If you spent your entire life honing your skills as an Olympic figure skater, could you suddenly become a world-class hockey player? Well, to be honest, yes, you probably could, because you’re a professional athlete in the prime of your career. But we bet it’d be a challenge, nevertheless.
Two Acura Motorsports drivers, Ricky Taylor (Team Penske ARX-05 DPi prototype) and Trent Hindman (Meyer Shank Racing NSX GT3 Evo), got a taste of something similar when they decided to swap seats for a few hot laps around Sebring International Raceway. To those with limited racing knowledge, it might seem that the drivers would excel in either vehicle, but that’s like making the claim that hockey and figure skating are the same because they both happen on ice.
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Back before the COVID-19 crisis sent us all home from the grandstands of sporting events and automobile races, Taylor and Hindman devised a plan to meet up and try each other’s cars out. Once Acura representatives got wind of the idea, they decided to document it all in shining 1080p high definition. As the video above proves, getting used to an entirely different racing setup isn’t a matter of merely adjusting the seat.
Key differences between the cars themselves ensure a steep learning curve. The ARX-05 is a precision-honed piece of machinery, with 600 horsepower (447 kilowatts) motivating just 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms) down the track. A prodigious 3,000 pounds of downforce at 150 miles per hour keep the prototype glued to the road, increasing grip but also demanding far greater attention and care. The same can be said of the non-ABS carbon brakes, which bite hard and bite quick, like the toe pick of a figure skate.
The NSX GT3 Evo, on the other hand, is slightly brutish by comparison. An additional 772 pounds (350 kg) and a power deficit of 50 ponies (37 kW) naturally blunt the IMSA GTD car’s responses a bit, a problem exacerbated by substantially less downforce. Maintaining momentum in a GT3 is key, since it takes that much longer to fall back into a groove after recovering from a mistake. The added suspension travel and ABS-equipped brakes, however, provide a slightly less physically demanding environment in which the driver can work.
Speaking to Motor1.com about the experience, both drivers had nothing but respect for the other’s skills and specific challenges.
“As a prototype driver, you think you’re the top dog of the class, and Trent’s gonna come drive our car – a very technical machine,” Taylor said. “But man, he got up to speed so fast, and I think it goes to two things: what a top-level driver Trent is, and how much confidence the Acura ARX-05 gives you. It just goes to show the level of development and thought that went into everything.”
Hindman likewise commended his fraternal teammate’s skills behind the wheel. “When you’re seeing these prototypes fly by you, especially with us being in the GTD category, you just can’t believe the pace that they’re running at,” he says. “It’s on a totally different level.” And from the radio conversation he had with Taylor while driving the ARX-05, “I don’t know how you race in this space, door to door with other drivers. It’s completely insane.”
Massive downforce and touchy brakes are one thing, but GT3 drivers face a unique set of challenges all their own.
“Thinking about a race situation, those [GT3] guys definitely have their hands full,” Taylor says. “Driving the car is one thing, but also having us pesky prototype drivers come by flashing our lights every five seconds” – “Especially you Ricky,” Hindman interjects with a smile.
One thing’s clear, though. On a sunny February morning in central Florida, both drivers had plenty of fun trying on a different set of skates. “I certainly hope it’s not the last time I can drive the GT3,” says Taylor.
And Hindman: “It’s a completely different perspective.”