Automobile

Acura Integra race plans hinge on Honda marketing


The 2023 Integra has mostly failed to create the stir from long-time enthusiasts that Acura had hoped it would. However, all is not lost; Acura could perhaps regain some street cred if they took the Integra racing, like they did with the Integras of the 80s and 90s. Brand head Jon Ikeda wants to take the ‘Teg to the track, but it all depends on whether the leadership at the American Honda mothership permits it.

“We want to race this thing, but maybe the Honda PR and marketing guys might have different ideas,” Ikeda told Road & Track. That’s because the Integra is largely a 2022 Civic Si with a hatchback form factor and new sheetmetal. Honda already sells a Civic Type R race car in several tunes for various classes in the TC America touring car series. That was based on previous-generation Civic, but in all likelihood will continue the program with the latest gen. A racing Integra, then, would seem redundant.

On the other hand, Acura has been highly active in motorsports, from 24 Hours of Daytona-winning IMSA DPi prototypes to NSX GT3 race cars to Pikes Peak hill-climbers. Even Honda’s F1 cars were re-branded with Acura livery at last month’s U.S. Grand Prix in Austin.

And it’s not like the Integra doesn’t have a long history in motorsports. The nameplate as competed in various North American series from SCCA Pro Rally to IMSA sedan to the Import Drag Racing Championships. Perhaps the most well-known Acura Integras to race, though, were Peter Cunningham’s white and neon orange RealTime Racing Type Rs that dominated the SpeedVision World Challenge championships around Y2K.

Ikeda has said before that he wants Acura to be the performance brand of Honda, and a rumored Integra Type S is in the works with a more potent engine, possibly a version of the upcoming Civic Type R’s mill. “We’re the performance division of Honda,” Ikeda emphasized to R&T, “So we’re not going to shy away from Honda, you know? We’re going to just have a little bit more fun.”

While an admirable goal, the brand will struggle if it’s merely the performance arm of Honda. It has to be about performance cars, period. That was part of Acura’s magic in the 90s; it offered products that, while sharing components with Honda, were distinct and had their own personalities. The Integra was Civic-based, but it had noticeably better handling, more power, and unique design. With the NSX driving off into the sunset soon the Integra will be asked to carry a heavy load, but if Acura can find a way to send the Integra into battle without stepping on the Civic’s toes, maybe it has a shot.

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