The Castrol Honda Racing team successfully completed the 24 Hours of Spa today on the European 24hr debut of the Honda NSX GT3 machine, 25 years after the last NSX raced at the iconic endurance event.
Completing 490 laps and nearly 3,500km of flat-out competition, the race weekend was punctuated with early promise when Bertrand Baguette qualified the new machine within 0.8 seconds of the outright fastest, and transferred that pace to his opening stint.
Supported by Esteban Guerrieri, the first two hours of running saw the #30 entry climb from 9th in the Pro-Am category and 49th overall to as high as 3rd in class as the pair, of which Esteban was also making his 24hour racing debut, cut through the field.
Bronze drivers Riccardo Patrese and Loic Depailler took the reins and continued in consistent fashion, until an unfortunate series of events hampered their progress. A pitlane speeding penalty was followed by a puncture and unfortunate timing of safety cars which meant the team lost out by pitting just before the full course yellows were deployed. The cumulative effect of this misfortune was that by one-sixth distance the #30 NSX had lost three laps to the leaders.
Aided by consistent runs from Loic Depailler and Riccardo Patrese, Bertrand and Esteban alternated double stints throughout the night, handing over to Loic as dawn started to break, the crew steadily mounted their fightback. Having slipped to 8th in class, Esteban was at the wheel as the team were chasing fourth, only to be hit with a 30second penalty.
Showing great spirit in pushing to make a comeback once again, an issue with the air conditioning system forced an unscheduled pitstop in the closing hours. As Loic handed over to Esteban, the Argentinian completed a double stint without any A/C before handing the wheel back to Bertrand to take the chequered flag 7th in the Pro-Am class.
Completing a 24 hour endurance race is an incredibly hard task. Completing one with a new car and three drivers without experience of a 24 hour GT3 race is a challenge within a challenge, so Castrol Honda Racing are incredibly proud of this step to firmly launch the Honda NSX badge back into endurance sportscar racing.