To show us what the new Honda Civic Type R could do on the track, Honda invited us to Sonoma Raceway for an afternoon of lead-follow. To protect the precious population of automotive journalists, YouTubers, bloggers, and website word artists, Honda’s factory driver Ryan Eversley took it easy. While Eversley explained some basic track etiquette to us influencers, heavy rain turned portions of the track into an above-ground pool.
Sonoma Raceway, formerly Sears Point, is a playground of peaks and valleys with a drag strip down the middle. A 2.5-mile road course with 160 feet of elevation change, Sonoma has waved checkered flags for 52 years. From Dan Gurney’s 1970 IndyCar to Kasey Kahne’s NASCAR Dodge Charger, Sonoma has hosted them all and is a beacon of automotive enthusiasm among the valley’s 14,000 acres of wine vineyards.
The Championship White Type R we lapped wore the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. While these max-performance summer tires are a great wet-weather tire, we were nevertheless way down on grip compared to the tires’ tenacious dry traction and prepared to tip-toe our way up to speed.
Embrace the Drama
Wet laps teach an important lesson on smooth throttle application. As you get more comfortable, you realize driving in the rain is just a dramatized version of what works when it’s dry. Breathe onto the throttle instead of stomping, and the CTR will reward you with a faster corner exit. Climbing up and out of Turn 2 meant taking a lot of curbing. Exiting that area requires serious throttle discipline in the rain to prevent traction loss when applying the Civic’s robust 310-pound-feet of torque.
The Type R’s magic became more evident as corner exits began to dry. Get the entry right for the wide downhill through Turn 6, and the lateral g’s experienced when exiting the legendary Carousel in the CTR at full blast will make your eyebrows tighten. On the drier laps, the Type R’s limited-slip differential shined with putting down way more power than we thought possible. Worry of oh-no, this might be too fast is replaced by damn, I guess we’ll try that faster next time.
Unlike the far-tamer 200-hp Civic Si, the 315-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter in the Type R buzzes louder when revved. That makes it much easier—even while wearing a helmet—to sense when it’s time to shift. The shift lights atop the gauge cluster also are a clear indication, but this car is loud enough to not need them.
Honda updated its shifter base for the new CTR, and it delivers crisp changes. Rather than stirring Legos with a plastic fork, the Type R’s throw into the next gear feels snappy. Honda’s reworked automatic rev-matching works well on slower laps and is a helpful aid when learning braking and turn-in points. With it off, the additional footwork required to blip the revs yourself feels more natural, though not as consistent.
Even when the apexes have filled with rain water, racetracks are tough to leave. While our time at Sonoma with the CTR was as short as it was sweet, it won’t be our last chance to kiss the curbing with one. And we’ll hope for kinder weather at Virginia International Raceway for this year’s Lightning Lap.
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