Thirty two cars, new teams – good teams, people with a lot more experience now – the championship’s going to be harder than ever. Obviously Marc Hynes is coming in – he’ll be fantastic in the MG – and rumours of another former champion coming back as well so we’ll have to see if that comes to fruition or not but if it does it will only add to the mix.”