The Honda Yuasa Racing team caused a bit of a stir when it revealed its 2014 British Touring Car Championship racer. It will replace the ultra-successful hatchback version of its Civic with the Tourer model. It’s an unusual choice: there hasn’t been an estate car on the BTCC grid since the end of the 1994 season.
Given that touring cars don’t have much need for extra luggage space, it does beg the question why. But with the compact estate market that the Civic Tourer sits in growing steadily, it’s a good chance for Honda UK to push the sporting credentials of the model. Plus, Civic drivers have won the last three BTCC titles, so this is a good way of maintaining interest in the programme.
The team says the weight, wheelbase, layout and suspension of the two cars will be the same, so it shouldn’t harm the competitiveness of the machine. Having become used to seeing the compact Civic tearing up the circuits, it's going to take me a bit of time to adjust to the Tourer version. Still, I'm willing to give it a go, because it's always refreshing to see a bit of variety on the grid.
The last estate to race in the BTCC was the Volvo 850. Unlike the Civic Tourer, it was a proper square-sided slab of a car - and I loved it. The sight of an estate car in full racing livery hopping over a kerb was just so wonderfully... odd. It was a brilliant PR coup by Volvo, which claimed it had chosen the estate for its aerodynamic benefits. It gained an unfeasible amount of publicity for a car that never bettered fifth place.