Ashton Harrison is looking to put her experience in HPD’s GT3 Driver Academy to use in this weekend’s Indianapolis 8 Hour presented by AWS as the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America race winner makes her GT3 race debut.
Harrison has been drafted into Compass Racing’s Acura NSX GT3 Evo lineup alongside Matt McMurry and Honda Performance Development factory driver Mario Farnbacher in a sooner-than-expected first outing in multi-class sports car racing.
As part of this year’s crop of drivers from the program alongside Nicky Hays, Kyffin Simpson and Cat Lauren, Harrison said the chance to make her endurance race debut came during the academy’s visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month.
“We were at the HPD Academy [session] here,” she told Sportscar365. “Ricky Taylor and Mario Farnbacher were our coaches. I work with Ricky a lot on the DPi side with Wayne Taylor Racing.
“I was already comfortable with Ricky and met Mario and getting to know him. I felt really comfortable in the car and I felt comfortable working with Mario.
“It seemed like a good opportunity. I felt like I was really good in the car, so the opportunity came up through Honda and I felt like it was the time to take it.”
Harrison feels her experience during the three academy sessions so far this year with the Racers Edge Motorsports-run Acura has provided her with the skills needed for success this weekend.
The academy, in its second year, has provided up-and-coming drivers with real-world experience in a controlled, non-competitive environment.
Taylor Hagler, Dakota Dickerson and Jacob Abel — three of the four graduates from 2020 — have shared the wheel of Racers Edge’s Acura in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS this year, including this weekend’s season finale.
Harrison said the academy has proven to be a great “entryway” into getting her feet wet with the GT3 platform.
“I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to do the HPD Academy with Racers Edge because they really break down the process of a GT3 car,” she said.
“It gives you time to get your feet wet and take your slow laps and start to increase the speed.
“It just gets you comfortable with the car. The team’s been really great about giving you the details you need to be successful with their program.
“With me coming over to Compass for the eight-hour and competing against Racers Edge in the same class is exciting but it gives me an opportunity to now experience it with another team.
“Just like any other team in the paddock, Compass is so experienced. We’re just getting a different take on it.
“The car was really great in our first test session yesterday. I was excited to get out there with other GT3 cars.
“While I’m running Super Trofeo, all of our cars are the same, so to be out here with other manufacturers is exciting.
“I’m looking forward to the race for sure.
“We still have another HPD Academy at Sebring in a couple of weeks. I’m glad that I’ll have some extra seat time going into that because I love Sebring.”
Indy 8H Debut to “Weigh On” 2022 Plans
Harrison said her run this weekend will play a factor on her 2022 race program, which could see a move into full-time GT3 competition.
While currently third in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Am class championship heading into the season finale and World Final in Misano, Harrison hasn’t ruled out a return to the competitive single-make series either.
“I haven’t figured it out yet,” she said. “There’s a couple of options we’re tossing up, [whether] it’s GTD, Super Trofeo, trying to figure out what makes the most sense.
“For sure this debut weighs on our decision on what makes the most sense.
“We are looking to graduate from Super Trofeo at some point and try some different things.
“I love the Lamborghini. It’s super fun and it’s got it’s own technique to drive.
“Now trying the GT3 car was actually really easy to me because the Lamborghini takes such a specific driving style and this was a little bit easier.
“I really do like the GT3 platform. I’d love to get into GTD sometime and that’s the overall goal.
“But I also think the new Lamborghini [Huracan Super Trofeo Evo2] is going to be pretty awesome! So I’m excited for that.
“I could see myself transitioning, whether it’s in SRO or it’s IMSA. One way or another we want to do GT3 next year but that new Lamborghini looks really inviting!”