New Acura NSX GT3s star in Rolex 24 debut

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The collaborative efforts of Michael Shank Racing, RealTime Racing, HART and Honda Performance Development all came good straight out of the box for the race debut of the new Acura NSX GT3.

In this weekend’s 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona, the new Acuras led laps, finished fifth and 11th in the 27-car GT Daytona field (and perhaps was unlucky to not finish higher), and scored the most points in the first leg of the four-race Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.

Not bad for your first time out.

Both cars qualified in the top-10 in class on debut, with Andy Lally in the No. 93 Acura and Jeff Segal in the No. 86 Acura lining up in seventh and ninth.

By Lap 28, Lally was already into the lead of the class – the first lead for the new NSX in race competition – and something that would be matched by several of his teammates later on in the race.

Between Lally, Segal, Mark Wilkins, Ozz Negri, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay (only Tom Dyer and Katherine Legge didn’t lead, although they were each in the top-three at various points in their stints), the two Acuras combined to lead 171 of the 634 laps in class (No. 86, 97 laps, No. 93, 74 laps), or 27 percent.

The cars really excelled overnight in the miserable rainy conditions, where the track conditions were brutal and where it was difficult to get the tires up to temperature. Ambient and track temperatures were in the mid-40 to low-50 degree range.

Lally made a key switch onto Continental Tire slicks as the track started, but hadn’t fully, began drying. He and Segal were the anchors of the respective cars and had them both in top-five position late in the going. However with just over an hour remaining, Lally lost the hood on his car, and despite trying to press on without it wound up going off at Turn 5 with 30 minutes remaining. That dropped he, Legge, Wilkins and Rahal down to 11th.

But in fifth, Segal, Negri, Dyer and Hunter-Reay delivered a top-five finish on the debut of the new car. A Porsche 911 GT3 R, Audi R8 LMS, Mercedes-AMG GT3 finished on the podium and Acura was the fourth manufacturer of nine entered in GTD represented in the top-five.

“To be slightly disappointed with a fifth-place finish in the debut of the Acura NSX GT3 in a 24-hour endurance race, says a lot about the dedication of HPD, Acura and Michael Shank Racing,” said Art St. Cyr, President, Honda Performance Development. “Our goal was just to finish the race and, if not for contact damage from earlier in the race, we were on track for two top-six finishes. This bodes very well for our prospects in this program, beginning at Sebring in March.”

“We were all a little bit apprehensive about our first race. This NSX has never raced before and there were so many new challenges that might lay ahead of us. Finishing the race was a huge target, so to finish fifth and having led a lot of the race in the rain was really incredible,” Segal added. “I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed, because once we had led so much, I wanted to win! But it is really great work by this group. It is truly incredible. A lot of hard work by everyone at Acura, HPD and Michael Shank Racing. Some endless months and weeks were spent working on this car and it paid off.”

Shank, a racing lifer, frequently ran two Daytona Prototypes years ago but hadn’t run a two-car program in several years. To jump into a new class with a new, two-car factory program and perform as well as he did shows the caliber of the team he runs.

“The key to this result was constantly digging and never stopping – with a plan,” Shank said. “Having a plan helped us a lot here. We talked a lot about the things that could happen in this race and we were ready for them. I’m so pleased to execute on those plans, and be able to have this kind of debut for the NSX. On top of that, all of our guys on the pit lane were just awesome. Every time we went into the pit box, we came out in better position than we were when we went in.

“I’m thankful, but I’m disappointed because both of our cars should have been in the top-five with no problem. But all-in-all it was just a great debut and I couldn’t be happier for the team, Acura, and HPD. This feels very good and we’re looking forward to a great year ahead.”