Thursday night, 10:05 PM
"It's coming off the truck." Those five words, glowing ominously on the screen of my phone at 35,000 feet, warned me that the most anticipated weekend of my 2016 had begun. And, much to my chagrin, it was beginning without me.
In early June, the Sports Car Club of America announced their very first "Targa" event. The Targa was going to be a competition consisting of a combination of autocross, time trial, HPDE, and road rally events throughout the Southeast. The SCCA has been on a bit of a tear lately, expanding their programs outside of the normal autocross and road racing portfolio in an attempt to attract new members, and Targa appeared to be the latest idea in that vein. Without a moment's hesitation, I fired off an email to Heyward Wagner, the SCCA's Director of Experiental Programs, asking if they had room for me to participate. Perhaps against his better judgment, he said they did.
I only lacked two things needed to participate: a teammate and a car. Well, that's not entirely true. I have a Fiesta ST that would have been completely suitable, were it not for the fact that it's currently in the eighteenth month of a twenty-four month lease. Plus, I wanted to win the event overall. I had a better idea.
I wanted an NSX.
Ever since I had driven the 2017 Acura NSX earlier in the year, I was convinced that it was the perfect blend of road-going touring car and track-blasting supercar. Its multiple drive modes made it soft and comfortable for long highway cruises but vicious and oversteer-happy on track. I thought that the NSX was the perfect choice. Unfortunately, I didn't have the $156,000 kicking around that my local Acura dealer seemed to think was necessary for me to place my NSX order. So I did what anybody would do. I wrote an email to my s at Acura and I begged.
Much to my surprise, they agreed, and that's how I ended up with that text message glowing on my phone as I flew to Charlotte. Acura had a gorgeous, Valencia Pearl Red pre-production NSX waiting for me.
While I felt confident that I could handle all of the competition driving, the SCCA required two drivers for the Targa—partially because there would be nearly a thousand miles of street driving required between venues, and partially because it included a Time/Speed/Distance rally which necessitated a navigator. Once it was announced that the event would be starting with an Autocross at ZMax Dragway in Charlotte, only one name came to mind: Jadrice Toussaint.
Jadrice was a both a loyal friend and a fierce competitor from 2009-2012, a time when we were both quite active on the national SCCA autocross circuit. He's widely regarded as the most talented autocrosser in the world, having won the national championship in the hardest class in Solo not once, but twice. He's also a resident of suburban Charlotte, which meant that we'd be kicking off the event in his hometown. When I called Jadrice and asked him if he'd be interested—I didn't have to finish my question before he answered in his rich Haitian accent. "Yes. Hell yes, man. Let's go win this thing."
We agreed that Jay (as his friends and family call him) would be the pilot for the autocrosses, and that I would handle the track driving and the time trials. Perfect.
Friday morning, 2:07 AM
"Hello, my lovely," I said as my Uber driver deposited me at Jay's house well into the wee hours of the morning. The NSX rested comfortably in the driveway, unaware that in mere hours she'd be dancing like a hippopotamus from Fantasia between the cones of the Targa's first event. By the time of my arrival, the other thirty- teams participating in the Targa had checked in and were fast asleep. But everybody knows that the cool kids show up fashionably late, and Jay and I had quite the date to bring to the ball.
Unfortunately, much like the little boy in the old Disney World commercial, I was too excited to sleep. Acura had been very clear with their instructions to me—have fun, be safe, but, most importantly, win. Even though I was certain of Jay's autocross abilities, I was concerned that we might encounter a narrow course layout in the morning. A wide-open, fast track would favor us, but anything with tight slaloms or corners would play to the strengths of a smaller car. Like, say, a Lotus Elise. Or an Exocet.
Oh, did I mention that we were classed against an Exocet? Targa's system was unorthodox in that it was a bit of a hybrid of autocross and sportscar racing classing designations. Since the NSX is new for 2017, and at the time of the event, only a select few had even been delivered (to the likes of Rick Hendrick, Graham Rahal, and Jay Leno), neither the SCCA nor I were sure where it should be classed.
