Watch: Jenson Button Looks Ready To Fall Asleep Attacking Racetrack in Honda’s Civic Type R

How the former F1 superstar works the wheel of Honda’s hottest hot-hatch is a lesson in the normalization of true speed.

byJonathon Klein| PUBLISHED May 9, 2019 1:34 PM
Watch: Jenson Button Looks Ready To Fall Asleep Attacking Racetrack in Honda’s Civic Type R

“Once you go fast, you never go back.” That’s the saying, right? We’re going to say it is and move on because it’s certainly the saying of retired Formula 1 racecar driver Jenson Button. The Briton—who now races Baja, Super GT, and the World Endurance Championship—partnered with Honda Racing Performance to take on the legendary Bathurst racetrack in a brand new Civic Type R. The result, though a front-wheel drive lap record, looks to have bored Button into nearly falling asleep racing around the track.

Button and the Honda Civic Type R went to Bathurst to claim a front-wheel drive lap record, which is part of Honda’s Type R Challenge. Last year, the Civic Type R racked up a number of track records, too, including; Spa Francorchamps, Magny Cours, Silverstone, Estoril, and the Hungaroring. The latter of which was set with Button behind the wheel. Button’s Bathurst blitz kicks off the 2019 Challenge. Yet, from the in-car footage, blitz may not be the right term to describe Button’s demeanor.

Honda’s Civic Type R is no slouch. It’s a 306 horsepower hot-hatch with true sporting credentials. It’s one of our favorite sports cars and impresses all who enter it. But watching the in-car footage, it’s painstakingly obvious the racer is bored out of his skull by the Civic Type R’s relative lack of speed. Button does the sort of in-seat shimmy you or I would normally do on a long road trip. He moves around in the seat shifting his weight and looking ahead or to the side as he waits for the next relatively slow turn to come. We half expected him to start fiddling with the radio. 

Button has spent most of his life racing around circuits with properly fast equipment; i.e. his old McLaren Formula 1 racecar. Road cars, even quick ones like the Honda Civic Type R, aren’t really up to the challenge of eliciting true excitement from a man who lived his life at 200 mph and continues to live a slightly slower 170 mph existence. That sort of speed normalizes your view of just what is and what isn’t fast. 

In the end, Button took home a front-wheel drive lap record of 2:35.207 at Bathurst. That’s quick considering a fully built V8 Supercar’s lap record was set last year with a 2:06.149 lap. But even his pit crew relaying that he took the record didn’t elicit a real response from Button. After the lap record, Button did give a glimmer of enthusiasm saying, “Anything you drive around Mount Panorama is pretty amazing. Up across the top of the mountain, the Type R is so fast through there, so once I got into a rhythm and got used to the speed you can carry, it was really good fun.”

Maybe Honda should call us? We’d be hooting and hollering if we had taken any sort of record home. Then again, we probably wouldn’t be setting any records. Good job, Jenson.