JAS managing director Alessandro Mariani is confident Honda will provide stiffer competition for the all-conquering Citroen team in the upcoming World Touring Car Championship rounds after upping development for its Honda Civic.
The manufacturer-backed Honda team has been left floundering compared with its incoming Citroen rivals so far in 2014, the French firm benefitting from the substantial development programme it undertook once the new regulations were confirmed.
By contrast, Honda began the development of its Civic much later, a programme that was then hampered when the proposed sixth chassis – which was to be used primarily for testing – was required to replace Gabriele Tarquini's heavily damaged race car after the opening event in Morocco.
As such, the tight WTCC schedule meant Honda could not complete its development chassis until the summer break, where the manufacturer enjoyed a productive four-day test in Valencia.
As the 2014 season resumes with the 'flyaway' half of the season in Argentina, Mariani is confident Honda – which is yet to win a race in 2014 – has made a good step forward.
"Before the start of the season we built five cars: two for the Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team; two for Zengõ Motorsport and Proteam Racing, plus a chassis for the test team. It's well known that the chassis that was meant for the test team had to be prepared for the race in Paul Ricard, following Gabriele Tarquini's crash in Marrakech.
“That completely changed our planning, because not only did we have five meetings that closely followed each other, we also could not rely on the information of a test team. Because of that busy schedule we could only start building the new car, chassis no. 6, in the second half of June, and the earliest opportunity to test it was last week on the Spanish track of Valencia.
"Valencia is the track where we rolled out the current Civic and even though the car has improved since then and there are much higher temperatures in Valencia now than during that first test in March, it was a great opportunity to use the data of that very first test session.
“It provides us with the time to optimise our current situation, thoroughly test some new parts such as different options in suspension and to understand whether or not we can continue to evolve in the right direction. We're obviously keeping our cards close to our chest, but I think we can say that we will tackle the upcoming races with plenty of confidence."