The Shotgun Rider: A non-driver’s experience of the Honda Civic Type R

February 26, 2018

The FK8 Civic Type R, which was locally introduced last year, is Honda’s front-wheel-drive challenger in the fiercely-contested hot hatch segment. From its styling, to its practicality and capabilities, it can sure do well on the road as a city car and even on track as a mean machine.

To prove the point, Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. (HCPI) recently invited a group of media people and the first 100 local Type R owners to a weekend at the Clark International Speedway (CIS) in Pampanga. The agenda was to fully experience the Type R’s speed, power, and agility in a safe and controlled place under the guidance of professional racing driver and instructor Georges Ramirez.

The track experience was divided into 4 parts; the Braking Test, the Slalom Test, the “Follow the Leader” style Guided Laps, and the full-on Time Attack friendly competition. Each part highlighted the Type R’s trump cards such as its braking, acceleration, and steering, among others. was fortunate to be included in the media invitation list with our Managing Editor Sabina, our Lens Man Paolo, and myself as its representatives. But here’s the catch; I didn’t get to take the Type R for a spin around the track, even if I wanted to. There are a couple of valid reasons as to why.

Firstly, I don’t have a driver’s license. Secondly (and most importantly), I’m unfit to drive as I’m a person with a disability (PWD). I’m visually-impaired due to in-born cataract, and I’ve only got my left eye to help me see things, barely. Of course, I felt somewhat frustrated because the opportunity was already there for me to pilot a track weapon like a race car driver, something I can only experience in video games.

But reality is no video game. I chose the more logical path of avoiding all risks... all except for one – to be onboard the Type R as a passenger with a capable driver behind the wheel. And sure enough, that risk would become one of the best motoring experiences in my diary.

It all started when I approached one of the HCPI people. I’ve explained in the nicest of ways my case and my reasons to ride along during the Guided Laps session. When all things have been settled, I was introduced to one of HCPI’s most beautiful member; a Civic Type R Demo Unit in a shining Championship White dress (Err... paintwork, rather).

With me were my fellow media friends Dinzo Tabamo and Carl Cunanan of Top Gear Philippines and C! Magazine, respectively. After buckling up for safety, off we went to a blistering start with Ramirez radioing instructions from the lead car. We did about 6 laps with Tabamo and Cunanan exchanging driver duties every other lap.

As a review, the CIS is a 4.2 Km high-speed track with 18 turns, including the “corkscrew-like” section, a kind of nod to the Laguna Seca Raceway in California, USA. It’s built to meet the strict standards of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), a global motor sports governing body.

Of these 18 turns, the car demonstrated its wild side. Its braking prowess, for instance, is superb on low and high speeds. Thanks to its Brembo brakes, we were able to tackle each corner at just the right speed, allowing the Continental tires to grip hard.

Its aerodynamic body panels, race-ready chassis, and suspension system, on the other hand, made it dance around each corner gracefully. This stability is proven especially on the "corkscrew" section where I felt huge amounts of G-force from all directions being handled very well.

That visceral feeling of being swayed hard opposite the direction of the turn (Centrifugal Force) while strapped on the seat was priceless. There were even times when, because of our cornering speed and angle, I felt like we were running on 2 wheels around certain corners. But I was assured that our ride is well planted on the ground; that the tires, chassis, and suspension are working as they should... wild yet tamed at the same time.

And finally, of that thing under the hood; that turbocharged 2.0L inline 4-cylinder VTEC engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox. I’m glad to say that we’ve unleashed at least most of the 306 hp and 400 Nm of pulling power it has on tap by engaging its +R Mode. On normal driving scenarios, it’s surprisingly quiet for a car that’s marketed to be wild and raw. But it sings like a rock star when pushed to the limits... only that it needs the backup voice of an inspiring exhaust sound.

This brings us to my minor (and only) criticism. As a person who’s particular about the emotion attributed to sounds, the Type R’s exhaust note is rather anticlimactic. It has some bass, I give it that. But to me, it needs to roar a bit more to fully establish an awesome “driving emotion,” if that makes sense. To be clear, it isn’t bad, but it’s not good enough to compliment the Type R’s looks and performance. I do wish Honda would fine-tune this if they’d ever make little updates to the Type R FK8 before introducing its successor some day.

All in all, the Honda Civic Type R Track Experience was unforgettable. We enjoyed, we learned a lot, and at the end of the day, a new appreciation for the Type R was felt; an appreciation of what it can actually do.

Because of the positive outcome of the event and the overall great reception of the local market for the Type R, HCPI is setting its sights on bringing in additional units to be sold later this year. According to HCPI President Noriyuki Takakura, his company has not decided yet on how many units will be shipped here in the Philippines, but to give an idea, he said that the target number would still be about 100 units.

Thank you, HCPI for giving us a chance to be with and test the Type R in an environment where it really shines. Thanks for looking beyond my disability. Now, I can proudly say that being a shotgun rider all my life is an experience I’m beginning to love all over again.

Photos by Paolo Lesaca. Photo with red Type R by Ardie Lopez)

About the Author

Randolph de Leon
Randy is a person with disability (PWD), a partially-blinded person with only his left eye functioning. Since childhood, the automobile has always been his passion, and is able to express it through photography and most recently, through writing as well. Outside the motoring beat, Randy spends time manning the media aspect of his business which he co-founded with his sister/college classmate. It's called Dragonlight Wellness and Solutions, a multi-business venture centering on improving peoples' lives through earning.