Acura: Born on the racetrack

Acura: Born on the racetrack

When Acura committed to building the second-generation NSX, it also committed to go racing. Of course.

“If we make a supercar, we’re making a race car,” says Acura vice president and brand officer Jon Ikeda. “You want to be a performance brand? You have to be on the race track.”

Michael Shank is admired throughout the paddock for his no-nonsense, hands-on approach to getting things done. Image by Michael Levitt/LAT

Beginning in 2017, Meyer Shank Racing took the lead developing the NSX GT3. Team owner Michael Shank knew he would be starting from a great place with the NSX.

“The NSX is a fantastic car,” enthuses Shank, who also happens to be an NSX owner. “It’s super fast; super balanced. So when we got the NSX, together with HPD, to turn it into the NSX GT3, we were starting with a car that has a great chassis, a great engine and a fast shape. I’ll say it again, but 80 percent of the racecar is the same as the street car.”

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

From the baseline street car, the NSX’s evolution to racecar has been more focused on enhancing its inherent strengths, rather than reinventing it, according to Shank. In other words, the groups involved in creating the NSX GT3 and, later, GT3 Evo weren’t about to throw out the baby with the bath water.

“In the NSX, you feel like you’re driving the car, not the car driving you,” says Meyer Shank Racing driver Mario Farnbacher who, along with co-driver Trent Hindman, took the GTD-class drivers’ and teams’ championships in last year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “In the racecar it’s the same; it goes exactly where you want it to go.”

Meyer Shank Racing will again field two Acura NSX GT3 Evos in the WeatherTech Championship’s GTD class for 2020. Image by Jake Galstad/LAT

Farnbacher points out that in the ultra- competitive world of GTD where every race, from the Rolex 24 At Daytona, to Motul Petit Le Mans, and every one between, is run  at-out, the car’s drivability is one of the essential keys to success. Keeping in mind the constant challenges of speed differences among the various classes, and that the other seven manufacturers involved in GTD are pushing to be at the top of their game, having a racecar that is both fast and nimble can’t be overstated.

The second-gen NSX began with all the essential attributes to be a successful race car. It’s slick, responsive, balanced and powerful. So, is the NSX a race car for the street, or a street car for the track? Fact is, with very little modification required, it’s both.