There’s a new beauty queen in the Super GT paddock (of the metal variety, for the race queens click here), and it’s Honda’s new HSV-010 GT race car. The Nissan GT-R looks, well, like a GT-R, while the Lexus SC just looks old (Toyota, it’s time to replace it with the LFA!). In contrast, Honda’s replacement for the long-serving NSX looks fit and beautifully proportioned with the classic short tail, long hood shape. It’s also quite “realistic” without looking too wide bodied or cartoonish. Seeing in in the metal for the first time in Sepang got us thinking what might have been had Honda not canned the NSX project…

That leads to the question: Isn’t Super GT only for production cars? Honda managed to find a loophole that permits cars that are “production ready”, and the “new NSX” was very ready before it was given the red light. And how can Japan’s top racing series not have Honda in it? Unthinkable!

The change from NSX to HSV is almost enforced on Honda, as the former, being a midship design, no longer meet regulations that require an FR setup (front engined, rear driven). The HSV has performed pretty well so far, when you take into account that it’s Honda’s first ever FR car competing in its maiden season.

There are five teams running the HSV-010 and they are Keihin Real Racing, Team Kunimitsu (Raybrig), Epson Nakajima, Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) and Weider. The latter finished third in Sepang with drivers Takashi Kogure and Frenchman Loic Duval. The HSV-010 won its first ever Super GT race in Round 3 at Okayama, thanks to the Weider team. The other podium came in the first race at Suzuka, where the Raybrig HSV came in third.

Of the four rounds so far, it was only at Fuji Speedway that the “over 500 PS” 3.4-litre V8 powered Honda didn’t make the podium (Keihin HSV was best at fifth). Now, Fuji is a high-speed track, and it’s well known in the paddock that the HSV has too much downforce and drag to excel at faster circuits, a fact that Andre Lotterer of Petronas Tom’s told us in a brief chat session. Yours truly posed the question to Masahito Nakayama, the engineer in charge of the HSV’s chassis.

Both he and Masahiko Matsumoto, the HSV engine chief engineer, openly admitted the issue and explained that the NSX required lots of downforce, and Honda’s experience with that car was carried over for the HSV, which makes it great on corners and more technical circuits but loses out on top speed. The situation can be improved, and they’re working on it to make the HSV more of an all rounder. The two areas Honda is very proud of are the car’s chassis rigidity and the sound it makes, which is sharper to the ear than its rivals.

We also had a minute with Aguri Suzuki, the ex-F1 driver/team owner and boss of the ARTA team. While the respected figure gave thumbs up to the HSV, saying that it had “very high potential”, he admitted that they’re still getting used to racing, owning and maintaining the HSV, which is natural after running the NSX for nine seasons since 2000.

Images we took when snooping around the HSV garage are after the jump.

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