"Put us in Unlimited," I proclaimed to Heyward Wagner over the phone, mostly because it sounded completely badass, but also because it kept us away from the aforementioned Elise in the autocross sections and the boosted-up E46 M3s in the time trials. What I hadn't accounted for was the fact that some yahoo named Randy Pobst would show up in a freaking Exocet to compete against us in Unlimited class.
Yes, that's correct. In order to win this thing, I was going to have to prove that the NSX, which, if you believe Internet mouth-breathers, is heavy, plodding, and slow, was a better autocross and track tool than a tube-framed, 1600 lb rocketship with a professional championship driver behind the wheel.
Friday morning, 6:30 AM
Somehow I must have briefly dozed off, because I opened my eyes to the sounds of Cannonball Adderley's Bossa Nova gently sambaing me awake, despite the darkness that still loomed over suburban Charlotte. I leapt from my bed, took the hottest shower I could without burning my skin off, and raced downstairs to the waiting arms of the most American supercar today.
Jay was awake, as well, and was already proclaiming how badly he was going to lay waste to the field. "Dude," he said in a voice that was much, much too awake for this early hour, "we are going to crush them all today. I can't wait."
However, in what was soon to become a theme for the weekend, "I can't wait" turned into a rather leisurely digestion of some ramen noodles and a haphazard attempt at packing all of his required clothing and tools for the weekend into his Grand Cherokee.
"Uh, Jay," I said somewhat nervously, as recollections of our time competing together in years past started coming back to me, "we should probably get going man. Check-in is at 7:30, and we're at least forty minutes away."
"No worries, my friend," he laughed at me. "We'll get there."
Friday morning, 7:27 AM
Jay's method of ensuring we could get there on time was to drive his Cherokee at a speed that I'd rather not repeat in writing while I followed in the NSX. At least it was one way for me to ensure I was comfortable handling the big Acura at speed.
The NSX has a way of making the world around you disappear, insulating you from the chaos of the highway by enveloping you in soft leather seats and engulfing the senses with its ELS audio system. Velocity that would seem quite insane in any other car borders on the mundane in the NSX. Looking down at the speedometer, I was downright shocked to see that I'd been cruising comfortably at a number that could have ended our weekend in a somewhat violent fashion at the hands of the Charlotte-Mecklenberg County Police Department, should any of them see fit to point a laser gun in my direction.
As we pulled into the grid area at ZMax Dragway, I immediately become aware of all of the eyes of my fellow Targa competitors on my chariot and me. The NSX is not a vehicle for being inconspicuous. From the moment I parked, the camera phones started clicking; first somewhat shyly, and then brazenly, as I invited my new friends to inspect the car from all angles. Before I even took my helmet and camera out of the trunk, at least fifteen people had sat in the driver's seat.
Jay had already placed our number on both sides of the car—"30," in honor of the Acura brand's thirtieth anniversary—but we still had to get our class designation, mandatory sponsor's stickers, and road rally number placed on the vehicle, and then we had to get the NSX through technical inspection.
At this point, I should mention that we may have had a slight advantage over everyone else in the Targa. Participants weren't allowed to have a support vehicle or a tech. We had both. Whoops. Acura sent along William, a factory tech, mainly because Acura wasn't particularly keen on the idea of us jacking up the car and working on it ourselves should anything go wrong.
We also thought it might be fun to pretend like we were real racers for the weekend and get some of those fun stickers with our respective nation's flags and our names on them. This was Jay's job. Turns out that the website he ordered them from not only forgot to give us a sticker for both sides of the car, they also gave us the smallest font size available, which meant that the stickers were only on the driver's side, and were only legible under a microscope.
"You had one job, Jay," I said. "One job. Order the stickers. And you couldn't even do that right."
"Relax, my friend," he replied. "My real job is to beat everybody in the autocross."
Friday morning, 9:50 AM
"Mark, I forgot, but I have to be on a conference call at 10:00," Jay said apologetically. "You're going to have to take the first run." Say what? The first run on cold Pirelli Trofeo R tires and carbon ceramic brakes? On a course I walked one time?
Well, okay then. Trofeo Rs don't like to be cold—they're not designed for autocross, they're designed for the track. They're magnificent when you're fifteen minutes into a time trial session. For a fifty second autocross run? Not so much.
