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Acura Shows Speed at Sebring

  • Mechanical issues end strong Team Penske Acura prototype effort
  • Michael Shank Racing leads Acura NSX GT3 performance 
  • HART recovers from late-race damage; CJ Wilson Racing makes NSX GT3 debut

Fielding a six-car effort in two separate IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes – the largest for any manufacturer in the 42-car starting field – Acura Motorsports contended for victory in both the headline Prototype and supporting GTD divisions during Saturday's 66th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, second round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Michael Shank Racing led the way for Acura Motorsports, with both of the team's NSX GT3s contending for the GTD class victory and leading through the first nine hours of the endurance racing classic.  Acura Team Penske gave the new ARX-05 prototype another strong outing, leading several times, but separate mechanical failures ended the run for both machines just past the halfway mark in the 12-hour contest.  The Honda of America Racing Team also frequently ran in the top five of GTD and the CJ Wilson Racing team made its NSX GT3 debut at Sebring.

Acura Team Penske Both Ricky Taylor, starting driver for the #7 Penske Acura ARX-05 prototype, and co-driver Helio Castroneves led during the early hours.  Along with third driver Graham Rahal, the Acura remained in the top three until the car suddenly lost oil pressure just as the race reached its six-hour midpoint. 

Less than one hour later, the sister #6 car of Juan Pablo Montoya also ground to a halt on track with no drive, following contact with another prototype.  The resulting driveline damage ended the race for Montoya and co-drivers Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud after completing 203 laps.

Acura NSX GT3 Teams Recovering from a crash in practice that resulted in major damage to the #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, and the resulting all-night repair work leading up until race morning, both the #93 and sister car #86 MSR Acura repeatedly led the GTD class, until changing track conditions following the final round of pit stops saw the pair drop from victory contention.  However, both gained valuable championship points with a seventh-place result for the #93 Acura co-driven by Lawson Aschenbach, Justin Marks and Mario Farnbacher; with the teammate #86 NSX GT3 finishing eighth in the hands of Katherine Legge, Alvaro Parente and Trent Hindman.

The Honda/Acura associate-led HART team also ran on the lead lap – and frequently in the top six – through the first 10 hours of the race.  However, driver Tom Dyer was unable to avoid debris from a prototype that crashed just in front of his Acura in the 11th hour, and the team lost approximately 30 minutes for repairs before returning to finish 16th in GTD with Dyer and co-drivers Ryan Eversley and Chad Gilsinger.

Headed by the former Major League pitcher, CJ Wilson Racing made its Acura debut this weekend at Sebring and had a trouble-free run to 17th in the very competitive GTD class with drivers Marc Miller, Till Bechtolsheimer and Kumo Wittmer.

Next With 36 hours of racing in Florida – including January's Rolex 24 – now complete, the prototype category of the 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship now moves to the West Coast for the April 14 Grand Prix of Long Beach, with the full series converging at Mid-Ohio in May.

Video recaps from this weekend's 12-hour endurance race at Sebring International Raceway are being posted on the "Honda Racing/HPD" YouTube channel.  Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found in the 2018 HPD Trackside Video Playlist at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.

Quotes Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on this weekend's Twelve Hours of Sebring: “Today, the fabled Sebring circuit lived up to its punishing reputation.  Both the prototypes and the NSX GT3s showed rapid pace and led at various times during the race.  Unfortunately, gremlins got us in various forms today.  I couldn't be more proud of the effort and pace of the Acura Team Penske stable.  We demonstrated that we're on the cusp of overall race wins; and the NSX GT3 program continues to show race-winning speed and reliability with our three teams, including newcomer CJ Wilson Racing. I would be remiss not to mention the Herculean effort put forth by the MSR crew, working through the entire night to repair the severely damaged car.  Their effort was rewarded with the best NSX GT3 finish of the race.”

Lawson Aschenbach (driver, #93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3) led GTD, finished 7th: “First and foremost, hats off to Michael Shank Racing and Honda Performance Development. To come back from our crash on Thursday with a fast race car and a solid finish was just amazing.  We still have some work to do to improve, but this was a great recovery from a difficult start to the weekend, and gives us a ton of encouragement going forward.”

Ricky Taylor (driver, #7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05) led overall, did not finish (mechanical): “We were just settling in and everything was going to plan. The whole Acura Team Penske crew had done an amazing job leading up to the race.  We were settled into the top-three for the entire day. Unfortunately, this [mechanical problem] knocked us out.  We had such a solid plan moving forward. We were really looking forward to battling at the end. It's one thing if we were never competitive and fell out.  To have this kind of speed and put on this kind of show so far excites us to move onto Long Beach and hopefully, get a win there.”

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Circuit:       Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, FL Weather:     Mostly sunny, afternoon high 82 degrees F

Prototype Results:   Ps.       Class                  Drivers                                                         Team                                Chassis                              Laps/Notes                 1.         Prototype            Johannes van Overbeek / Pipo Derani,      Tequila Patron ESM        Nissan JSP217        344 laps                                           Nicolas Lapierre 14.         Prototype          Juan Pablo Montoya / Dane                    Acura Team Penske      Acura ARX-05         203 laps – Did not                                           Cameron / Simon Pagenaud                                                                                                         finish 15.         Prototype          Helio Castroneves / Ricky Taylor           Acura Team Penske      Acura ARX-05          172 laps – Did not                                           Graham Rahal                                                                                                                                  finish GTD Results:   1. GTD  Bryan Sellers / Madison Snow Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan        321 laps                                           Corey Lewis   7.         GTD                    Lawson Aschenbach / Justin Marks     Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3        321 laps                                           Mario Farnbacher   8.         GTD                    Katherine Legge / Alvaro Parente          Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3         321 laps                                           Trent Hindman 16.         GTD                    Ryan Eversley / Chad Gilsinger              H.A.R.T.                           Acura NSX GT3        312 laps - running                                           Tom Dyer 17.         GTD                    Marc Miller/Till Bechtolsheimer              CJ Wilson Racing Acura NSX GT3                309 laps - running                                           Kuno Wittmer

 

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