When it comes to lap records, none are quite as recognized or sought after as those set at the Nurburgring. While supercars and sports cars may hold the the fastest lap records for the "Ring", one of the most contentious class of cars is the front-wheel drive hot hatchback. We're talking specifically front-wheel driven cars, so models like the Volkswagen Golf R and Mercedes-AMG A 45 are excluded from this comparison.
The record for front-wheel driven cars at the Ring used to be held tightly by Renault Sport with their Megane RS series of cars. The Megane RS 275 Trophy R in particular was the last of the Meganes to hold that record, and the most powerful one yet. In 2015, the Megane RS was ousted by the Honda Civic Type R Hatchback (FK2R), and the following year this record was taken over by Volkswagen with the Golf GTI Clubsport. Coming into 2017, we see that record once again going back to Honda, with the new Civic Type R Hatchback (FK8R)- with a blistering 7 minutes, 43.80 seconds. The FK8R comes with the new 2.0-litre VTEC Turbo engine that debuted in the FK2R, with a whopping 316 hp and 400 Nm from 2500 rpm.
There is absolutely no doubt that the engineers in Renault Sport are working overtime with the next generation Megane in order to produce another record setting car- but for now, let's look at why the FK8R is noticeably quicker than its predecessor. Perhaps the most important changes are that of dimension, with the track width and the wheelbase of the new FK8R being wider and longer than the FK2R respectively, which gives it more stability and lends itself better to the high-speed track that is the Nurburgring. It's also worth noting that the FK8R comes with multi-link rear suspension as well, as opposed to the torsion beam suspension of the Civic Hatchbacks that preceded it.
The new FK8R is based on the new Civic Hatchback, which is a global product compared to the Europe-only Civic Hatchbacks from before. That being said, it does look a little more like a liftback or a sedan if one were not paying close attention. Some critics may argue that the roll-cage and stickier tyres installed on this FK8R during this record-setting run make it a little unfair, but let's remember that even the Golf GTI Clubsport came with a roll-cage and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres from factory. Whether or not the FK8R employs these is inconsequential as it would only be fair- not to mention the fact that tyres vary from market to market regardless of car, and that most cars setting records on the Ring require a roll cage out of safety.
It's only a matter of time before someone else takes the title over, but this doesn't really matter. While tuning and development on the Nurburgring is a good idea as it exposes the car to a variety of conditions and speeds that engineers can find a middle ground for, the lap time itself is irrelevant. Conditions at the Nurburgring can be extremely varied depending on time of year, and even if they were consistent it is but a single track. What works at the Nurburgring may not perform as well at Sepang International Circuit, and so on and so forth- so it's best to take these records lightly.