Just two weeks after its public debut at Mid-Ohio, the Acura NSX GT3 was again back in the spotlight, as the GT3 contender took part in the Pirelli World Challenge Sprint and SprintX testing and practice sessions at Utah Motorsports Campus.
Acura development driver Peter Kox and RealTime Racing team owner/driver Peter Cunningham handled testing duties of the mid-engined sports car on Thursday and Friday, following a private test at the circuit on Tuesday.
“We’ve done quite some running but it’s still early days in the program,” Kox told Sportscar365. “We’re here [at Utah] because you want a little bit of comparison.
“On the other hand, you cannot make a lot of miles on a race weekend.”
While still early in the program, the car already appears to be off to a fast and encouraging start.
Kox topped the time sheets in SprintX practice on Thursday with a lap that would have put the Dutchman second quickest overall in Friday’s Sprint field, which arguably boasts stiffer competition.
The NSX GT3 completed both SprintX and Sprint sessions on Friday, but no lap times were officially recorded due to a non-functional transponder.
“Obviously people saw unofficial times from the practice session on [Thursday]. It was a smaller sample size but everything seems pretty reasonable,” HPD Senior Program Engineer Lee Niffenegger told Sportscar365.
“It was good to be at the same track as everyone else is at the same time, as it offers a direct comparison versus going to a private test.”
The focus of this week’s testing continued to be on car development, ahead of next month’s FIA Balance of Performance test in Ladoux, which essentially locks in car’s technical configuration for next year.
The team of HPD engineers, with support from RealTime, evaluated different components and configurations, with feedback from both Kox and Cunningham playing a role in the car’s final specification.
“The car is reliable and good and we’re just going to phases of trying parts, changing parts,” Kox said. “It’s been going very well.
“I’ve done the same thing for [Reiter] Lamborghini, Prodrive with the Aston, and also for BMW. I like to do this kind of thing. It’s quite nice.”
While there was some initial consideration of having the car make its race debut in the SprintX rounds this weekend, Acura ultimately decided against it, opting to focus entirely on testing before the all-crucial BoP test.
“We’re going to have some [additional] private testing as we narrow down what we’re going to show up with in France,” Niffenegger said.
“We’re right now working through what we want to finally present to the FIA. There’s obviously lots of options on what you can do. It’s just how to get to that finale recipe.”
All testing has so far been carried out between two chassis, with Niffenegger confirming a third car will be built up for the BoP test, which will be closer to the final specification, based on the development work.
While the NSX GT3 won’t be at the next PWC round at Sonoma, due to limited track time on the IndyCar weekend, Niffenegger said he would expect to have a similar testing program in place for the season finale event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in October.
Whether the car could potentially make its race debut in Monterey remains unclear, and could depend on the outcome of the Ladoux test.
As for Kox’s future within the Acura race program for next year, it remains to-be-determined, but the GT veteran hasn’t hidden his desire to return to the North American racing scene.
A number of drivers have already been linked to the factory-supported program, which is expected to seen in both PWC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2017.
“For sure it would interest me a lot because I really like to race here,” Kox said. “I drove here in 2003-04 with Prodrive and I must say it’s really nice here.
“I like the racing in America. I’m not the right man to ask if I will race here, but I’d like to be here.”