Honda has long been a fixture in the British Touring Car Championship, and now the Japanese automaker is preparing a brand new Civic racecar to attack the World Touring Car Championship.
The car will be based on the British-built five-door 2012 Civic hatch, which recently made its showroom debut here in Australia. However, it will be powered by an all-new engine which will debut a number of technologies that are new to the nameplate.
In an announcement this week, Honda revealed that its WTCC contender will be equipped with a 1.6 litre direct-injected and turbocharged inline four, dubbed HR412E.
Developed in conjunction with Mugen, the new engine could also offer some clues as to what to expect in the next-generation Civic Type R.
Under WTCC rules, cars must comply with the FIA's Super 2000 formula. That means naturally aspirated engines can be no larger than 2000cc, and turbocharged engines no larger than 1600cc.
Crucially, cars must be also homologated. That means at least 2500 cars of similar specification have to be built each year. One could be forgiven for thinking that homologated model will be the next-gen Type R.
But will it be so?
Well, a be-spoilered Civic prototype recently spotted undergoing shakedown testing in Europe (below) is, like the race car, a five-door. Honda's renewed focus on environmental friendliness also makes a turbocharged, low displacement engine more likely for the next Civic Type R, rather than the naturally aspirated 2.0L of previous generations.
Impending European emissions legislation may force Honda's hand too. For performance cars, it seems turbochargers will soon be the only way to make big power without attracting the ire of the EPA.
Other rumours have stated that the new Type R will have a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine, while other outlets say the beloved Type R will remain naturally aspirated for the time being. However, it appears that the Honda-backed WTCC Civic may offer the best indication yet of the new Civic Type R's final form.
Honda's WTCC Civic will make its race debut at Suzuka in Japan in late October, and compete in the last three rounds of this year's WTCC season with Tiago Monteiro at the helm.
A second car will join the team for the 2013 season, with Gabriele Tarquini driving.