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New Honda Hybrid Rally Car Unveiled

Oaktec gave a sneak preview of its brand new Honda Civic Hybrid at Silverstone this weekend to EEMS guests invited to see the race-winning bio-fuel Barwell Aston Martin in action on the track in the , .

The new Civic Hybrid, which is in its final stages of preparation, has been built with the blessing of Honda UK and comes in the wake of the highly successful Honda Insight Hybrid that Lancashire-based Oaktec has competed with in the Formula 1000 stage rally championship. The Insight won the F1000 class A championship in 2006, becoming the first hybrid car to win a motorsport championship, and has won class A in the two rounds it has entered in 2007. The Oaktec development project is supported by EEMS, the Energy Efficient Motorsport programme funded by BERR (formerly DTI) and regional development agencies.

Initially the new Civic Hybrid will follow the lead of the Insight and compete in ultra low emission form, and retain its CVT automatic transmission. It will be built effectively to Group N specification and retain its 1338cc 4 cylinder engine boosted by a 20kw electric motor/generator. The hybrid has the advantage of sharing the floor pan of the new Japanese market 4 door Civic Type R which should enable Oaktec to source competition parts developed for that car. The team has already purchased competition parts for the multi link suspension from Japan.

The new Honda Hybrid will make its public debut at the Chatsworth Rally Show at the end of September where it will do a series of demonstration runs through the special stage. The team has invited an international driver to guest drive the car at this event. It is then planned to make its competitive debut on a tarmac rally before the end of the year. The Oaktec team has been invited to compete the car in endurance racing and will consider this option for 2008.

Oaktec has great ambitions for this car and for further developments of the Honda Hybrid system for motorsport applications. As team leader Paul Andrews commented “Our experience of the Honda hybrid system through competing the Insight has given us a clear picture of its potential in motorsport applications. Despite two years of harsh competition and testing it has remained infallibly reliable despite being pushed way outside its normal limits. With this new car we plan to push this envelope even further and we have technology partners in place to achieve some very exciting developments. As always funding is the big issue but we believe this project is highly relevant and worthwhile, and has the potential to present a whole new aspect in environmentally responsible motorsport.”

Oaktec partner and rally co-driver Bill Meeson added “Once the car is up and running we will then continue to explore the use of bio-fuels to further add to the cars green credentials. We have a lot to live up to as the Insight is not only a winner but can achieve over 70mpg in normal road use and when run on bio-ethanol we believe it set a new record for low exhaust emissions in a road legal car. The new Civic Hybrid is a bigger and heavier car than the Insight but uses an even more advanced development of Honda’s IMA technology and already gives remarkable performance for a small engined car.”

The Civic received a very good reaction at Silverstone and had a steady stream of curious visitors from the F3 and GT3 pits. The car is now back in Lancashire for further development before testing begins at the end of August.

Oaktec’s Paul Andrews is pictured with David Leslie, who has raced Hondas in the British Touring Car Championship, and has since done commentary for Eurosport on the World Touring Car Championship series.