I sat on the grid and watched as several other competitors completed their first runs. A good time seemed to be in the low fifty-second range—that's what the Elises and M3s were running. I figured that my NSX, on cold tires and on a course with several narrow transitions, would do well to match them.
"And here comes the NSX to the line, everybody!" shrieked the announcer as I rolled up to the staging area. "Drop what you're doing and watch this thing take off." Yes, please watch me slide around a course I don't know in an overpowered sled on ice skates.
Despite a hairpin turn between the launch and the timing lights, the NSX was deep into the first slalom before I knew what hit me. The rear end danced away from my control immediately, and I found myself turning and stabbing at the throttle and brakes with inputs that I can only describe as "amateurish." In a car with this much low-end torque, thanks to the three electric motors that combine with the twin-turbo V6 to give instant grunt, everything happens quickly.
Thwack! There went one cone in the slalom, a victim to the extra-wide front bumper of the NSX. Thwack! Damn it, I was behind before I even knew I was behind. Two cones down, a four second penalty. A tight 180 turnaround was next, and the ceramic brakes were having none of it. I broke way too late, and only the instant power of the NSX put me back on track. Big drift around the next sweeper, and back into a 75-foot slalom. Even though the NSX was wide, it liked the transitions of the slalom just fine.
Final turnaround, back to the finish. Time to put the throttle to the floor and pray. Two quick lane changes later, and I upshifted into third to roar past the timing lights.
46.668. Holy mother of God.
Despite my cones, I was still in second place overall after the first runs. The NSX wasn't just a capable autocrosser, it was brilliant. Or, at least, I hoped it would be, once it became manageable from a grip perspective.
As second runs approached, there was still no sign of Jay, so I steeled myself for a second attempt at the course. However, with about two cars to go before it was my turn, Jay appeared out of nowhere.
"I'm ready, man! I'm ready to run!" I hopped out of the driver's position and yielded to my teammate. However, he found the car to be just as sketchy on course as I did, and ended up with a DNF, or "Did Not Finish," as the NSX slid outside one of the slalom cones under his direction.
As Jay mumbled something about "tires and brakes need to heat up," he retreated back to his conference call. Unfortunately, I found the car to be similarly squirrelly on the third run, leaving it up to Jay to pull out a hero run for our fourth and final effort.
Our main competition, the Exocet of Pobst and Atlanta Motorsports Park instructor, Jason Owens, had managed a clean 47.1, so my dirty 46.6 wasn't going to cut it. From my time competing against Jay, I knew that he was just as likely to have a quick clean run as a quick run with five cones attached. I determined that the only way to deal with my nerves was to grab the announcer's microphone and get to work.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of Targa! My name is Mark Baruth and I'm here to announce for my good friend, Jadrice Toussaint, as he makes our fourth and final run here at ZMax Speedway in the 2017 Acura NSX. Oh, good, he's taking a passenger along for the ride—glad to see he's taking it seriously.
"And he's off! Jad-Rice, as he's often known in the autocross world, is clean through the first slalom. If he keeps it clean through the second slalom, we're home free. . . and he does! Powering out of the tight turnaround, back down the straight into the showcase turn. One more slalom to go! Look at that car glide between the cones, people.
"Jay's in the final turn, and he's heading for home. He trips the lights with a oh my God 44.9! That's the sort of driving you can expect from the Road & Track team, ladies and gentlemen! Jadrice Toussaint, showing us all why he's a champion!"
Jay's final time ended up putting us in the overall lead by an unfathomable two- seconds, a near-eternity in a discipline where wins are often decided by hundredths of seconds. Now that the competition portion of the day was over, we were free to relax just a bit as we went across the street to Charlotte Motor Speedway, the site of that evening's Track Night in America event.
Friday afternoon, 4:00 PM
"I can't believe I'm about to drive this car on the NASCAR oval."
