It seemed unlikely, and even strange, that World Challenge’s most stalwart and winningest team would not be present as the series celebrated its 30th year, newly christened as Blancpain GT World Challenge America. But, indeed, RealTime Racing, still basking in the glow of having won the inaugural TCR title in 2018, was not accounted for at the Circuit of The Americas season opener in March.
However, as that event unfolded, so did news of the team’s plans for 2019 which included a return to GT with a Pro-Am Acura NSX GT3 Evo for Dane Cameron and Bret Curtis.
That driver pairing made its debut at VIRginia International Raceway two weeks ago, the series’ second weekend, and came away with a win.
“Bret and I had maybe 15 laps each in the car before we got here,” said Cameron after the race. “I was a little worried we might be behind, but the NSX GT3 Evo is a really great car and a great evolution from the previous one, so we were kind of bang-on the base right from the get-go.
“Bret did a fantastic job; I was able to give him a nice lead in the beginning,” Cameron continued. “I’m really happy to be here, add this program to my calendar and get a win.”
Cameron’s other racing job is driving for Acura Team Penske in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. His introduction to Acura was driving an NSX GT3 with RealTime in the first California 8 Hour event back in 2017.
Curtis, who makes his living in the steel business (the Spectra Resources Corporation on the door of the NSX) has been racing in World Challenge off and on for a decade. He also had a previous pairing with Cameron, so it all came together once RealTime started shopping for drivers for its renewed NSX program.
“I’d raced in World Challenge before, and I like the sprint format of the series,” Curtis explained. “With the GT3s coming in a few years ago, I think it kind of elevated the series, so I’ve always been attracted to running it a bit more. RealTime has always had a lot of success in this series, so when I thought about running, I thought about them first. They run a great car. I’d never been in the Acura before, but it’s got good aero, it’s easy to kind of feel the weight of the car, it’s got good downforce, good power and I’m really enjoying it.”
RealTime introduced the NSX GT3 to the series in 2017 after doing much of the development work; team principal Peter Cunningham had won a GT championship in the first version of the NSX 20 years prior. But the car disappeared from the series last year as RealTime switched to a Honda Civic Type R TCR program, winning the title with Ryan Eversley.
RealTime’s return to GT marks the third NSX GT3 Evo running in 2019, joining the Racer’s Edge/MBRP car of Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli – Pro-Am winners in Race 2 at COTA and Race 1 (series Round 3) at VIR – and the Gradient Racing/Unit Nutrition car for Till Bechtolsheimer and Eversley. The relative explosion in the Acura population can largely be attributed to the Evolution version, Cunningham noted.
“The Evo kit has a lot to do with it, for sure,” he said. “What we’ve found with that upgrade is a more tunable car, a better car on a long run, and a car that’s more comfortable to drive — not just for a pro driver, but a less experienced driver as well.”
Cameron, although his experience in the previous version came two years ago in that Intercontinental GT Challenge one-off race, echoed those sentiments.
“I had limited time in the other one, which was a quick car, but had a smaller setup window and was little more difficult to drive, a little harder to hit the setup on the head and unlock the potential that was in it,” Cameron explained. “Everything was massaged in the right direction. The NSX has been pretty quick everywhere in the world on several different tires as well.”
“My hats off to Acura and Honda Performance Development on making a good improvement,” Cameron continued. “Where you would see glimpses of brilliance before, it didn’t seem to be a consistent challenger all the time, so it’s really cool to see them make a big gain there.”
Of the four Blancpain GT World Challenge America rounds so far, Acura has won three in the Pro-Am category compared to one for Ferrari at COTA, so the Evo kit certainly has had an effect. RealTime and the rest of the racers’ next opportunity comes at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on May 18-19.