JAS Motorsport team principal Alessandro Mariani says the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli has been the “perfect stage” to showcase the Honda NSX GT3 Evo, as the manufacturer continues its push for additional customer teams.
The Italian squad, which gave the car its Total 24 Hours of Spa debut last year, has returned as a full factory effort competing for overall honors, as part of its season-long IGTC commitment.
Mariani said Honda’s commitment, albeit as a single-car entry, is being aimed to help pave the way for additional NSX GT3 Evos globally.
“Our goal is to promote the car,” Mariani told Sportscar365. “The car has raced primarily in the U.S. We have cars in Japan. And so the Intercontinental championship was the perfect stage to show the potential of of the car.”
While having pushed the Japanese manufacturer for a full-season IGTC commitment, Mariani said they were forced to miss the season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour due to the new-for-2019 Evo specification car not being eligible.
It resulted in the Honda Team Motul entry debuting in the California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where Mario Farnbacher scored overall pole.
“It came together very late,” Mariani said of the program. “We had to assemble everything, it was not easy, but at Laguna Seca the main target was to show the competitiveness of the car.
“We were able to take the pole, unfortunately there were some problems in the race, but we were pretty satisfied about the pace of the car.”
With endurance racing still being relatively new to the longtime touring car operation, Mariani said they’ve been able to enter Spa with a much more confident approach compared to last year’s Pro-Am class campaign, which he called a “soft beginning” for the team.
Farnbacher is joined by Bertrand Baguette and Renger van der Zande this weekend, in the same lineup that took part in the California 8 Hours.
“Now we are here with a very strong driver lineup with experience,” Mariani said. “We still need to learn a lot of things but the approach is completely different.
“We are always working on race setup because we are coming from experience where performance is the main target.
“We are using all of our experience identifying the target that is different, and so we have a lot of inertia due to our experience. But we have to be able to learn because it’s a new challenge.”
GT3 Customer Situation “Much More Complicated”
Mariani admitted the customer market in GT3 racing has been made “more complicated” due to the fact that Honda is one of the newest manufacturers to the platform.
While boasting multiple teams in both North America and in Japan, Honda currently has two only customers in Europe, with Jenson Rocket Team RJN in Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup as well as an entry in the Blancpain GT Sports Club with Jens Reno Moller.
“Unfortunately Honda arrived at the last minute to the GT3 market,” Mariani said. “When we started with the TCR, we were the first. We could immediately affect the market and we sold a lot of cars.
“Here, the situation is much more complicated, much more difficult.
“The teams try to stay as much as possible with the same cars, so it’s difficult to convince them to swap to a new brand.
“The only thing we can do is to use our reputation in customer service that we have in TCR.
“We have a reputation in customer cars, we have a good car, we now have only to work and to convince with our reputation and customer service that if you buy a Honda you have a very good product.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report