WHEN THE TIME CAME to take the second-generation NSX racing, few were surprised Acura turned to Peter Cunningham’s RealTime Racing (RTR) to assist with the development and running of its new GT3 car. Along with Michael Shank Racing (MSR) of Pataskala, Ohio, the two respected motorsport operations quickly showed the NSX GT3 to be a formidable competitor. Their drivers stood on the podium six times and earned a trio of wins in the car’s maiden season—one in Pirelli World Challenge (with RTR) and two in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (with MSR).
Like all cars built to FIA GT3 class regulations, the NSX GT3 race car is based on its series-production counterpart. That means it retains the same chassis and engine as the NSX road car, but per class rules, the GT3 is missing two of its most notable features—hybrid power and all-wheel drive. This makes a huge difference, but in a race car, simpler is better—and so is lighter. Losing the hybrid/all-wheel-drive hardware, along with ditching interior trim and sound insulation and utilizing lighter-weight racing components throughout, drops nearly 1000 pounds from the street NSX’s 3868-pound curb weight.
In competition trim, the stock 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 remains surprisingly unmolested, retaining its original block, head, turbochargers, pistons, crankshafts, and camshafts. Racing electronics and a purpose-built exhaust system bring output to the GT3 class standard of roughly 500 hp. Meanwhile, the suspension, brakes, and gearbox are bespoke racing components, and the bodywork, while preserving the street car’s supercar styling, is optimized for reduced drag and increased downforce (five times that of the production NSX).
Dynamically, a good GT3 car must not only be fast, but reliable and easy to operate for drivers of varying experience levels. This versatility is required of the class as a whole, where professionals and amateur “gentleman” drivers often share cars. To that end, the NSX GT3 is equipped with a complement of electronics designed to turn driver assistance into confidence and, subsequently, quicker laps. Cockpit-adjustable ABS, traction control, and engine mapping make it easier to explore the car’s limits without sacrificing speed (or sheetmetal) in the process. Combine that with considerable downforce and a balanced mid-engine chassis, and the NSX GT3 possesses all the critical ingredients of a competitive GT3 contender.
On track, it proves to be all of the above—fun, fast, and supremely approachable. Without electric motors and all-wheel drive, the GT3 drives less like the tech-rich exotic on which it’s based and more like the dedicated racer it is. The v-6 breathes more freely, running up through the gears with a spirited rasp and a purposeful whack in the backside with every shift of the racing six-speed sequential gearbox. Bend it into a turn and the response is just as enthusiastic, yet also reassuringly composed. The chassis balances comfortably on edge when fed smooth driver inputs, which, in turn, makes for a race car that’s easy to drive consistently lap after lap.
The NSX GT3 asks more of the driver than its roadgoing counterpart and delivers a more visceral, involving experience. But it also allows any racing driver, well-heeled amateur or seasoned pro, to progress at his or her own pace with few surprises. Its substantial limits can be approached in a measured manner, rewarding drivers with greater confidence as familiarity grows and lap times drop. As such, it’s in a strong position to build on last year’s success heading into a season that’s shaping up to be its most competitive yet.