Q&A with Honda engine designer

Daisuke Horiuchi, chief engineer at Honda R&D’s motor sports development division, is the father of the bespoke 1.6-litre turbo HR412E engine that powers the Civic WTCC.

Are you happy with how things are going after the first track test at Vallelunga?

This was the first time the engine was running on a proper circuit. We spent the first day to run all the basic system checks, and we also checked the settings. Of course we faced the inevitable teething problems but we could sort them out and the engine worked properly. As a matter of fact the first day was nothing more than a shake down. This enabled us to actually begin the car testing on the second day. So far I am happy and also very confident.

What are the main challenges an engineer must face in building a WTCC engine?

I have designed many racing engines for different categories, including Indy Car. I was also involved in the Formula One programme, for which I designed the engine head. The main challenge for the WTCC engine was to cope with the minimum weight and the housing. When you build engines for single-seaters you have few restrictions. The approach is to design the lightest possible engine, then the chassis is built around it. The WTCC engine must weigh at least 95 kilos and has to be housed inside the compartment of the production car. Once you have managed to comply with the restrictions of the technical regulations you also have to work on the reliability, as the engine must last for the whole season, roughly for 6000 kilometres.

As you are aware, the FIA is working to introduce hybrid technologies in WTCC for the future. How do you see this evolution?

For sure this is a worldwide trend and all categories of motor sport must follow it. I think that adopting these technologies in touring car racing would be very interesting for all car manufacturers, because all applications may have direct and positive impacts on the normal production cars. Personally speaking I wish this to happen soon.