Acura’s increased effort with Racers Edge Motorsports is serving as the next step in the manufacturer’s driver development initiative according to NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger.
The Jon Mirachi-led Racers Edge squad has expanded into a two-car operation in GT World Challenge America powered by AWS this year with the addition of the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 Evo for Trent Hindman and Shelby Blackstock.
The entry, competing in the Silver Cup class, has been aimed for future driver development, amid the recent launch of the Honda Performance Development’s GT3 Driver Academy.
“These guys are kind of one or two steps up from those guys,” Niffenegger told Sportscar365.
“In our viewpoint, Trent is the future. He [now] has the opportunity to lead a car. Even though we’re running Silver Cup and they have the same rating, [Trent] has the experience and he’s been around us for a while.
“This is an opportunity for him to expand his horizons as a professional.”
Despite his Silver rating by the FIA, Hindman is serving as a professional driver in an Acura for the first time, in what comes as an opportunity to grow his skills behind the wheel and as a team leader.
The 24-year-old won the IMSA GT Daytona class championship in a Meyer Shank Racing-entered Acura last year, alongside Gold-rated Mario Farnbacher.
Blackstock, a veteran of Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and well as GT4 and TCR competition, meanwhile, is making his GT3 race debut this weekend at Circuit of The Americas.
Niffenegger said he could see this year’s winner of the inaugural GT3 Driver Academy potentially taking Blackstock’s seat in the entry in 2021.
“Given the GT3 Academy young drivers, we never made a promise to them [about the future] but it’s an opportunity,” he said. “Maybe somebody comes out of that and they’re the next Shelby for 2021.”
Hindman, Blackstock Seeking Overall Wins in Lone Silver Entry
While lacking competition this weekend as the only Silver Cup entrant, Hindman believes they have the package capable to fight for overall wins alongside the Pro-Am class competitors.
Unlike GTWC Asia, which imposes weight and/or pit stop time penalties to Silver Cup entries, SRO America has no plans to impose such restrictions to the class.
However, as a change for 2020, there will be overall podium ceremonies.
“Of course we want to win overall,” Hindman said. “That’s what we’re here to do.
“If we’re going to be the only car in class, the goal now is to see how far up the order we can get. I think we have a pretty good shot of doing OK.”