SONOMA, Calif. – You’ve seen the new Acura NSX GT3, which has been through its initial testing and first public outings at both the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Utah Motorsports Complex, but which won’t be in action this weekend at either Circuit of The Americas or Sonoma Raceway because of the tight time frame before the upcoming FIA Balance of Performance test in Ladoux, France, which follows this weekend’s racing.
You will note that both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge are in action at COTA and Sonoma though, and this weekend generally does seem to be a good time for announcements to occur. And today, they have.
In a joint press conference at both COTA and Sonoma, the projected, leading teams for both programs – the RealTime Racing team for Pirelli World Challenge and the Michael Shank Racing team for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – have been confirmed to run two Acura NSX GT3s apiece in their respective championships next season.
“The NSX was designed as a pinnacle expression of Acura Precision Crafted Performance, and we’re looking forward to proving its ultimate performance capabilities in GT3 competition,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development, which will oversee the Acura Motorsports GT3 effort. “By continuing our longtime partnership with RealTime Racing in the Pirelli World Challenge and extending our association with Michael Shank Racing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, we plan to build on Acura’s long tradition of success in North American sports car racing.”
“To say that we’re thrilled to be a part of the Acura Motorsports program in 2017 would be a massive understatement,” said MSR team owner Michael Shank. “This is a huge step forward in the development of our team, and we’re looking forward to working with HPD to add to Acura’s history of success in North American endurance racing.”
RealTime founder Peter Cunningham is enthused about continuing his team’s long-term relationship with Acura, including 14 victories in World Challenge competition with the first-generation NSX and winning the 1997 GT championship. “After personally being involved with the initial track testing and racing of the first generation Acura NSX 26 years ago, it is a great honor for my team and I to have this opportunity with the NSX GT3 program,” he said. “The new generation NSX is an incredible machine, and will be a great platform for RealTime and Acura to contend for the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge title.”
Drivers have not yet been confirmed but appear to be more or less set for 2017. There could be the potential of some crossover of drivers, per program development manager Lee Niffenegger, but nothing is set in stone.
Both teams are in action this weekend. Peter Kox substitutes for Spencer Pumpelly in RealTime’s Acura TLX-GT at Sonoma alongside Ryan Eversley; Pumpelly is on double duty in Austin this weekend (Lamborghini Huracán GT3 for Change Racing in GT Daytona and a Porsche Cayman for Rennsport One in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class).
Given the Honda/Shank relationship that’s grown over two years in Shank’s LMP2 car, this move makes sense on a couple fronts. Ozz Negri and John Pew currently compete in the team’s Ligier JS P2 Honda.
Until today, while Acura had been descriptive about the NSX GT3 as a car, it hadn’t directly identified team names. But if you read the tea leaves you pretty much could have indicated where the car will be racing (almost certainly both major U.S. sports car series listed above) and with the respective teams.