RealTime Racing’s Peter Cunningham is optimistic about their chances with its Acura TLX GT, which has seen an off-season transformation to rear-wheel drive for the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge season.
The veteran PWC team owner/driver, who returns with Ryan Eversley in the two-car factory squad, will again run the only non FIA GT3-homologated car in the GT class, although made closer to GT3 specifications with the disabling of the TLX GT’s all-wheel drive.
“We were homologated for the ’14-15 seasons with the four-wheel drive package as the last Pirelli World Challenge GT [spec] car,” Cunningham told Sportscar365.
“But with the influx of GT3 cars in particular… we weren’t even going to be allowed to run in 2016 but the series switched us to rear-drive as a requisite to return.”
The switch involved removing the front differential and axle, although remaining with the same gearbox that was designed for all-wheel-drive, but just disabling the front drive.
Additionally, suspension and bodywork changes were made to accommodate larger rear tires, which puts the TLX GT on the same sized tires as the GT3 competition.
According to HPD Senior Program Engineer Lee Niffenegger, it’s resulted in a weight savings of nearly 200 pounds, largely due to the removal of the additional drivetrain components.
“Now we’re going to be a much more similar package to the other cars,” Cunningham said. “We’re on the same tires, a more similar weight.”
The car will run under G3 homologation this year, the same category used for non GT3-homologated cars such as the Emil Frey Jaguar XKR that competes in the Blancpain Endurance Cup.
While not present at the recent SRO Balance of Performance test at Paul Ricard, Niffenegger said SRO calculated its BoP from its test at COTA last month.
“Assuming all is done right, there’s no reason we can’t be competitive,” Niffenegger told Sportscar365.
“Everything is in the GT3 BoP performance windows. I don’t know how our aero is. It’s similar. They let us make a lot of changes over the course of last year to make it more similar.”
The aero changes, which included a larger splitter, diffuser and addition of dive planes, were introduced in the second half of 2015, which coupled with the drivetrain switch, has taken the four-door sedan as close to GT3-spec as possible.
“We’re very pleased with how the rear drive is performing,” Cunningham said. “Just how competitive we’ll be remains to be seen but certainly we’re going to hit the ground running here this first weekend.”
The team is coming off a productive pre-season test at COTA, where Cunningham and Eversley combined to log more than 800 miles, largely trouble-free, over the two days.
“We’re in a hugely different place than where we were a year ago at COTA and we’re hoping that we’re at least as good or better than we were finishing out the year at Laguna last fall,” Cunningham added.
“Time will tell but RealTime, Acura and HPD have done a lot of homework in the off-season. But we feel comfortable and confident of our starting package here and we’ll continue to try to improve it as we go.”
While 2016 will mark the final year for the TLX GT as attention turns towards the development and debut of the all-new Acura NSX GT3 car next year, Cunningham is still hopeful of fighting for podiums and wins with the HPD-designed sports sedan.
“Look at who we’re running against,” he said. “These are some very tough cars with very good drivers and very good teams behind them.
“We have a pretty good package ourselves so we hope to be in the running for good finishes this year.”