Acura: It's why we race

Image by Dole/LAT

Acura: It's why we race

Acura was created as a performance brand, so it’s essential to walk the walk in order to live up to the talk, says Acura’s vice president and brand officer, Jon Ikeda.

“We’re reorienting ourselves back to our roots,” he explains. “Acura began as the performance division of Honda. Relaunching the NSX [in 2016], we got back on track with precision crafted performance.

“As we were developing the NSX, we decided right away that if we are going to be a performance brand, we can’t just make fast cars. We have to prove ourselves,” he adds. “It’s in the DNA of our company to race and to compete, so motorsport is integral to what we make and what we say.”

In 2019, Acura Motorsports enjoyed a multi-championship-winning season.

Competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s headlining Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class, Acura Team Penske’s pair of ARX-05 prototypes delivered a drivers’, manufacturers’ and teams’ title triple.

Read RACER’s 16-page 2020 Acura Motorsports special section HERE

In GT Daytona, the class for production-based sports cars, Meyer Shank Racing secured drivers’ and teams’ top honors with its NSX GT3 Evo.

Over in SRO GT World Challenge America, RealTime Racing scored a Pro-Am Cup teams’ championship, while Racer’s Edge Motorsports duo Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli secured the Pro-Am Cup for drivers, all racing with the potent NSX GT3 Evo.

But that was then, this is now, and last season’s celebrations have given rise to 2020’s goals and ambitions.

“Our mindset is to be better in everything we do and to measure ourselves against other like-minded manufacturers,” says Ikeda, who believes better on the track means better on the road. “There’s a big connection between our road cars and racecars. Racing creates the connection that we are a performance brand and that we truly care about how we engineer our cars.”

With Acura Team Penske and Meyer Shank Racing getting ready to put their titles on the line in the 2020 WeatherTech Championship and Racer’s Edge Motorsports up for the fight again in GT World Challenge America, Acura will aim for nothing less than another championship-winning season.

The next challenge

In 2019, Acura Motorsports celebrated seven championships across two series and three classes, including a trio of titles with Acura Team Penske in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s headlining DPi class. But that was then, this is now. For 2020, with new goals and challenges, the scoreboard is reset to zero.

“Last year was an earned effort. The level of competition in all the series we race in is incredibly high, so the question now is, ‘Can we sustain it?’” says Ted Klaus, president of Honda Performance Development (HPD), which develops the racecars Acura puts out on track.

For Acura Team Penske, racing against the toughest competition is what motivates it. For 2020, there are new goals and new challenges.

“Last year we were fortunate enough, together with Acura, to put all the pieces in place and win three championships,” says Team Penske president Tim Cindric. “But nothing ever stands still in sports car racing, and we still have a lot of unfinished business.”

That unfinished business includes taking a win in one of the WeatherTech Championship’s marquee endurance events, starting with the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. While Team Penske took the Acura ARX-05 DPi into the winner’s circle three times in 2019, none came in a long-distance classic – and that rankles with the ultra-driven band of racers at Team Penske and Acura Motorsports.

“Winning an endurance race is a big focus for this year,” says Klaus. “We’ve learned the hard way through some failures, but we’re confident those past gremlins are behind us.”

When you come up short, how you react is everything. At Acura and Team Penske, the desire to succeed and to win comes from within and, as Klaus notes, every single person, from the drivers to the engineers and mechanics, is focused on pushing the program forward.

“I’m the one putting the pressure on myself to make sure we perform even better than last year,” says Juan Pablo Montoya, who co-drove the No. 6 ARX-05 with Dane Cameron to the 2019 DPi class drivers’ championship. “That’s the same for everybody. We’re all driven to win, and the goal is to earn more victories and championships for Acura.”

Even after last year’s multiple successes, complacency isn’t a trait you’ll see in anyone in the team, but confidence is. The belief that comes with winning can be a powerful motivator. Yet, as every racer knows, you’re only as good as your last result.

“Knowing that we ticked a lot of boxes last season does help you come into the new season happy and confident,” adds Cameron. “But no way are we resting on our laurels.”