Honda Racing accelerates Spa preparations with strong test pace and Laguna Seca outing
Honda Racing’s preparations for a Pro class assault on this year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa continue to gather momentum. Following last week’s pace-setting appearance at the official Blancpain GT Series test days, the Japanese brand will contest next weekend’s California 8 Hours at Laguna Seca, kicking off its participation in the remainder of the Intercontinental GT Challenge schedule.
The NSX GT3 Evo will be making its debut in the global championship, with Honda electing to skip the season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and wait for its newly-homologated car to become eligible. The upcoming California 8 Hours (30 March) will therefore act as a warm-up for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which takes place at the iconic Belgian circuit on 25-28 July.
The driver roster for the Laguna Seca event will see Honda stalwart Bertrand Baguette joined by Mario Farnbacher and Renger van der Zande. The same line-up is slated to contest additional Intercontinental events this year, though the brand has acknowledged that changes are possible.
Baguette anchored the Pro-Am effort that took Honda back to Spa last summer, with the much-travelled Belgian demonstrating impressive pace in what was his GT3 debut. He was also present for last week’s Blancpain GT Series pre-season test at Circuit Paul Ricard (13/14 March), where fellow Honda ace Marco Bonamoni set the fastest lap across two days of running.
Farnbacher and Van der Zande also come with experience of Honda machinery, as well as considerable success in a wide variety of cars and categories. The former is yet to tackle the Total 24 Hours of Spa, while the latter finished as overall runner-up at the event in 2016.
The Honda name returned to the Belgian Ardennes in 2018 thanks to a Pro-Am entry, with Baguette joined by fellow factory ace Esteban Guerieri, former F1 star Riccardo Patrese, and Loic Depailler. This came 25 years after the brand’s last participation, which saw Armin Hahne, Bertrand Gachot and Kazuo Shimizu start from pole in the 1993 race.
The 2019 running will see Honda challenge for overall victory in the top-tier Pro class, while customer squad Jenson Team Rocket RJN will bid for Silver Cup honours with its eye-catching #22 NSX GT3 Evo. Preparations will begin on Monday 22 July, with the first track action taking place the following day. The festivities will continue on Wednesday 24 July with the annual parade to Spa town centre, quickly followed by practice and qualifying on Thursday and Friday (25/26 July).
The race itself will play out across Saturday and Sunday (27/28 July). A host of exciting support series will precede the main event, while further entertainment – including the Fan Zone and music concert – will run throughout the on-track contest.