Photo: Honda

Ford has spent a lot of time and money over the past few years to remind you that Ford = Le Mans. Ford GT = Le Mans. Ever heard of this thing called Le Mans? Yeah, Ford won that. Meanwhile, in the background, there’s Honda, and a short but sweet program it ran with the original NSX.

Certainly, Ford deserves its rep at La Sarthe. I think the Ford GT40 is one of the only cars to claim multiple overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on a single chassis. (The ‘68 and ‘69 wins were the same exact car, run by John Wyer after Ford abruptly gave him the boot.)

But we shouldn’t let Ford steamroll the whole Ford discussion, particularly as the new retrofuture mid-engine V6 sports car that it has on the market draws in big headlines, stealing them from the retrofuture mid-engine V6 sports car that Acura builds a couple hours south of it.

The winning 1995 widebody car.
Photo: Honda

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The NSX was an engineer’s dream, with a sweet-running V6 mounted behind the driver in an all-aluminum chassis. The race version made 380 horsepower, a good 100 more than stock, and weighed a scant 2,300 pounds, about 700 less than the one you’d find in a showroom, going off the numbers published by Christies when one went up for auction. I looked up the specs from Honda itself, but the company just lists it as making “390 PS or more” and weighing “1,050 kg or more.”

The winning widebody car from 1995.
Photo: Honda

As a road car, it was good enough to make Ferrari get serious about building its cars properly. But was the race version good enough to beat Porsche, the standard for the GT2 class?

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No.

At first.

The winning widebody car from 1995.
Photo: Honda

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Honda entered three NSXs in the GT2 class in 1994, which was a kind of weird year altogether. A Porsche 962 Group C car was snuck back into the running as a Dauer 962 GT1 car and won overall, a tube-frame Nissan 300ZX IMSA car outperformed some of the other prototypes, and generally the whole thing was a kind of oddball transition from the prototype era before it into the brief run of GT1. As it was, the NSXs didn’t do great in GT2.

But Honda returned in 1995, turbocharging two of their cars up to 650 horsepower to run in the GT1 class, as Motorsport Retro recounts, maybe picking up on the momentum of the year before, only to have both of those rather ambitious cars falter during the race.

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That third NSX for 1995, though, still in GT2 spec, won its class. Overall it got eighth place, which ain’t bad, either. It outran Nissan’s R33 GT-R LM GT1 cars and Toyota’s GT1 Supra, at least. This was far from a low-budget project, at least according to this Motorsport Magazine report, though it was not totally worry-free. The car burst an oil line early in the race and actually recovered to get the win.

The GT2-winning 1995 Honda NSX, as seen in Honda’s Museum at Motegi.
Screenshot: Honda

None other than the Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya was one of the three drivers, a highlight moment in his career before he hitched his wagon to the unlucky-as-all-hell Toyota GT-One program that failed so spectacularly.

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It’s hard to find a description of how the car was to drive, but I managed to Google-translate this set of lines from Honda, taken from drivers in 1995. It’s hard to get an exact read on if it was easy or challenging, but dodging GT1 cars can’t be that bad:

“The vast majority of the race was wet condition and was helped by the good control of NSX. With freedom of the line even on low μ roads, I was able to dodge the GT1 vehicle during braking and turning.

Iida Aki, who drove the other side of the GT car, said that the size of the frontage and the goodness of reaction were not seen. “Unlike JGTC’s NSX, this car was perfect for expressions based on a commercial car base, so it was okay to say that the basic way of movement and the balance as a whole was the same sense as a commercial car,” said the mass- Also pointed out the good balance of having.

Regarding the handling of commercial NSX, the preference is divided including the problem of rear suspension, but the good balance of weight and the small amount of overhang weight are parts where the features of the basic design adopting the horizontal mid-ship were utilized.

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If the GT2 version drove as well as the road car, that’s a good sign.

You can watch Keiichi give one of those turbo NSXs a test run here:

It is remarkably strange to hear turbo whooshing from the back of an NSX, a car you so often see boosted with a supercharger.

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Here are a few clips of the NSX running up and down through the gears at the track, wonderfully manual:

The sound. The sound! It’s so good, as we’ve noted before.

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And that video I believe is pulled from this longer full volume of Hot Version covering that entire 24 hour race, with some great footage of the Callaway Corvettes that ran that year:

Man, I miss those 1990s GT races. If you need me, I’ll be hunting down my nearest arcade to go play Sega Super GT.