Kyffin Simpson has credited the lessons learned in Honda Performance Development’s Drivers Academy for giving him the opportunity to make his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut with Gradient Racing in GTD.
The 2021 Formula Regionals America champion is set for his first GT3 race start as part of a four-race program in the Texas-based squad’s Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 alongside Till Bechtolsheimer and HPD factory driver Mario Farnbacher.
The trio are joined by longtime team driver Marc Miller for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season-opener.
For the 17-year-old rising star, who was born in Barbados and raised on the Cayman Islands, the chance to take the lessons from last year’s four-part Academy has proven to be a valuable experience.
“I was able to learn a lot of great stuff from the HPD Academy,” he told Sportscar365.
“They taught me all about pit stops, long runs, managing traffic and all the important stuff you need for a 24-hour race.
“I [then] got the opportunity to do this.
“It came about pretty quickly. I did the Formula Regional races last year with Honda so we’ve got a great relationship with them.
“They gave us this opportunity for us to do this race.
“I’m looking forward to driving this car in a 24-hour race. I’ll get a lot of laps in it, which will be tons of fun because it’s a great car.”
Simpson is the latest Academy graduate to make their sports car racing debut in an endurance race, with fellow 2021 classmate Ashton Harrison claiming Pro-Am class honors in last year’s Indianapolis 8 Hour in her first race with the Acura NSX GT3 Evo.
Harrison is now set for a full season Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS program alongside Farnbacher, who is also on the driving stable alongside Simpson for his four-round IMSA Endurance Cup campaign with Gradient.
The German driver, who also works as a coach in the HPD Academy sessions, said he’s been proud of his pupils’ achievements within the program’s two-year history to date.
All four members of the inaugural crop of graduates from 2020 competed in either SRO America or IMSA competition in Acura or Honda machinery last year, claiming multiple class wins.
“The candidates get prepared for all of this,” Farnbacher told Sportscar365.
“At these events they are not just driving, there’s everything around it like working with engineers and working with traffic and all kinds of stuff.
“In the end, this prepares them for the ultimate test, which is the race for example, like at Indy with Ashton.
“That’s a really good thing that HPD provides to them and it’s a really good platform to learn things. It’s also great for us coaches to see the progression.
“It makes me happy to be a part of it and help them out.”
Simpson, who had previous experience of the Daytona International Speedway infield road course from a two-day LMP3 test in late 2020 prior to this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24, has impressed Farnbacher so far.
“He’s doing a good job,” said Farnbacher. “If you’ve seen the results of the recent Indy Lights tests, he was mega fast.
“He will keep doing what he’s doing and I’m sure he will quickly figure out the things around the track and traffic. This will be new to him but nothing is [unattainable].”
While set to graduate to Indy Lights this year, Simpson said he’s keeping his future options open.
“Right now my goal is IndyCar but I like sports car racing as well,” he said. “I think it’s really fun and it’s a great thing to do.
“I also think that driving sports cars, you learn a lot of things that I wouldn’t learn in Indy Lights like pit stops and fuel saving.
“That’s another important thing about doing sports cars.
“Honda has done a great job for me. I’m super happy that they’ve helped me out.
“I’m looking forward to [this year]. I think it’s going to be an interesting challenge and I hope that I take it on well.”