Honda and Acura are going racing, off-roading … and off-road racing

The Acura NSX GT3 Evo is an updated version of the championship-winning GT3 car.

The booth Honda and Acura shared at SEMA more or less sums up the show: It featured traditional race cars, both old and new, a concept car, a classic car, a drift car, and various levels of off-road vehicles. For good measure, Honda threw in a rally car (actually an SUV) just to be safe. And while I enjoyed looking at the Acura NSX GT3 Evo, the stand-out display came courtesy of RealTime racing and its first-generation Acura NSX race car that competed in Speed World Challenge for several seasons. Its driver, Peter Cunningham, stood beside it. 

We talked briefly with Cunningham about his experience with the NSX before checking out the other cars Honda and Acura had on display.

Peter Cunningham stands next to a race car he originally developed in 1990 and went on to race for five season between 1996 and 2002. A 14 time winner, the car lived a long and enviable racing life.

Autoweek: What year is your first-generation NSX race car?

Peter Cunningham: That was one of the first eight preproduction NSXs ever built; we believe that it’s number 00008. And when we first started testing it in the fall of 1990 at Willow Springs, it was a magical thing. No one had ever seen one, and we’re out driving it from Torrance (California) out to Willow Springs. People thought it was a spaceship. We did some early development during that offseason and then we raced it one time in 1991, but a decision was made to not do a campaign for 1991 — all the cars were being sold. They were in high demand. They didn’t feel like now was the time to take a chance to go out there.

AW: But you did eventually race it?

PC: We did. We did race it once at Sears Point on May 4 in 1991. We finished third to a Corvette with Shawn Hendricks, who was my Corvette Challenge teammate, and Doc Bundy in a Lotus Turbo. But then it was decided to just park it and not race. For five years, it sat at special projects at American Honda.

Then we brought it out and got it going and had a good developmental season, and we won the last two races of the year, in 1996. That was the precursor for what followed in 1997, where we came out of the box and won the first race and went on to win the 1997 (World Challenge GT) Championship.

AW: How many seasons did you race the NSX?

PC: Not including 1991 that was the one-off, we raced five seasons, 1996–1998 with a normally aspirated engine. And we brought it back for 2001 and 2002 with a supercharger on it. So it raced five seasons. The NSX was in 50 races, and it was on the podium 26 times. More than half the time, we were on the podium. And of the 26 podiums, 14 were wins. 

The 2019 Acura NSX GT3 Evo race car 

Elsewhere in the booth, the Acura GT3 Evo was on display, mostly in raw carbon fiber, but with two thick yellow stripes running over the hood and roof. It’s an evolution of the championship-winning Acura GT3. The engine is the NSX-based 3.5-liter narrow V6 with a six-speed transmission. Horsepower is based on Balance of Performance requirements, but dancing around the 500 hp mark. The body is where a lot of the newness of the Evo comes in with an aero kit to improve balance, drivability and cooling, according to Acura. The aluminum spaceframe and race-ready roll cage is included in the $525,000 asking price. 

Set up for camping, the Honda Ridgeline points its tent to the skies

Beneath the tent, room for two mountain bikes in the bed

Sleeping accommodations for one, or two to cuddle, or three if you like it very cozy. 

The Honda Ridgeline Honda Factory Performance Concept is a lifted truck with wider track width. It wears all-terrain tires with 18-inch bronze-finished wheels. Thrown on this particular truck are two Fuji bikes in the bed, secured by Thule mounts. Above that is a Thule Xsporter bed rack and Kukenam 3 tent. Several Honda accessories also are bolted on, including a black roof rail and crossbar, die-cast running boards, fender flares, bed cargo net, bed extender, roof basket and black lug nuts. The grill, wheels, rear emblem and stickers are concepts.

Honda Civic Si drift car. it’s bone stock, except for a few slight mods, like converting to rear-wheel-drive, completely change the suspension, and building the engine to produce over 900hp

Jeanneret Racing and Olson Kustom Works showed a Civic Si Drift Car, based on the 10thgeneration Civic Si-based drift car. The aforementioned teams reoriented the K24 engine to make the car rear-wheel drive. It’s also modified with forged pistons, billet connecting rods, a sleeved block, ported cylinder head, new fuel injection, a bigger turbo and nitrous. That brings peak horsepower to 926, according to Honda. The chassis received similar treatment with a modified steering rack, new brakes, dampers and modified geometry. 

Let’s go Rallying! In a Passport? Honda engineers said, “why not?”

Then there’s the 2019 Honda Passport Rally SUV, built by Honda engineers in Ohio to be able to run stage rallies in the American Rally Association in the Limited 4WD drive class. It uses Maxxis tires, Carbotech brake pads, a beefy roll cage, front and rear skidplates and a hydraulic handbrake, but it’s otherwise a stock Passport, according to Honda. The truck competed in the Southern Ohio Forest Rally and finished second in class and 12th overall in the hands of Chris Sladek and John Sharps.

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