GT3 / 25 November 2019
Podium pace but luckless race for Honda Team Motul at Kyalami 9 Hour
Honda Team Motul showed podium pace at the Kyalami 9 Hours, but left the final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge empty-handed after an issue early on forced their JAS Motorsport-run NSX GT3 Evo out of the event.
The driving trio of Bertrand Baguette, Marco Bonanomi and Dane Cameron were among the fastest competitors in dry conditions in both qualifying and the race in South Africa, and looked set for a run at the podium before an engine issue put them out.
After going 13th-fastest in Thursday night's practice session, Bertrand improved to eighth in pre-qualifying the following morning as the team focused on race set-up over one-lap pace.
When the time came to unleash that one-lap pace, however, later the same day, it was done to great effect.
Both Bertrand and Marco set the second-fastest times of their respective qualifying sessions; putting the NSX GT3 Evo at the top of the order on combined results and echoing the pole position set at the team's series debut at Laguna Seca in March.
In a wet final part of qualifying, new IMSA DPi champion Dane sealed progress into the pole-position shoot-out against a 28-car field of high-quality competitors.
Bertrand was back behind the wheel for the shoot-out, held shortly afterwards on a still-wet track. The Belgian lay second after his first flying lap was completed, but slower traffic and yellow flags late on restricted him to eighth.
Greeted by a fully-dry circuit for the start of Saturday's race, Dane charged forwards and climbed to sixth place within a handful of laps, despite the American having never raced at the circuit before.
Taking over driving duties just beyond the one-hour mark, Marco continued to run on the edge of the top five before being pushed wide by a rival. Soon after, however, the Italian began losing power; the start of an engine issue that would put the car out on 90 minutes.
Despite the disappointment of not reaching the finish, this performance provided more evidence that the NSX GT3 Evo, which has won eight major titles globally in 2019, is a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
Among the other highlights for Honda Team Motul this year have been pole position at the California 8 Hours at Laguna Seca, and a determined charge from 33rd to sixth at the 24 Hours of Spa in constantly-changing weather.
The car was competing as part of the NSX GT3 Customer Racing Programme; a global collaborative project with JAS Motorsport responsible for assembly of all cars.
Honda Performance Development (HPD) and M-TEC handle sales and technical support in North America and Japan respectively, with JAS responsible for these areas across the rest of the world.
Alessandro Mariani, Team Principal, said: "I'm extremely proud of the team this weekend, even if the overwhelming feeling is one of frustration for having not reached the chequered flag. It's been our best weekend performance of the year in standard dry conditions, and that's something we've been working very hard on. We've matched our qualifying pace from Laguna Seca, where we were on pole position, and added much stronger race pace when Dane was in the car in the first stint, and these are all good achievements. The team had also produced the fastest pitstop at the time when we went out. We weren't as strong in the wet, but I think without traffic and yellow flags, both Dane in Q3 and Bertrand in the shoot-out, both would have been much quicker."