Honda Civic Type R sets a cracking pace at Mount Panorama after secret mission to get former F1 champion Jenson Button behind the wheel.
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The Honda Civic Type R has set a blistering but unofficial lap record for a road-legal hot hatch at Mount Panorama Bathurst, posting a time of 2 minutes 35.207 in the hands of Formula 1 ace Jenson Button.

The 2009 Formula 1 world champion flew into Australia on a secret mission to do the timed run on Easter Monday, while the circuit was closed following the previous day’s six-hour production car race.

Although the time was done under the nose of hundreds of car enthusiasts and competitors, no-one knew it was Button behind the wheel or a record attempt was being made.

Button’s lap time was taken from one of 14 laps in a one-hour morning session and a handful of laps in a 10-minute stint in the afternoon.

By comparison, in the hands of amateur racers the fastest lap time by a front-drive hot hatch at that weekend’s production car race was set by a Hyundai i30N on semi-slick racing tyres with a time of 2 minutes 41.2 seconds.

An all-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf R on semi-slicks did a qualifying time of 2 minutes 36.9 seconds, highlighting the sheer pace of Button and the Type R on road tyres that have less grip and fade faster in racing conditions.

For further perspective, Button’s lap time would have been fast enough for the Civic Type R to qualify second in its class for the endurance race held the previous day.

The Honda Civic Type R was even faster than the legendary Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III. In the hands of Allan Moffat, the might Ford GT set a lap record of 2 minutes 36.5 seconds in 1972 – almost 1.3 seconds slower than the Honda despite the track being 41 metres shorter at the time.

Button, a Honda brand ambassador, also holds the unofficial outright lap record for the Mount Panorama circuit, with the 1 minute 48.8 second lap time set in a Formula One car in 2011 as part of a special event to promote the Australian Grand Prix.

“Anything you drive around Mount Panorama is pretty amazing,” Button said after returning from his final timed run, according to a Honda media statement.

“Up across the top of the mountain, the Type R is so fast through there, so once I got into a rhythm and got used to the speed you can carry, it was really good fun.”

Despite having never raced at Mount Panorama, Button was able to draw on the experience gained from 17 years and 306 race starts in Formula One.

“I definitely put the car through its paces and it was a quick time, 2 minutes 35 seconds is a really good time in a front-wheel drive car and it was hot as well, so I think if it was cooler you could go a bit quicker, but I do feel like I got everything out of the car,” said Button.

“The Honda Civic Type R really is the perfect car for a... challenge like this. And it’s 100% a road legal car that’s straight off the production line, so to do a 2 minute 35 second lap is fantastic.”

The Bathurst record attempt was inspired by the ‘Type R Challenge 2018’ program and part of Honda’s 50th birthday celebrations.

Last year, a team of Honda racing stars set front-wheel drive production car records at a number of European circuit in a standard production Honda Civic Type R with road tyres – eclipsing records previously set by the last generation Civic Type R.

Button was part of the fifth and final leg of the planned series of lap record attempts across Europe in 2018; his 2 minute 10.19 second lap around the Hungaroring Grand Prix circuit in Hungary was a new record. It was same circuit Button won the first Grand Prix of his Formula One career with Honda in 2006.

The Bathurst leg was the first time the Type R Challenge has taken place outside of Europe.

While Honda has claimed the unofficial lap record for a front-drive production car, it may be difficult for others to mount a challenge.

The Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst is a public road for 350 days of the year and only closed for certain motorsport events, including the iconic Bathurst 1000, the Bathurst 12 Hour and the Bathurst Six Hour endurance races.