After gaining experience with the Acura NSX GT3 through Michael Shank Racing’s program, HART is poised to enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on its own next year, with a targeted Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup effort.
The Ohio-based team, made up of engineers and staff from Honda of America’s manufacturing plant in Marysville, where the Acura NSX road car is produced, is currently “60-70 percent” confident of being on the grid next year, according to Chad Gilsinger.
“That’s our goal; it hasn’t been etched in stone yet. Things are looking positive but nothing’s been decided yet,” Gilsinger told Sportscar365.
Gilsinger, team manager Kurt Baker as well as Andrew Salzano and Tyler Chambers have been embedded with MSR since the start of the season, in assisting the team and also getting up to speed with the rules and regulations in the WeatherTech Championship.
While no strangers to IMSA competition, having fielded Honda Civics in the ST class of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in recent years, a GTD effort would come as a significant step up for the team.
“It’s really about being involved in the driver debriefs and working when we’ve had the issues like the crashes and rebuilds,” Gilsinger said.
”Our team has done a lot of 24-hour and 12-hour races, but in club racing.
“I’ll be honest, when we did Daytona, it was even an eye-opener in realizing just how much bigger it is, even though it’s a 24-hour race, it’s a lot more intense that we’re used to.
“I think we can do it, but it was good for us to go through it with Shank because it will make us more prepared when we do it [ourselves].”
Gilsinger said its planned Patron Endurance Cup program would be “at least double” the cost of its two-car season-long ST operation from last year.
It recently sold both of its Civic race cars to help come up with the necessary funds for its step up to GTD, while proceeding with preparations at its shop in anticipation for the program.
“We’re being very frugal and and strategic right now,” Gilsinger said. “Our [available] budget really didn’t increase much.
“But by sitting out this year, we can float money we would have spent this year to Daytona and Sebring and then use next year’s budgets to float the rest, and potentially Daytona in 2019.
“We’re doing it strategically. We have to piece things together. We can probably do a full season next year but then we’d definitely not be able to do anything the year after.”
With limited funds, Gilsinger said they’d be looking to “borrow” an Acura from HPD for the program and said they are currently awaiting back on final confirmation.
Should the program get the green light, Gilsinger said he’d likely be one of the drivers, potentially alongside Ryan Eversley, who has won with the team in Continental Tire Challenge competition.
He indicated both Tom Dyer and Mark Wilkins, who have been MSR’s endurance drivers this year, as well as undertaking the Pirelli World Challenge SprintX rounds with RealTime Racing, could also be part of the lineup.
Gilsinger also hasn’t ruled out additional races beyond the four-round Patron. Endurance Cup.
“[It] would depend if can bring budget on board,” he said. “With the budget that we have already and our proposal, we can do [TPNAEC] and maybe do Mid-Ohio.
“That’s our home track. We’d like to do that and think we can do that with budget, assuming catastrophic doesn’t happen at Daytona and Sebring.”