Acura is expecting to have multiple new customers running NSX GT3 Evos in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year amid Meyer Shank Racing’s step up to the DPi class with the brand.
Sportscar365 understands that up to three teams new to the American-built mid-engined sports car could be on the grid in 2021 alongside the expected return of Gradient Racing.
Both Compass Racing and Michelin Pilot Challenge outfit Archangel Motorsports have been among the teams rumored to have taken delivery of cars ahead of potential 2021 programs.
While not confirming specifics, Acura NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger indicated teams are close to finalizing plans for both full season and WeatherTech Sprint Cup efforts.
“I can’t say right now exactly how many cars and what programs,” Niffenegger told Sportscar365. “We will have a presence. I expect at least one full-time car.
“It’s tough to say whether there would be Endurance Cup stuff, but it looks like at least two Sprint Cup cars. This is the current direction and they’re working towards full season.
“There’s a hope that those will expand [to full-season entries].
“The Sprint Cup seems like a good base for the teams to start from and confirm what they’re going to do and then try to see if they can expand it.”
Niffenegger said it’s been a particular struggle to put programs together given the late end to the 2020 season, which has put teams and drivers up against the clock to be ready for January’s season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“It’s a really, really strange year with the very short timing,” he said. “It’s the middle of November and they have to show up in eight weeks at Daytona.
“It’s not impossible but it’s difficult even for drivers that are trying to come into programs or move into the GTD class. There’s a lot of moving pieces.
“Everything has to come together in the next couple of weeks. Everyone has one eye on now and one eye on the future.”
‘No Material Change’ to HPD’s Level of GTD Customer Support
Despite the expected expanded customer base next year, Niffenegger said he doesn’t envision Honda Performance Development’s level of support changing from previous seasons.
“It’s not going to change a whole lot,” he said. “It will have the same level of support.
“There’s a team with more experience and [MSR] was the team, but I don’t really think it’s going to be a material change in the way we approach it.
“The car is pretty mature so there’s not a lot of development work, so to speak, that’s required. That’s the difference.
“Next year will be Year 3 on the Evo. Even in the last year or year-in-a-half, it hasn’t been about developing the car. It’s been about running the car and supporting the teams.
“We’ll be looking at more development on working with the teams.
“I think the championship [titles] have helped and it’s not just been in IMSA, it’s globally. It’s Super GT and GT Sports Club. There’s an extra legitimacy to the car, so to speak.
“It seems like GTD in general looks stronger than this year from what we’ve been hearing as well. It seems like the field is going to be pretty good.”
When asked where the influx of interest in GTD is coming from in general, Niffenegger admitted he doesn’t have a clear answer for the class.
In addition to more Acuras on the grid, Porsche is expected to at least double its presence while a number of other teams are expected to return to the Pro-Am class with other manufacturers.
“From our side I think we have a proven car and people know us from our support,” Niffenegger said. “We’re local in being North American-based so there’s an attraction to that as well.
“When they call HPD, they’re not getting second-half information.
“That’s part of our advantage but I can’t say why the class in general appears like it’s going to grow.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report