Acura’s initial factory effort with the NSX GT3 next year will lead into a full customer racing program in North America, according to Honda Performance Development Vice President and COO Steve Eriksen.
Eriksen said that Michael Shank Racing and RealTime Racing, which will campaign the mid-engined sports car in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge, respectively, will benefit from an increased level of backing in its first year, although not committing to how long that program will last.
“It’s us providing an extra level of involvement to make sure this first year goes well,” Eriksen told Sportscar365.
“We expect in the years that follow that we’ll continue to be involved; it’s not like we’re going to walk away.
“The first time you go race something, you can’t make a first impression twice. We’re going to make it the best we can.”
An exact timeline hasn’t been established for selling cars, but Eriksen said he doesn’t imagine running the factory backed program alongside customer cars.
It alludes to a possible single-year factory program, should HPD decide to begin its customer program in 2018.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we’re out competing against our customers. That doesn’t make any sense,” Eriksen said.
Eriksen stressed the program’s initial focus will be in North America only, although cars will be made available to customers worldwide, should there be any interest.
“If other regions are interested in the car, they’re welcome to start their own programs,” he said. “This program is an American Honda initiative for the Acura brand. North America is a key market for that.”
The driver lineup for the two-car efforts have yet to be finalized, but Eriksen and Michael Shank met this morning at Circuit of The Americas to begin narrowing down candidates for the IMSA program.
With the GTD driver regulations expecting to remain Pro-Am next year, Shank said they are trying “not to abuse the system but use the system.”
“We understand there’s all kinds of way to split this up,” Shank told Sportscar365. “We’re going to get the best Silvers we can get that are legitimate Silver guys.
“To that end, for the last three weeks, I’ve been working with Beaux Barfield on my thoughts, to try and get a go or no-go.
“They haven’t given us the rules yet but I kind of have an idea.”
Eriksen said it’s possible to see some driver crossover between the IMSA and PWC programs, although ruling out RealTime from taking part in selected WeatherTech Championship events.
“There’s certain factors that require you to wait and see if that driver is actually going to be available,” Eriksen said. “You have to wait for their contracts to end before they can seriously talk to you.
“It’s a little bit dependent on outside influences before we can fix it. It’s a big game of three or four different-colored circles that you move it the best you can.”
Eriksen, meanwhile, has essentially ruled out seeing the NSX GT3 make its race debut in next month’s Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but it is expected to be on hand as part of its continued test program.
The same chassis will be used for initial pre-season IMSA testing with Shank, which will be run at the IMSA-sanctioned test at Daytona in November, prior to the team taking delivery of two brand-new cars for the December test.