F1 champ cuts secret Bathurst laps in a stock Honda Type R
JENSON Button has set a benchmark lap for hatchback performance cars at Mount Panorama.
The 2009 Formula 1 world champion took a Honda Civic Type R to Australia's top racetrack as part of a secret mission over the Easter long weekend.
The British driver recorded a 2m35.207s lap in a completely standard Civic Type R road car.
His time establishes a benchmark for road-going hot hatches as opposed to beating lap records. Bathurst's status as a public road for the majority of the year means production cars rarely have an opportunity to take to the circuit.
Button's effort took place on Easter Monday after the Bathurst 6 Hour production car race.
The time would have been good enough for second in class behind a turbocharged six-cylinder BMW modified for racing, putting it well ahead of racing hot hatches such as the Hyundai i30 N, VW Golf R and VW Scirocco R.
The lap would have resulted in Button being kicked out of the Challenge Bathurst event for road cars held in November for being too quick.
Honda's turbo hatchback holds the lap record for front-wheel-drive cars at Germany's fearsome Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit as well as other tracks where the Japanese brand has taken the car as part of a publicity campaign.
The brand put Button, who races for Honda in Japan's Super GT series, behind the wheel for the Bathurst attempt as he holds the unofficial lap record at Mount Panorama.
Button joined Supercars star Craig Lowndes at Bathurst for a demonstration run in a McLaren Formula 1 car in 2011, when he set a 1m48.8s lap of the circuit.
The British racer said "anything you drive around Mount Panorama is pretty amazing".
"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," he said.
"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."
Honda's Nurburgring record was criticised in some quarters for removing interior components and using sticky Michelin Cup tyres to gain an advantage. Other hatchbacks to hold the German record, including VW's Golf GTI Clubsport S and the Renault Megane Trophy R, are two-seat special editions available without airconditioning to save weight.
But Honda says the Australian lap featured a "100 per cent road legal car that's straight off the production line".
"We came here to have fun and see what this amazing car can do around this iconic track and it did very well," Button said.
"It's definitely an exciting car for enthusiasts."