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Honda Expected To Switch To Front-Engined GT500 Car In 2020

New JAF GT500 regulations mandate front-engined layout from next season onward

It was once thought that a front-engined Honda NSX would seem as unlikely as a mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette. The latter is now a reality, and it seems that, on the racing side, the former could become real as well.

On Thursday, the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF) released their updated list of domestic racing technical regulations, including a revision to the JAF-GT500 regulations which mandates that the next generation of GT500 cars for the Autobacs Super GT Series will be front-engined, including the Honda NSX-GT, which is of course, based upon the mid-engined NSX road car.

The relevant update is in Chapter 8 of the 2020 JAF Domestic Vehicle Competition Rules, for GT500 cars, under Article 5.1.2, which for 2019 stated that the engine “must be mounted in the same longitudinal position as the base vehicle.”

For 2020, Article 5.1.2 has been updated: The engine “must be placed in front of the passenger compartment.”

Since the launch of what would become the unified “Class One” platform in 2014, and the launch of the previous NSX Concept-GT, Honda have been allowed to compete with a mid-engined vehicle and a specially-built monocoque – under a waiver granted to them by the JAF.

Special GT500 Balance of Performance parameters were established by the GT Association (GTA), promoters of the Super GT Series, to balance the midship Honda alongside its front-engined rivals from Lexus and Nissan. However, with the next revision of the GT500 regulations for 2020, this waiver has now been discontinued.

Honda has already made preparations well in advance of an anticipated change in the regulations. The talk of Honda preparing a front-engined version of the NSX-GT began late in 2018, with some suggestions that the switch to a front-engined car would happen this year.

Sam Collins, reporting for auto sport Magazine in Japan, says that Honda even tested a front-engined NSX-GT in March at Okayama International Circuit in a top-secret session, one that Honda wasn’t pleased to know had been made public. The car was meant to make a public run during a manufacturer tyre test, but those plans were ultimately abandoned.

Super GT originally planned to mandate a front-engine standard back in 2009, but with the global recession of 2008-09 and its impact on the Japanese motoring industry, the GTA backed out of that proposal. Late in 2009, Honda tested this modified, front-engined variant of the first-generation NSX-GT at Twin Ring Motegi (featured).

That car eventually went on to serve the test mule for Honda’s next-generation GT500 car, the front-engined HSV-010, which competed from 2010 to 2013. The HSV-010 was also the codename for a planned successor to the road-going NSX, a project that was ultimately abandoned, another victim of the global recession.

We won’t have to wait long until we see what Honda’s new GT500 challenger will look like: On 11 September at Suzuka Circuit, Super GT will have a press conference unveiling the 2020 GT500 vehicles – including the fifth-generation Toyota GR Supra GT500 and the revised Nissan GT-R GT500.

The intrigue around the next class of GT500 cars hasn’t been this heightened since the first “Class One” cars were unveiled in late 2013.