The Oaktec Honda Civic Hybrid is to take part in the 2008 Jim Clark Challenge rally, when it will compete at a level above the tarmac single venue events it has contested to date.
Neil Wearden has accepted an invitation to guest drive the Civic on the event. The former British Championship contender who has been away from regular competition for several years was approached by Oaktec late last year to evaluate the petrol electric Honda.
The Oaktec team is keen for feedback from a top level driver as it embarks on a serious technical development programme to exploit the performance potential from the electric drive in the hybrid system, and Neil, who made his name in the 1998 British Championship with his giant killing exploits in the Asquith Honda Civic, was the obvious man for the job. He will be co-driven on the event by Daily Telegraph journalist Franca Davenport.
The Oaktec Honda Hybrid CVT project is focused on developing petrol electric hybrid drive systems allied to CVT transmissions for motorsport with an emphasis on using less fuel and creating fewer emissions from a competitive package. The project began in 2005 with the EEMS supported Honda Insight Hybrid which ran with great success in the Formula 1000 tarmac championship. On the Jim Clark the 1339 cc Civic will run in the Group N 1400 class of the BRC Challenge where the team hope it will prove competitive.
However Oaktec team boss Paul Andrews put this in perspective, “The Civic Hybrid is a very large car for this class. We have nearly 120BHP from the 1300cc Hybrid unit but because this is a family saloon size car we carry a 300kg weight penalty over the class limit. The Civic has a great chassis and the CVT transmission is easy to drive and very effective so we hope the car will show well.”
The Civic competes with all its low emissions equipment in place and in normal use has class leading CO2 emissions of just 109g/km and returns around 50mpg on the road. However Oaktec has identified genuine performance potential from the Honda Hybrid system and can see significant possibilities that they hope to exploit over the next 18 months.