As the heat of the day sat at a steamy 97 degrees Fahrenheit, I noticed a slow but steady parade of trackgoers circling the NSX. I had been asked in the drivers' meeting before the Track Night event if I would be willing to give rides to people on the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval course. Even though I replied with a hearty "Yes!" my inner voice was much less confident about the prospects of what this car could do on the combination of the NASCAR oval and the infield road course. More accurately, I was entirely sure that the NSX's capabilities were likely well outside of my comfort zone.
"Hell, I can drive my Z06 completely flat through Turns 3 and 4," said an old, grizzled veteran as he looked suspiciously in the direction of my decidedly non-Corvette supercar. "Doubt this thing can pull that off though."
Thirty minutes later, he found himself giving a reluctant point-by to the bright LEDs of the Acura that were completely filling up his mirrors.
Simply put, the NSX on the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval is an experience that would make the staunchest of evolutionary biologists find religion. Immediately. And in the heart of Billy Graham country, it seems only appropriate that God would be waiting somewhere in the banking of Turns 3 and 4, because it could only be divine intervention that would allow a yahoo like me to enter those turns at 153 miles per hour and watch the damn thing stick.
There may have been cars that could hang with the big Acura on the straightaways, and there may have been some that could navigate the infield course with similar ease, but there were none that could do both as well as the NSX.
"I thought these things were supposed to be heavy and slow," remarked one participant. Well, you thought wrong. By the end of the night, there wasn't a single car among our field, nor among the Central Carolina Region road racers with whom we shared the session, that wasn't shown the "faster traffic approaching" flag in Turn 1 of the infield course. Not the C7 Z06. Not the 991 GT3. Not one of them could escape being absorbed by the NSX. I almost hate to admit how effortlessly the NSX slipped by them, one by one, until there was nothing but clear track ahead.
But all that speed was taking a toll on the Acura's brakes as the sun gave way to the evening's darkness. Friday night church was in session, and the preacher that was the NSX surely told the story of the brimstone and fiery lakes of Hell—no, wait, that was just the rotors glowing under braking past the NASCAR Start/Finish line. Yet the NSX appeared no worse for wear—the Trofeo Rs were finally scrubbed in and holding heat nicely, and the brakes were grabbing at a moment's notice. Had the SCCA not demanded I stop driving, I might have continued on into the night until my fuel supply was exhausted—and then I would have kept going in EV mode. Alas, as the night finally completed its inevitable arrival, it was time for the open lapping night to stop.
With all the driving completed, there was only one thing left to do. Eat.
Friday night, 9:35 PM
When one has a brilliant, one-of-a-kind, gorgeous red supercar in Charlotte, one does not take it through the drive thru at Bojangles and call it a night. No, there is only one destination for such a car on a Friday evening in Charlotte, and that destination is Chima Steakhouse. And despite knowing that we had a three-and-a-half hour drive ahead of us down to Atlanta Motorsports Park for the next day's time trials, Jay insisted that we eat at the finest Brazilian steakhouse in the South.
I was prepared to be tired after a long day in the Carolina heat. I was prepared to be hungry for a real meal, having eaten very little all day. What I was not prepared for was the traffic-stopping madness that was the NSX's arrival in Uptown Charlotte.
From the moment we arrived at Chima's valet stand, the cameras were continuously clicking. People arrived out of nowhere, and what was seemingly a quiet corner just moments before was now the center of the automotive universe, as pedestrians and motorists alike stopped whatever they were doing to catch a glimpse. As many as fifty people surrounded the car at any given time.
The combination of the herd of admirers outside and the tortoise-like service at the bar meant that we didn't leave Chima until nearly midnight.
We finally arrived at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Gainesville at 3:45 AM, knowing that we had to leave for Atlanta Motorsports Park less than two hours later. What was worse that we knew that all of our competition had been sleeping for at least four or five hours already.
"I shouldn't have let those kids sit in the NSX," I mumbled to myself as I drifted off for 90 minutes of precious, precious sleep.
Saturday morning, 6:30 AM
I knew that I had no hope of rousing Jay, so I packed myself into the NSX and headed north without them. Each part of the Targa had points associated with it, including, yes, arriving on time to the drivers' meeting. Although Jay's massive victory over Pobst's Exocet in the autocross had given us a five-point lead, being late to the meeting would have meant a five-point penalty, or the evaporation of our lead.
