RealTime Racing’s Peter Cunningham Tells Us Tales of Acura Motorsport
Few names are more important in Acura’s motorsport heritage than Peter Cunningham and his team at RealTime Racing.
It’s a busy weekend for Peter Cunningham. The RealTime Racing founder walks quickly, and with intent, across the Long Beach Grand Prix paddock. His reasoning for doing so, although unstated, quickly becomes apparent following him. “Hey, Pete! Look, it’s Petey!” Racers throughout the paddock, relaxing idly between track practice sessions, are waving Cunningham down, either to say a casual hello, or talk shop. It is a race weekend, after all, and, no matter how quickly he walks, Cunningham can’t escape the knowing glances, or the barrage of phone calls and text messages. He’s on the phone almost constantly. This is just hours before he would go on to set a production car lap record around the circuit in a 2019 Acura NSX. It’s all par for the course when your name is attached to over 30 years of motorsport victories.
Eventually, after a few more text exchanges, the NSX is, seemingly, sorted out. I would later catch him checking the tire pressures on the car moments ahead of his lap, but that’s not important right now. No, Cunningham and I are on a separate mission together, at least for a few moments. We are on our way to a small display of Acura race cars, most of which bear his name, or RealTime Racing’s on them.
2019 is the first year that Acura has taken over as the title sponsor of the Long Beach Grand Prix, so they went all out. That includes bringing some very tasty Acura race cars to show off, and Cunningham is acting as my own personal race car historian and curator, to tell their stories.
This is a Small Part of the RealTime Racing Story
Acura’s story began in 1987, the same year RealTime Racing was founded. Cunningham had jumped between a few different race series, in a few different cars, before falling into the driver’s seat of a Honda. From there, it’s basically been nothing but Honda and Acura products. With over 32 years of motorsport history, Acura couldn’t fit all of RealTime Racing’s history in one room, Cunningham has the RealTime Collection Hall for that, but they did cherry pick a few special rides for the event, like this 1990 NSX.
This is NSX serial #00008. Yes, really. It was raced competitively in SCCA Pro Racing’s Speed World Challenge GT Championship for over a decade, and may, in fact, be most successful single chassis to ever run in the series. Campaigned in the 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2002 seasons, this NSX saw 50 races, 26 podium finishes and 14 race victories. Cunningham, himself, claimed the ’97 Driver’s Championship with it.
It started with an all-motor setup making around 400 horsepower and later evolved in a supercharged, 500+ horsepower beast. By today’s standards, it almost looks like something you would see at the paddock of any given track day. Though, certain pieces, like the carbon fiber replacement dashboard, are hints that it’s a little more serious than that.
Parked next to the NSX is another relatively unassuming ride, except for the white and orange paint scheme. It’s here that Cunningham begins to slow down. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia, but the constant buzzing from his phone can wait, because this car has a story. According to him, this 1997 Integra Type R was simple, and effective at both winning races, and pissing off the competition.
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“People always claimed we had a hot motor, but we really didn’t,” he says, cracking a smile, and popping the safety pins off the hood. He’s not kidding, there’s not too much to see in the engine bay. It’s just a B18C5 with bolt-ons and a big radiator. He says that they did rods and pistons in it, but it’s otherwise a stock B18. They used an OEM NSX airbox, a popular choice back in the day, and used a Mugen exhaust and ECU. Otherwise, it’s stock.
The chassis, like-wise, is simple, with Eibach race springs, Mugen shocks, a Brembo big brake kit, and a basic aero package. A front air dam, undertray and rear wing are the only things distinguishing this from a standard DC2.
Even the inside is simple, with a cage, gutted interior and single bucket seat. A digital cluster pokes out behind the Sparco steering wheel, but, otherwise, it’s no frills.
I posit that the ITR doesn’t need much to be fast, because it’s a solid package out of the box. Cunningham agrees as he whips out his phone, again. It’s no text message or phone call, this time. Instead, he shows me several pictures of the Type R he has. Except, it isn’t the car in front of us. No, Cunningham likes the ITR so much that he has decided to build another up in an identical manner, as a fun track build. Who could blame him?
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