The machinery that gets carted around and displayed at races is always so amazing.
With this year marking the end of a 38-year-long partnership between Toyota and the Grand Prix of Long Beach, 2019 featured Acura as the title sponsor of the event. First impressions are everything, and I knew that the North American Honda marque wouldn’t disappoint.
As far as the racing goes, I’ve already covered the historic race, as well as shared my thought process and camera settings while shooting without a media pass. But for this final installment in my mini-series on how to shoot a race event without any special access, I wanted to direct my attention towards an area that everyone always gets equal entry to: sponsor displays.
Since Acura wanted all attendees to bask in the glory of their racing history, these cars were available to anyone who was at the event. Often these designed areas turn out to be some of the best to shoot, as the layouts are very deliberately curated and always feature something incredible.
Inside the expo center this year were three special cars, and I spent as much time in this room as any other single spot over the weekend. And I will say, this gallery is best viewed in full screen on a desktop, especially as I’ll only be sharing a paragraph about each Acura.
This first-gen NSX was the first of the trio that got attracted my camera, a car which was built by RealTime Racing for the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship. Piloted by Peter Cunningham for 50 races, the NSX found itself on the podium 26 times with 14 race victories. Incredible numbers, which earned Cunningham a drivers’ championship in ’97.
Primarily raced from ’96-’98 and in ’01-’02, the car initially featured a reworked version of the 3.0L V6 which produced 400 horsepower. For the ’00s, a Vortech supercharger was added, resulting in over 500 horsepower in the gutted Acura NSX.
And it goes without saying that the first-gen still looks fantastic, even 30 years after it was initially designed.The Integra
Next in line was a 1997 Acura Integra Type R. Also built by RealTime Racing, this car succeeded a Prelude that was previously developed for the Speedvision World Challenge Touring Car Championship. This proved to be a good move, as this ITR boasts an even more impressive resume than the NSX: 23 wins from ’97 to ’02, with five drivers’ championships.
Under the skin you would find an aluminum B18C5 four-cylinder engine that’s been lightly tuned with forged pistons and rods, all fed by an NSX air box. Meanwhile, the car also made use of a Mugen exhaust and ECU.The Prototype
Finally, the prototype.
Here we have the 1991 Spice Acura Camel GTP Lights Prototype, built by Comptech Racing. This car is perhaps the most prolific of the three, with three consecutive IMSA championship titles. In 1991 and 1992 this very chassis took class wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona, following up with the same at the ’93 12 Hours of Sebring.
Weighing in at just 1,850lbs (839kgs) and producing two tons of downforce, the car is powered by a modified version of the VTEC V6 you would find in the NSX on the opposite side of the room. It produced around 440 horsepower and was paired with a DG400 gearbox.Long Live The ’90s
You might have noticed other cars in the room, but these are the only two shots I took of them. This is the ’07 Acura ARX-01a Le Mans Prototype still wearing the battle scars of previous race weekends. Certainly a prolific car, but one that just doesn’t speak to me in the same way as the ’90s legends do.
I know I sound like a broken record, and this certainly isn’t creative writing, but there’s just something so special about these retired race cars. An untouchable aura, a certain energy that can only be felt if you close your eyes and think about what these cars have been through.
Thanks to each and every person, team, and brand that dedicates the time and budget to preserve the racing greats of decades past. And thanks for making them fair game for anyone to shoot, even if for just a few days a year.
Trevor Yale Ryan