Luckily, I made it with a few minutes to spare, after rudely explaining to a very nice gentleman at the Dawsonville Shell station that I couldn't allow him to take any more pictures of the NSX because I was running very, very late. I hope he understood.
The time trial format that morning was simple—three pace laps, followed by two separate 15-minute timed sessions. The road course at AMP is one of the most enjoyable in the world to drive, with elements borrowed from the Nurburgring and Spa, not to mention three supersonic turns to the finish. The last of those three can send even the most experienced of drivers into the wall at perilous speeds.
But I'll be damned if the NSX wasn't so confidence inspiring that I found myself creeping faster and faster onto the front straight with each passing lap of the first time trial session. Carrying that much speed past the start/finish meant that I was fully engaging ABS all the way down the hill from the six marker and well into Turn 1.
I apparently found this to be much more amusing than the NSX, which quickly decided that it had had enough of this sort of thing. With about five laps to go, I received this urgent message from somewhere in the car's vast electronic brain:
"Slow Down! You have reduced braking power!"
This message was accompanied by a terribly frightening picture of a glowing red rotor and caliper, placed directly in the center of the dash, where the car had just moments before informed me that I was traveling at nearly 130 MPH.
Never one to take such a warning lightly, I slowed my pace for my last lap before the checkered flag waved. The cooldown lap wasn't enough to make the NSX any happier with me, so I requested another. After that lap, the warning disappeared, but I wasn't satisfied that going back out for the second session was the best idea. I asked our brilliant technician, William, to examine the brakes to ensure that all was okay.
After a thorough examination, William decided that perhaps I had just boiled the brake fluid, and that it would be best to do a complete flush of the system. I checked the results and was surprised to see that I had a comfortable lead of nearly two seconds per lap over the field, despite what I felt was relatively cautious driving through the final turns. I calculated the chances that somebody would catch me as the heat of the late morning began to creep in, and I decided that they were minimal.
"Go ahead and do it," I advised, and promptly enjoyed the complete envy of the rest of the field, none of whom were fortunate enough to enjoy the services of a factory service technician. "We're going to lunch. Want me to bring you back something?"
With the win on the track, our overall victory seemed completely assured. We had completely forgotten that the Road Rally awaited—something that neither Jay nor I had ever done.
Saturday Afternoon, 2:30 PM
"Dude, I thought you were paying attention during the briefing," I said from the passenger's seat as we approached the start line of the rally. "I don't know what the hell we're supposed to be doing."
"I was paying attention!" shouted Jay from the driver's position. "Why is that old man waving at us to go?"
"Because it's our turn to go!" I shouted back. "GO!"
"I thought we weren't supposed to leave for seven more minutes?" Jay looked as confused as I felt.
"No, you idiot. We're supposed to arrive at the last checkpoint in seven minutes."
Just an hour before, we had been sitting in a meeting room at AMP, where a very nice gentleman in pleated Dockers and white sneakers had been outlining the rules and regulations of that afternoon's Road Rally. At the moment when he had been explaining exactly what it was that we were supposed to be doing, I was mostly thinking of other things, like how I was operating on less than four hours of sleep in the previous 48 hours. I looked across the room at Jay and mouthed, "Are you following this?" He nodded and gave a smile and a giant thumbs-up. I took that to mean that he was following along, so I started to look for places where I could lay down for the next hour until we were supposed to leave on the rally.
This had been a mistake.
The rally was a combination of a Time/Speed/Distance rally and what's called a "gimmick" rally. We had to arrive at certain checkpoints at incredibly specific times—down to the second. We also had to answer questions along they way like "Did you pass a black and yellow bicycle?" all of which were intentionally designed to trick us.
I was so focused on answering the third question that I completely missed a turn, and took us down a dirt path. Someday, I'd like the record to show that Jadrice Toussaint was the first person to attempt off-roading in the new NSX, because that's exactly what we did for about two minutes before we realized that we had to be completely lost.
Sure enough, upon our return to the main road, we realized that I had guided us down the wrong path, which caused us to be dreadfully late to the last checkpoint. There went twenty points—essentially the total sum of the lead we had gained in the autocross and time trial sections.
