Under the hood of Acura’s NSX racer: An asterisk

Acura NSX GT3: Acura seeks to burnish the cred of the NSX, but it had to change the car.

Win on Sunday, sell a significantly different version on Monday.

That’s the old adage about the value of auto racing, at least according to Acura.

Last week, Honda’s luxe division was getting ready to enter a race-prepped GT3 version of its recent NSX supercar in the practice sessions of the Pirelli World Challenge at the Mid-Ohio course in Lexington, Ohio.

The entry previewed Acura’s plans to get the NSX GT3 homologated for full FIA competition in North America for 2017. And it added Acura to the long list of automakers that have sought to prove their sports cars’ mettle in track-based competition in an effort to juice sales and gather data.

There’s also the marketing opportunity Acura will have in showing its car up against the likes of established supercar marques like McLaren, Ferrari and Porsche.

But there’s something askew about Acura’s effort: The automaker wants to burnish the cred of the current NSX, an all-wheel-drive hybrid supercar. And how is it doing that? With a rear-wheel-drive, nonhybrid racer.

That is, in making the NSX raceworthy, Acura is stripping the NSX-ness out of it, including the hybrid SH-AWD system the automaker is so keen to promote as a link to other models in its lineup.

“We would like nothing more than to be able to race it with SH-AWD intact,” Sage Marie, Acura spokesman, told Automotive News. “We view it as a performance advantage, and unfortunately, the rules of the GT3 category don’t allow for it.”

Sure, it’s likely the brand will make a street-legal version of the NSX GT3. (Type R, anyone?) But right now, the GT3 is a rare case of a racing effort doing just as much to remind people what the brand isn’t as what it is.

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