Honda Performance Development’s unique structure has allowed for a more focused approach to its expanding customer base, according to Acura NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger.
The California-based organization, which is charged with American Honda Motor Company’s motorsports activities, has established a comprehensive trackside and technical support package for the Acura NSX GT3, which completed its second year of competition in 2018.
While initially debuting with the factory-supported Meyer Shank Racing team in 2017, the mid-engined sports car saw a full customer rollout this year that included outings by CJ Wilson Racing and the Honda of America Racing Team (HART) in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Niffenegger, who oversees the NSX GT3 customer program in North America as well as technical support globally, said HPD’s infrastructure has put the organization in a leading position among the dozen-plus GT3 manufacturers worldwide.
“We try to offer better customer service than our competitors and that’s one of the hallmarks of HPD,” Niffenegger told Sportscar365.”Right now, we’re smaller, so we can give a little better attention to an individual customer than some of the bigger manufacturers.”
As the only U.S.-based GT3 manufacturer, HPD utilizes resources stretching from its Santa Clarita, Calif. headquarters to its midwestern base in Indianapolis, as well as Honda’s production line in Marysville, Ohio, where the Acura NSX road car is built.
In addition to its state-of-the-art simulator, Niffenegger said the majority of the NSX GT3’s spares are housed in Indianapolis, the same base where its IndyCar technical support team works.
He said the location provides a logistical advantage, particularly for sports car racing teams that are spread out throughout the country.
“That’s one of the things we did learn last year, going into this year, was that there were complaints from customers of some other manufacturers on the availability of parts in North America,” Niffenegger said.
“That was one of the things we tried to focus on.
“We reviewed the top 100 items we burned through while running four cars [last year] and learned what we need to have. If it’s something we’ve only used once as a replacement, maybe that’s something we have to ship from Italy.
“We’ve tried to up the game with parts availability because I know that’s a big concern for our North American customers.”
A dedicated HPD parts truck, meanwhile, is at every WeatherTech Championship event, where Niffenegger and his team provide on-site assistance to customers.
While its level of factory support has been scaled back since the debut season with MSR, its stock of spare parts has not diminished on IMSA weekends.
“We carry [parts] that can stop the car but you wouldn’t expect a customer to have, like a spare dash or something like that,” Niffenegger said.
“It would be a strange thing for a customer to spend thousands of dollars on a dash system or some electronic gizmo that’s never failed. So we try to have some of those items.
“As we learn more, and what the teams want to carry themselves versus what we carry, we’ll probably expand the spares.”
HPD has even benefited from the birthplace of the American sports car, having made mid-event trips to Acura’s Performance Manufacturing Center to help get its customers back on track on short notice.
While the GT3 race car sees its final assembly made at JAS Motorsport in Italy, the spaceframe and other chassis components initially come straight off the assembly line in Ohio.
“For Acura, the best attribute of the GT3 program is that it truly is production relevant,” Niffenegger said.
“With the basis of the NSX GT3 coming straight out of the factories in Ohio, the race car and the road car share many major components. This includes the engine, built at the Anna Engine Plant (AEP), and the space frame built at the Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC).
“In turn, these links require close communication between HPD and our associates in charge on the production side of the equation.
“The success of the NSX GT3 is then felt directly across the entire company.”
Niffenegger said HPD hopes to translate the momentum from a successful season into additional customers in both IMSA and the newly named Blancpain GT World Challenge America in 2019.
“Initially, the NSX GT3 was the new kid on the block in the GT world,” he said.
“Now that the car is an established race winner over two seasons, we are getting more and more interest from customers with whom we did not previously have a relationship.
“The car has definitely become a viable option for more competitors.
“As these discussions continue, we hope to bring the NSX GT3 back to the Blancpain GT America grid full-time in 2019 to join our established customers in IMSA.”