At that point, the road rally became serious business. I focused intently on each question, looking for tricks where before I had seen none. That black and yellow bicycle? Turned out that it was really just a black bicycle on a yellow sign. Did we pass a "cemetary?" Nope, but we did pass a "cemetery." I'm proud to say that, as a writer, we were the only team to get that question correct. Thank the maker for good spelling.
Let's be honest, here. At the beginning of the rally, Jay and I had briefly considered what the penalty might be for just skipping it altogether. It was hot, and the whole idea of the rally seemed downright juvenile. After all, we had set out to race, not to answer trivia questions.
But about thirty minutes into the rally, after some laughs and some debates about whether or not question 12 was supposed to come before question 11 or if that was just a typo, I looked at Jay and said the following statement:
"I think we can admit that we're having fun now, right?"
Certainly the NSX was contributing to our fun, too. Whereas some teams were faced with doing the rally with no air conditioning, harsh springs, loud exhausts, or even (in the case of the Exocet) no windshield, the NSX turned our jaunt through the mountains into a live demonstration of its on-road capabilities. As our fellow competitors creeped past road signs and buildings, looking for clues, we laughed and roared past them along the curvaceous paths of North Georgia.
Our arrival at the final checkpoint deep in the hills, a combination of gas station, convenience store, and ice cream parlor, was met with some amount of dismay by everybody involved, as nobody wanted the rally to end. What was intended to be a quick stop on the way north to Kentucky turned into a bit of a reunion for all of the participating teams as we regaled each other with the tales of the back roads of the South.
After a quick stop in Chattanooga for a barbeque and a "car show," in which the Targa participants could vote on each other's cars for awards such as "Best in Show" and "The Spirit of Targa." We somehow lost to the Exocet—which has basically no body and looks more like scaffolding than a car—in our class. We then mapped out our route to that evening's hotel in Portland, Tennessee, about 35 miles south of NCM Motorsports Park.
Sunday morning, 9:00 AM
"They should have named this course 'NSX.'"
Randy Pobst wasn't pleased with the wide-open layout of the morning's autocross at Bowling Green's NCM Motorsports Park. "I know it's been about twenty years since I've done this sort of thing, but I thought that autocrosses were supposed to have turns."
After our mistake in the Road Rally, our lead over Pobst and Owens in the Exocet had dwindled to just a couple of points, meaning that we needed Jay to dominate the autocross to ensure that we had an insurmountable lead heading into the trackcross. Jay and I were completely satisfied with the design. I felt confident that Jay would dominate the autocross portion against Pobst, but there was also part of me that knew that Jay had a tendency to hit cones. Plus, the NSX is supposed to be slower than an Exocet at autocrossing—the NSX classes into Super Street, whereas the Exocet is in E Modified.
Jay started as Jay normally does—fast but dirty. His 27.8 second run was .6 seconds faster than Pobst, but he carried a cone along for the ride. Run two was not much help, as Jay actually slowed down (28.2) to clean up a bit as Pobst sped up to a 27.6, making him faster in both raw time and total time. Jay sped up to a 27.2 for run number three ( a cone), but Pobst countered with a clean 27.0.
"I don't understand it," Jay said to me before his fourth and last run. "The traction control keeps interfering."
"You didn't disable it?" I asked in disbelief.
"Doesn't Track mode turn it all the way off?" Jay asked.
Damn. I forgot to show him how to disable stability assistance. I reached into the car and turned it off fully, but that also meant no Launch Control, which Jay had been using to gain a significant advantage at the start. We weighed the options and decided turning off stability control as more important than having the launch.
It didn't matter. Jay knocked over the very first cone on course. "Oh, F—!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, much to the dismay of the parents in the area. The raw time was unbelievably quick—26.8—but it didn't matter, as we had to stand on the clean 28.2 as our best time of the day against the Exocet's 27.0.
That meant that Pobst and Owens actually had a one-point lead over us as we headed into the final event of the weekend, the afternoon's trackcross. I gulped hard, accepted that the victory would come down to not only beating Pobst on track, but beating him by a fairly significant margin.
