Honda could enter the Intercontinental GT Challenge next year, with full-season entry options under evaluation, according to JAS Motorsport team principal Alessandro Mariani.
The Japanese manufacturer, which is on the grid in weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa with a single factory Honda NSX GT3 entered by JAS, is likely to be represented for the remainder of this year’s IGTC season by multiple entries.
A Motul-backed Honda, along with customer efforts from Modulo Drago Corse and Carguy Racing, are set to take part in next month’s Suzuka 10 Hours, with several U.S.-based teams, including CJ Wilson Racing and Meyer Shank Racing evaluating entries for the season-ending California 8 Hours at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in October.
Mariani, who heads up global production of the mid-engined GT3 car, along with European and Asian customer sales, indicated that an official manufacturer entry could be in the cards next year amid an expected expanded IGTC calendar.
“This is something we’re evaluating and preparing the numbers for 2019,” Mariani told Sportscar365.
“For sure, Intercontinental [GT Challenge] could represent the best opportunity, all around the world, to get results, to show the car.”
The SRO-run series is poised to feature five rounds in 2019, with the expected addition of Kyalami to the existing rounds at Bathurst, Spa, Suzuka and Laguna Seca, which according to manufacturers, would create a more viable option for a full-season commitment.
A total of five GT3 manufacturers are currently entered in this year’s championship, which features a mix of locally-based and full-season teams to represent each brand.
Mariani said both options are under evaluation by Honda for 2019.
“You can work with a combination,” he said. “There are manufacturers that use local cars, as Honda can do for us in Japan or in Europe or in Laguna Seca. [Or] we could be as competitive as possible with a single team.”
Spa Entry to Showcase Car’s Potential
Mariani believes its entry this weekend at Spa will provide a good platform to showcase the the car’s versatility as a customer racing platform.
While essentially run as a works squad with factory drivers Bertrand Baguette and Esteban Guerrieri, the Castrol-backed entry is competing in the Pro-Am Cup due to Honda not having a full-season car in either IGTC or Blancpain GT Series.
It’s resulted in a diverse lineup that includes Formula 1 veteran Riccardo Patrese and journalist Loic Depailler, who are both Bronze-rated by the FIA.
Only a single NSX GT3 currently competes in Europe, by Schubert Motorsport in ADAC GT Masters.
“Mainly we’ve shown the car in the U.S. and Japan while we face the pretty difficult market in Europe,” Mariani said. “Many teams have fresh cars so it’s pretty difficult to push the sales in Europe.
“We’ve made an agreement with Schubert but they only have one car. They couldn’t have a second car.
“When Honda started to think about the 24 Hours of Spa, it’s for sure the most famous, popular and challenging GT3 race in the world.
“We understood there could be an opportunity to show the car. Unfortunately we can’t run as a pro team because we’ve not entered in the full championship.
“This has made our life more difficult because we cannot be here hoping to win.
“If the car could have a good result in Pro-Am, for sure it would be a good business [case] for the future.”
Mariani said they’ve been in discussions with multiple prospective new customers for 2019 in Europe.
“We have many contacts,” he said. “Now is the time to start to think about 2019. We’ve been speaking with many teams where we can guarantee our customer support.”
Vincent Wouters contributed to this report