Engineering Talk #7 Performance through braking

Braking performance is about much more than simply stopping quickly, it affects all aspects of the new Civic Type R’s character.

SPEED AND STABILITY

As any racing driver will tell you, balance is key to the fastest lap times and braking forms a big part of keeping a car stable in order to boost speed and confidence going into a corner. Other aspects such as the size of the wheelbase, the tyre tread and weight distribution are also vital and all of these were examined by Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist engineers developing the new Civic Type R.

MINIMISING WEIGHT TRANSFER

These engineers looked at braking from two points of view; stability while slowing down and handling agility. The first is important, especially on a track, because it affects how the mass of a car shifts from back to front as a driver goes from accelerating to braking and then back to the accelerator as the Civic Type R approaches and turns into a corner. To minimise the weight transfer to the front, the engineers changed the weight distribution itself and the brake bias. Compared to the old car, the new Civic Type R has a bit more of its weight over the rear wheels and the brakes on those wheels apply more force than they used to. 

This means that the Civic Type R is less likely to ‘dive’ under braking which gives the driver more confidence. But, when the driver releases the brakes to turn into the corner, it is actually helpful to have a little more weight over the front wheels. The Type R achieves this trick by momentarily leaving a bit of oil pressure in the brake pipes even after the driver has removed their foot from the pedal. 

IMPROVED CORNERING ABILITY

That’s not the only way the Civic Type R’s powerful and intelligent braking system helps handing though, the engineers also developed ways to use the brakes to improve how the car behaves in a corner.

Braking engineer Kaztaka Ohmura explains, “I think of turning as three processes: braking, turn-in and acceleration. We aimed to increase driver confidence by improving controllability in each stage through the brakes.”

The system, called Agile Handling Assist can subtly apply the brakes to individual wheels in order to make the Civic Type R corner more precisely. If the car is beginning to understeer, the system will gently brake the inside front wheel, which stops the car running wide. The same thing helps to stop the wheels spinning at the limits of their traction; applying the brakes to the inside front wheel directs more to the outside front tyre to increase traction.

“The new Type R’s brakes play an important role with agile handling assistance which enhances turning performance and line-tracing abilities,” says Ohmura. As with all Type R cars, the new one adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.