It’s easy to tell a race car from an ordinary road car. The sponsor decals and numbers usually give it away. But underneath the skin, what really makes a race car different from its road-going counterpart? Acura makes a racing version of its NSX, so it was in a good position to find out. So the Honda luxury brand recruited racing driver Trent Hindman to explain the differences in a video.
Right off the bat, there are some big differences between the Acura NSX GT3 Evo that currently races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the road car it’s based on. The road-going NSX uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine and nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, working with three electric motors to send 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. But racing rules prohibit the NSX GT3 Evo from having all-wheel drive, or a hybrid powertrain. It uses just the V6 engine to send 550 hp and 475 lb-ft to its rear wheels, through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Acura claims the NSX road car is actually quicker from zero to 60 mph than the race car. In the video, Hindman manages a 2.9-second time in the road car, and a 4.3-second time in the race car. Hindman attributed this in part to the fact that the race car wasn’t designed for standing starts. It uses a hand clutch, giving the driver a little more work than in the NSX road car, with its fully-automatic transmission.
The NSX road car also gets more sophisticated brakes than the race car. It’s available with carbon-ceramic rotors, which stand up to repeated hard braking better than conventional steel rotors. However, current rules prevent Acura from using carbon-ceramic brakes on the NSX GT3 Evo. The race car does get extra brake cooling ducts and specially-tuned ABS, though.
The NSX GT3 Evo also has certain features the road car lacks. Carbon fiber bodywork and an utter lack of creature comforts make the race car around 950 pounds lighter than the NSX road car. The race car’s massive rear spoiler and diffuser give it 500% more downforce than the road car, according to Acura, giving it extra grip on track. That allows the GT3 Evo to lap the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course 9.5 seconds quicker than the NSX road car.
There’s one more factor to consider, though. Both the standard NSX and the GT3 Evo are built in the same Ohio factory. But while the standard NSX costs $157,500, the race car carries a price tag of $525,000. You also need to find a racetrack to drive it on.