► NSX GT3 racer driven
► Hybrid power out, slicks and wing in
► Prices start at £413,000
'It’s an easy car to drive,' says Tiago Montiero, of Honda's race car team. That might be true if you’ve got F1 driver in your CV, but my racing experience is a little bit more limited. Like a lot more so. At least I’ve got an idea of where the track goes, having had a few laps in Honda’s Civic TCR. And now, thankfully, it’s dry.
Honda NSX GT3 review: the gentlemanly GT3
Honda is taking its supercar racing, the NSX adding numbers to the GT3 grid globally. Montiero’s not lying either when he says it’s easy to drive. That’s relatively speaking of course; it might be useful to have some racing experience before you knock on the door at JAS Motorsport in Milan, which Honda has tasked to build its run of NSX GT3 cars.
The Milan operation has a rich history building Honda racers and has designed the NSX with the ‘gentleman racer’ in mind. The only requirement? A bank balance big enough: the NSX GT3 starts at €465,000 (£413,000 at time of writing), and that’s before you start adding spares, a team to run it, catering, travel, accommodation... Racing’s not cheap, however you look at it.
Small change for some, even if it’s somewhat out of kilter with my reality. Only this time it’s me strapped in the driver’s seat with Montiero sat alongside.
Stripped and focused
With its aerodynamically enhanced, lighter carbonfibre bodywork, sponsors’ livery and huge slick tyres running on 18-inch alloy wheels, the NSX GT3 looks every inch the purposeful racer. Bigger air scoops behind the door feed a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 that’s built alongside its production counterpart in the USA.
In the road NSX there’d be hybrid assistance, but in the GT3 the batteries and motors have been binned, not just for weight reduction, but because they wouldn’t have worked with the current FIA GT3 regulations. A shame, really.
The output varies via the FIA’s often controversial Balance of Performance (BoP) formula, but think in the region of 500bhp and you’ll be about right.
The forced-induction V6 drives the rear wheels only though a six-speed sequential racing gearbox, the paddles being mounted on a steering wheel that wouldn’t be any more colourfully finished if my four-year-old was given it and a jumbo pack of Sharpies. Each dial does something important, from calling the pits, getting a drink, altering the brake bias and traction control. I’ll be leaving those ones well alone, then.
Time to drive: strapped and fearful
No seat is more comfortable that a race seat. That is, after you’ve had someone manhandle you in it, wrestling the belts and strapping the belts so tightly that breathing’s an issue. Nothing beats a race car for the feeling of connection, and the NSX GT3 is no different. Fire it up and that’s immediately evident, you feel, as well as hear the engine – this no muted hybrid – even so, it’s not as vocal as Honda’s Civic TCR I’ve not long jumped out of.
There’s no clutch, at least no pedal, getting it out of the garage needing a steady throttle, a bit of button pushing and paddle pulling as the automatic clutch saves you from the all-too-easy racercar stall. It stutters down the pitlane like any racer does, the speed limit the antithesis of what it’s designed for. That makes the transformation when it escapes the confines of the pits and turns into the first long right hander all the more explosive.
Ten laps is my allocation, more than I’d expected, and a real chance to build up to its performance. The acceleration is supercar quick, you feel the lack of mass working in the engine’s favour, the GT3 alert and immediate. With proper aero it pays to push, the faster you go, the faster it can go. That’s the biggest change over a road car, needing a recalibration of what you think is possible, how hard you can brake, how much speed you can carry into, through and out of a bend.
A couple of familiarisation laps is sensible before doing so, but the NSX reveals no vices, it feeling easier, more predictable and better balanced than the TCR car earlier. There’s huge grip, the brakes being incredible, the way you can stamp on them, confident that they’ll just shrug off the huge speed being absolutely, and literally, breathtaking. The turn in is equally faithful, the steering alert, the weighting good, the precision on offer making all road cars feel blunt in comparison.
The engine delivers its performance is at its best in the upper reached of the rev-counter’s sweep, but there’s low rev urge, too. It’s tractable, driveable, the linear delivery allowing you to push the accelerator with confidence, that predictability of response being stabilising, the most brutal thing being the thump of the gears as they fire through when you finger-flick up another, when the revs you hear, and see via the lights on the dash, call for it.
Montiero is right, it’s actually an easy car to drive, ludicrous as that might sound when applied to a 500bhp, winged and slick-tyred racecar. That’s deliberate, as drivers will be expected to jump in for a couple of hours as it, and plenty of rivals, thunder around circuits for 24 hours at a time. Gentleman mixing with pros, in a heady mix of supercars turned racers.
Honda NSX GT3: verdict
All that makes for close, compelling racing, that’s relatable to reality, or at least the reality for those with deep enough pockets to take part. My father always instilled the need to be a gentleman in me as a lad, but I think I like the idea of being a gentleman racer. Anyone want to sponsor me?
More Honda reviews