Honda Performance Development has received “a lot” of interest from drivers wanting to take part in the second season of the HPD GT3 Driver Academy according to NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger, who has confirmed a second edition of the program.
Launched this year, up-and-coming drivers Taylor Hagler, Jacob Abel, Karl Wittmer and Dakota Dickerson took part in multi-day sessions at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and most recently, this week at Sebring International Raceway at the wheel of a Racers Edge Motorsports-prepared Acura NSX GT3 Evo.
Unlike other young driver manufacturer tests, HPD’s GT3 Academy has not been designed to have a ‘shootout’ or winner of any kind, rather giving promising young stars a chance at valuable seat time alongside instruction from HPD’s factory drivers.
“We’ve identified some young talent,” Niffenegger told Sportscar365. “I think they’ve learned a lot. The feedback we’ve gotten has been extremely positive.
“We have a lot of interest in next year already. The plan is to do it again.
“It’s place to identify young talent but also to prepare drivers [for the future]. It’s been an interesting experience and a diverse group of drivers from different backgrounds.”
Niffenegger said he’s been impressed how each of the drivers have improved over the course of the four-event program although has fell short of confirming a driver to a race seat for 2021.
Instead HPD can help connect its graduates to the company’s lineup of customer teams.
“They’ve all gotten better and some of the comments we’ve gotten, it seems like it’s been really positive for everybody,” Niffenegger said.
“Certainly any of those drivers — we know them very well now and know their strengths — we can point them towards teams we’re talking to.
“They’re not just somebody coming off the street. They clearly know the car at this point, they understand what it takes to be a professional.
“They’re not coming out with their eyes closed and getting blinded. They are getting more of an exclusive experience instead of having to jump into a team and either sinking or swimming.
“We’ve given them an opportunity to swim a little bit this year.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report