The Acura Era Begins – Long Beach GP 2019

After a 44-year partnership with the city of Long Beach and its Grand Prix Association, Toyota announced in August of 2018 it was pulling out of the classic race. With its American corporate HQ moved from nearby Torrance, Calif., to Plano, Texas, it just didn’t make any sense to sponsor the event any further, so organizers had to find a new title sugar daddy, an organization possibly with ties to racing and deep roots in SoCal. As it turns out, the GP Association didn’t have to look too far; in February of this year, Acura announced it had signed on for a multi-year deal to put their name all over the Grand Prix. Honda and its luxury brand have US operation in Torrance, too, so the exchange went from one South Bay-based Japanese OEM to another.

2019 long beach GP Thermal Orange NSX Photo 2/38   |   2019 Long Beach GP Thermal Orange NSX

This past weekend we got to see what that new alliance looks like. Yeah, there was Acura branding everywhere, and—big surprise—a fleet of new NSXs acted as official pace cars throughout the motorsports weekend. But Acura also dug into its US racing time capsule to dust off some of its classic cars and put them on display in the GP’s Lifestyle Expo, like one of the RealTime Racing Integra Type R Touring Cars from the late 1990s and early 2000s—still in its eye-searing highlighter orange-and-white livery.

The DC2 (or rather, DB8, we suspect) still had driver Pierre Kleinubing’s name on the windshield, meaning it was possibly a car he won one of his three World Challenge championships in, and was among a trio of cars from RTR in the exhibit, the others being the GT class NSX it ran on and off throughout the ’90s, and more recently one of its TLX GT. We couldn’t tell if the Integra still had its B18 under hood, but it looked like the Brembo 4-pot front calipers were still in place, as was the Eibach Spring/Mugen damper coilover setup and custom RTR SCCA-spec rear wing. The ITR is to this day the most successful car platform in the history of the World Challenge Touring Car category, scoring more wins, poles, and championships—primarily in the hands of RealTime Racing drivers—than any other model before or since.

Elsewhere in the booth, IMSA racers—many of them from prototype classes—heralded the brand’s further successes in top-level motorsports. Acura posted up the GTD class NSX GT3 Evo driven by an all-woman squad of racing’s best at the 2019 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year; one of the cars that started it all, the NSX-powered, Spice Engineering chassis SE90 Comptech Camel Lights GTP; a couple different versions of the Honda Performance Development ARX-01 chassis Le mans racer; and an up-to-date HPD/Oreca ARX-05 DPI. The Team Penske car that carried Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron in the 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was on display in the Expo, while out on track the pair shared the no. 6 ARX-05, and raced alongside teammates Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves in the no. 7. Taylor and Castroneves finished second in the weekend’s Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, while Cameron and Montoya finished in third—not a bad way to start off a new partnership!

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