A quartet of promising racers became the first graduates of the Honda Performance Development GT3 Driver Academy earlier this week, as HPD’s program to assist young drivers accelerate their careers held its inaugural session at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The four members of the first GT3 Academy class all were selected for the racing career promise and included Taylor Hagler, Jacob Abel, Karl Wittmer and Dakota Dickerson.All arrived Sunday for an orientation session with the Acura NSX GT3 Evo they would pilot during the next two days. The car, prepped and crewed by the 2019 SRO World Challenge GT America Championship-winning Racers Edge Motorsports team, proved to be an ideal classroom for the challenging Road Atlanta circuit.
Intermittent thunderstorms shuffled the planned schedule for the inaugural HPD GT3 Academy event at Road Atlanta, but the racer/students still each ran 60-plus laps over two days and worked through the full curricula that included one-on-one coaching and instruction. The first group meeting occurred online Thursday evening with Acura’s social media staff and agency offering best practices on digital engagement with fans, teams, and large OEMs.
Taylor Hagler, who drives a Honda Civic Type R TCR in the Michelin Pilot Challenge noted, “The opportunity to attend the HPD GT3 Driver Academy was an amazing one,” said Hagler. “The car was just incredible, and driving it at a track like Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta was amazing. The HPD engineers were really on top of everything and Racers Edge did a great job with the car.
“The program that HPD developed for this was really impressive,” Hagler continued. “There was a ton of information to absorb. Going between being in the car to going to corners to observe the other drivers to going to the sessions about what I need to be thinking about outside of the car made it feel a lot like a race weekend. My notebook is pretty much full from the two days, and I am even more excited to get to Sebring and go racing for real in a few weeks!”
The Road Atlanta program included on-track coaching sessions in the championship winning from NSX GT3 Evo race winners Ryan Eversley and Dane Cameron, as well as off-track instruction relating to effective communication with team personnel and engineers, in addition to driver marketing insights and sponsor searches. As a testament to the drivers’ quick learning, the original target lap set for the drivers by Dane had to be reset with an even faster base lap early on the second day.
“The first event of the GT3 Academy went flawlessly,” commented F3 Americas race winner Jacob Abel. “The NSX GT3 car was awesome, and having very limited experience in sports cars prior to this opportunity, I was concerned about adapting. However, Ryan, Dane, and everyone at Racers Edge Motorsports made the transition seamless. I’m looking forward to taking what we learned the past couple of days and building on it at Mid-Ohio next month!”
After each on-track session, the drivers immediately reviewed lap data and in-car video with an instructor, while drivers not on track would pair with another instructor at a location around the track. Acura Motorsports/HPD provided engineering support and feedback to increase driver experience in working with OEM engineering staff. With a stated goal of expanding diversity and access for North American racing talent, HPD is committed to bringing more opportunities like this for the future stars of motorsport.
Canadian racer Karl Wittmer said, “I have a lot of experience in Touring Cars, but even so, this was quite different. The pre-track briefings and coaching were really valuable, but the best part was definitely getting behind the wheel and getting faster and faster over the two days!”
The Mid-Ohio GT3 Academy event in July will feature two 2019 NSX GT3 Evo Champions in drivers Kyle Marcelli and Mario Farnbacher as instructors and will focus on communication and feedback with a racer’s team and engineering personnel. The remaining two GT3 Academy dates will be announced shortly with a planned bonus event later in the year.
Current F3 Americas Champion Dakota Dickerson concludes, “The first event of the HPD GT3 Drivers Academy was an incredible experience. Being able to work with so many experienced professionals including the Racers Edge Motorsports Team, Ryan Eversley, Dane Cameron, and all of the folks at Acura Motorsports helped accelerate my learning curve and gave me valuable insights. Plus, the Acura NSX GT3 EVO was a blast to drive!”
Next GT3 Academy Event: July 22-23 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
About Acura Motorsports
Acura Motorsports programs have been integral to the Acura brand since its launch in 1986. The rich legacy of Acura sports car racing includes the 1991, 1992, and 1993 IMSA Camel Lights manufacturer/driver championships, and the 2009 American LeMans manufacturer, driver, and team championships in both the LMP1 and LMP2 classes. Acura currently campaigns the ARX-05 DPi with Team Penske in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and won the team, manufacturer, and driver championships in 2019. The NSX GT3 Evo, available through HPD for North American customers, won multiple championships in 2019 in both the IMSA and SRO World Challenge series.
About Honda Performance Development:
Honda Performance Development, Inc., (HPD) has a rich heritage creating, manufacturing, and supporting Honda Racing and Acura Motorsports customers since 1993. From pinnacle racing in INDYCAR and IMSA Sports Cars to commercial racing programs, HPD powers the dreams of professional and amateur racers from age 4 to 40+. HPD is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. and leads all of Honda and Acura’s high-performance racing programs in North America. HPD specializes in the design and development of race engines, chassis and performance parts, as well as technical and race support. HPD offers parts and race support to Honda and Acura amateur and professional motorsports racers, and is continually expanding its palette of racing programs that make Honda racing products available to all racing styles, from karting and Quarter Midgets to the highest levels of pro racing.
About Racers Edge Motorsports
Founded in 1990, Racers Edge Motorsports is a world-class auto racing organization specializing in road course racing and currently competing with two Acura NSX GT3 Evos in the GT World Challenge America powered by AWS series. The No. 80 MBRP Acura NSX GT3 Evo, piloted by Canadians Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli, won the 2019 GT3 Pro/Am Drivers Championship and returns for a second season with the team. Shelby Blackstock and Trent Hindman join the campaign for the 2020 season, driving together in the No 93 Acura Accelerated Services Acura NSX GT3 Evo as a Silver Cup entry. The team also operates and manages the HPD GT3 Driver Academy, led by team owner Jon Mirachi and lead engineer Jim Pattin.
More info on the HPD GT3 Academy can be found here: