GTWC America Acura NSX GT3 Evo
- Matt McMurry
- Rodrigo Sales
- Michael Di Meo
- Ashton Harrison
- Mario Farnbacher
SRO’s International GT Championship event at Indianapolis was a race full of surprises, with drama throughout the race that extended to the post-race ceremonies.
Ashton Harrison, in her GT3 debut, teamed with Matt McMurry, the lead pilot of Compass Racing’s No. 77 Richard Mille Acura NSX GT3 Evo. They were joined by the squad’s full-season IMSA driver Mario Farnbacher to contest the Silver Cup class.
With qualifying set by the aggregate time of all three drivers, Harrison started 16th overall and fifth in Silver Cup. In the first of a number of important strategy calls, the crew warmed the tires on the grid before fitting them to the Acura immediately prior to the race. Compass was one of just two teams to do so, with most teams having misread the pre-grid rules.
With warm tires, Harrison was able to make bold moves in the opening laps, moving past a number of competitors well into the top ten. It was a masterful run through the field, and an impressive first run for Harrison in GT3 competition. McMurry took over for hour two, and turned the car back to Harrison for the third hour (which counted towards the GT World Challenge America championship), with Farnbacher joining for the remainder.
During the race there were some odd calls by race control, including the closing of pit lane during a safety car, which shouldn’t have happened. This put the No. 77 down a lap. As well, a few competitors thereafter entered a closed pit, but weren’t penalized during the race. With Lead Engineer Ryan McCarthy – who’d called strategy for the squad since the opening round at Sonoma – being joined on the box by Vincent Forges, the team managed to claw the lap back by making some bold calls in the pits.
McMurry took the helm of the NSX for the final stint. The last pit stop was fuel-only, which not only put the No. 77 firmly in first place in Silver Cup, but third overall. Unfortunately, he was turned around by the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo of pole-sitter Alessandro Pier Guidi, who received a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility. This dropped No. 77 to seventh overall and second in Silver Cup, behind the No. 26 Sainteloc Audi. The No. 26 was one of the cars that entered the closed pit without penalty, and the team brought this to the attention of Race Control.
At the line, at the conclusion of eight hours of racing, No. 26 was first in Silver Cup with the Compass Racing Acura second, and that was how the podium ceremony was held. However, shortly after the podium, Race Control handed the No. 26 a time penalty equivalent to a drive-through penalty for entering the closed pit, which elevated No. 77 to the win in Silver Cup, and 6th overall.
“It was a good race,” said McMurry. “It was a lot of fun fighting through so much traffic. We had good pace and the strategy calls were just brilliant. ”
Harrison, similarly, was effusive. “What a way to make my GT3 debut! The Compass Racing team was perfect all weekend, and I’m so thrilled to get the win for (Team Owner) Jill Beck and the crew. They did an incredible job.” “This was a great way to end the season,” noted Farnbacher. “We didn’t have the success in IMSA we wanted, and the BoP in SRO is definitely more balanced than WeatherTech. It’s nice to end the year on a high note.”
With the team having made substantial changes going into the 2021 season, Beck was obviously pleased with the outcome. “We made our return to Acura and HPD with two NSX GT3 programs, made wholesale changes to our crew from top to bottom, and finalized the move the team to Southern California,” she said. “This result shows that we’ve made real progress and are well-positioned for the future.”