Even though it hasn’t hit the streets yet, the 2016 Acura NSX is already in its second season of competition in the GT500 class of Japan’s Super GT series (where it races as a Honda ), and now it’s looking increasingly likely that the NSX could race elsewhere, in either the GT3 or GTE classes or possibly both. But to understand Honda’s intentions, it’s also important to understand the sometimes confusing world of GT racing.
GT racing is currently in the middle of renaissance, and Honda isn’t the only company getting in on the action. The FIA’s GT3 class in particular has exploded in popularity, with countless series in Europe , Asia , North America and South America . There are no factory teams. Instead, the cars are sold directly to racing teams, but the corporate proxy battle between Porsche , Audi , Mercedes , BMW , Lamborghini , Nissan and McLaren has been raging for years, with Bentley and Lexus joining the fray more recently. The cars are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain, which makes them ideal for privateer teams.
The FIA GTE class, on the other hand, is more often the reserve of factory-backed racing teams, and includes the 2014 Chevy Corvette C7.Rs and 2013 Porsche 911 RSRs that compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans , and the GTLM class in the United SportsCar Series. Despite having a similar appearance, they’re more complex and expensive than GT3 cars. They’re thought to be bit quicker too, but that’s far from certain, since the two classes rarely compete at the same venue.
recently asked Honda Performance Development VP and COO Steve Erikson where he thought the NSX GT will end up. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” said Eriksen. “It was one of the reasons I was at a recent race at Road America, to try and get a sense of what the options are and how well those options fit with American Honda’s plans of promoting the car.”
Acura currently runs its 2015 Acura TLX-GT in the Pirelli World Challenge series. Several GT3 cars currently compete in the series, but it’s slated to adopt full GT3 rules for the 2016 season, which would make the all-wheel-drive TLX-GT ineligible. With a new GT3 spec NSX, the company could continue to compete in that series and potentially even sell a few to customer teams. A GTE NSX, on the other hand, would be eligible to compete in high-profile endurance races, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and other World Endurance Championship rounds.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into what we might expect from an NSX GT race car .
One of biggest appeals of GT racing for both manufacturers and fans is that the cars are based largely on what you see on the street every day, forming a tangible link between what you see racing on Sunday and what you buy on Monday, as the old saying goes.
For that reason, expect the NSX GT racer to share most of it proportions and silhouette with the sleek road car, which is a pretty good place to start when building a race car. Expect it to be even lower, with huge flared carbon-fiber fenders to accommodate wider rubber. Large air vents aft of all four wheels will be added to reduce pressure within the wheel wells.
Out front, a ground-scraping splitter will ride just centimeters off the tarmac. Some of the air intakes in the front could be sealed off to benefit aerodynamics, and an extraction hood will pull incoming air through a radiator and over the car, where it will then hit the huge rear wing. A huge rear diffuser will extract air from under the car and help reduce turbulence.
Race drivers don’t have much use for stuff like stereos and heated seats, so look for the NSX GT to have a stripped-out interior with a single race bucket seat and a jungle-gym roll cage. A detachable, multi-function steering will include a set of paddle shifters, and a race-style readout will relay rpm, speed and other vital information to the driver. A rudimentary air conditioning system will prevent drivers from getting hot at warmer races, and an integrated fire suppression system will prevent things from getting even hotter.
A racing NSX is likely to be very different under its skin from its road-going counterpart, which has both all-wheel-drive and a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. Neither system is allowed under GT class rules (though that’s likely to change soon for hybrids), so the NSX will probably go racing with a turbocharged V-6 powering the rear wheels through either the road car’s nine-speed dual-clutch transmission or a simplified, straight-cut-gear six speed.
How much power the drivetrain produces will depend on which class the NSX lands in. The GTE class generally restricts cars to around 500 horsepower, while GT3 car outputs are determined during pre-season test sessions and are and typically between 550 and 600 horsepower. Whether that’s more or less power than the road car, we’ll have to wait to find out since Honda/Acura has yet to announce anything specific.
Audi R8 LMS GT3
Audi R8 LMS
Introduced during the 2015 season, the second generation, 2015 Audi R8 GT3 was fast right out of the box, winning the crown jewel of GT3 races , the incredibly grueling Nürburgring 24-hour race. Audi’s success in endurance racing now seems to extend from Le Mans prototypes to GT racers, so look for it to win more in the future.
It’s powered by the same 5.2-liter V-10 as the road car and produces somewhere between 550 and 600 horsepower. Unlike the road car, power is only transmitted to the rear wheels, since all-wheel-drive is not allowed under GT3 rules. Carbon-fiber bodywork helps reduce weight, and new safety systems include a rescue roof, the same seat from the 2011 Audi R18 LM P1 car and steel roll cage mounted in the R8’s aluminum space-frame chassis.
Porsche 911 GT3 R
Porsche 911 GT3 RS
When it comes to endurance racing, there’s no company in the world with more experience than Porsche, and after a few years away, the company is returning to the GT3 class with its 991-based 2016 Porsche 911 GT3 R . It’s part of a multi-pronged attack on the endurance racing universe that also consists of the 2012 911 RSR GTE/GTLM racer and Le Mans-winning 2015 919 Hybrid LM P1 car.
Like every other 911 to roll out of the Porsche factory, the 911 GT3 R is powered by a four-liter flat-six engine and produces around 500 horsepower. Much of the body is carbon fiber, including the roof, and the windows are made from lightweight, hard plastic. The GT3 R hasn’t raced yet, but look for it to be very popular and successful among privateer teams.
Honda/Acura says the United States will probably be the biggest market for the NSX, so it’s important for it to have competition presence on our shores. The NSX GT won’t debut before 2016 or 2017, and by that time there will be plenty of options. Both the PWC (in GT) and USCC (in GTD) are set to adopt full GT3 rules starting in 2016. Building an NSX GT3 could also make good business sense. If it starts winning races, the company could sell start selling them to privateer teams. A GTE car, on the other hand, would provide more visibility in the USCC’s GTLM class, as well as the WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- Who wouldn’t want to watch an NSX go racing?
- Should look and sound spectacular.
- Lighter and faster than the road-going NSX.
- You can’t drive it to work.
- Would preclude hybrid system and super-handling all-wheel-drive.
- Might be pricy.