Thank God for the NSX.
Sunday afternoon, 1:00 PM
The trackcross was set to take place on the one section of NCM's track that I had never driven before—the Sinkhole. In the morning's practice runs, I tried to drive the descending right hander of the Sinkhole like the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca—turn early and dive straight down the blind hill. This works beautifully at the 'Screw. At NCM, it led to my pointing the NSX directly at the freaking wall. After what I felt was a heroic effort to keep the Acura out of the tire barrier, I dipped two wheels off and recovered well enough to scare myself into driving it properly on the next run.
Either fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, on the very first runs, the NSX left no doubt as to who was going to be fastest on track that afternoon. Since stability assistance wasn't interfering at all during the practice sessions, I opted to leave it on so that I could have launch control at the start.
Acura's launch control is second to none, eclipsing the three-second 0-60 barrier with ease while still giving the driver full control to make steering corrections as necessary. As such, the NSX was able to take the first few turns completely flat, reaching nearly 100 MPH before braking lightly into the right hander, then back hard onto the throttle. Hard braking was required for entry into the tight turnaround before the dreaded Sinkhole, then tight left up the hill, gently reapplying throttle before hammering it to the finish.
My first run was a 45.945. "What did the Exocet run?" I asked breathlessly of the gentleman who was handing out the timeslips at the finish.
"He's running a 50.3." Game over.
I was able to speed up to a slightly faster 45.912, before nearly crunching the NSX to avoid a turtle on my final run (lesson learned: always hit the debris, never try to avoid it). Pobst lowered the Exocet's time down to a 49.180, but that was the best he could do. I had won by a large enough margin to reclaim the Unlimited class lead and take the overall victory for the weekend.
Of course, none of it would have been possible if not for the brilliance of Acura's newest supercar. My prolonged exposure to the car revealed that all the falsehoods that were peddled by lesser drivers during the car's initial press release—too heavy, prone to understeer, numb steering feedback—were simply that. It proved to be the perfect companion for our odyssey through multiple states and multiple motorsports disciplines.
Sunday Afternoon, 2:30 PM
As the trophy presentation concluded, our fellow Targa competitors all stopped by the NSX for one last congratulation on our victory and to snap one more photo with the car that did the impossible all weekend long. Yes, we were competing with each other, but despite operating on little-to-no sleep, we were all sad to see each other leave NCM, one at a time. Some teams traveled nearly 1500 miles from start to finish, and many of them had a full day's drive back home from Kentucky. There were teams of best friends. Teams of fathers and children, some grown, some barely old enough to hold a license. Teams of near strangers, who had just met each other at events earlier in the year.
And then there was our team. Jadrice and I, once competitors, always friends, and now teammates in victory. When Jay and I said goodbye as he headed back home to Charlotte, I knew it wasn't really goodbye. Whether we are teammates again in the future, or viciously battling each other for the same plastic trophy, we are brothers for life.
But there was another I had to say goodbye to, and it was for good. The Acura NSX. Over the weekend, the NSX had become the third member of our team. I'd love to think that all the attention Jay and I received was due to our amazing driving skills, but in reality, it was the NSX that impacted people. It's easy to forget sometimes that people of Generation X—my generation—grew up idolizing not Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini, but the Japanese sports cars of the 90's. The Skyline. The FD RX-7. The Supra. And, yes, the NSX. Anybody who tries to tell you that the NSX is a soulless technological exercise never had the chance to see how children respond to it. How adults stand in awe of it. Or to drive it as close to the edge as possible, with a professional driver hunting you down. It's the ideal combination of visceral and intellectual fulfillment.
So when the NSX was loaded onto the trailer for its journey home to Torrance, California, I knew that it really was goodbye, but that it was also the conclusion of a journey unlike anything anybody ever had done in an NSX before—and maybe never would do again. We did exactly what we had all set out to do—win a race—but in the end, thanks to the SCCA and their brilliant, crazy Targa concept, we did much more than that, too. The three of us, Jay, the NSX, and me, all Gen Xers, had that most millennial of things.
We had an experience.