Acura Motorsports gave two of its young IMSA stars a rare opportunity in February as Acura Team Penske’s Ricky Taylor and Meyer Shank Racing’s Trent Hindman traded cars at Sebring International Raceway.
For Hindman, who captured the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona title last year in the No. 86 MSR Acura NSX GT3, and Taylor, the 2017 IMSA Prototype champion, who races the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 DPi, swapping cars from IMSA’s fastest and slowest classes required mental dexterity.
“In relative terms, any GT3 car is a serious piece of kit these days, so to go up to the Acura ARX-05, the highest level we have in the United States, I had my reservations about it because it’s such a different world,” Hindman told RACER.
“But it was such a good car. I’ve done some prototype racing before, and they were hard to control, so my preconceived notion of what it would be like left me asking myself if I could hang onto it. But I got into it, and it was so comfortable to drive. Honestly, the transition from going from the NSX GT3 to the ARX-05 DPi was so smooth. Nothing like what I expected it to be.”
“It was all very new with ABS and all the technology packed into the GT3 car,” Taylor added. “Coming from a DPi, which is lighter and faster, I was shocked by the brakes and how good they were for a car that’s heavier than the ARX-05. I came away thinking how the NSX is the kind of car everyone would want to drive for 24 hours. It’s so forgiving. The car gives you so much confidence. I can see why Trent and the Meyer Shank team have had so much success with it.”
Hindman found the pre-test preparation made the car swap a less daunting ordeal.
“The user manuals were nearly identical for both cars, which helped,” he said. “That was awesome (knowing) the buttons in one car were similar to the other. And the fact that you have the same core group of HPD engineers going between the cars on electronics and everything else — it really shows. Two very different cars, but the differences from the inside were small.”
Taylor appreciated the opportunity to step out of his normal routine and revel in the unique opportunity presented by Acura and Honda.
“We’re all super passionate about motorsports, and as much as you’re living a dream, you do get caught up in it being your job and get sucked into that spiral of being perfect and making no mistakes,” he said. “But then you have a day like that at Sebring with Trent where it was so much fun with him, feeling a new car, sharing experiences, and thinking about how the NSX GT3 could make me better in the ARX-05 I normally drive. I also found a few things there. Honda has been consistently in motorsports more than almost any other brand, so it’s great to be part of that legacy and to get to drive more of its cars.”
As a rising member of the Acura Motorsports family, Hindman still marvels at the sight of the ARX-05 DPi waiting for him on pit lane at Sebring.
“It can’t be stated enough how fortunate I was to be selected to do this with Ricky,” he said. “We’ve known each other for ages, and getting to work together in this context was such a great opportunity.
“The message here, I think, is for the kids who dream of having their name on the side of a Penske car at some point. I had to step away for a few moments and collect my emotions when I saw my name on the ARX-05 for the first time. That’s really special.”