"Was that an amazing NSXPO or what?!" Those were the words in paraphrase among the 230+ attendees of NSXPO 2017 that spanned from the host hotel in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin down to Milwaukee Wisconsin The whole experience was from Sept. 5-10; a few attendees signed up only for the track event at Road America on Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 6 and 7) then went back home. Others signed up only for the social portion of the event Thursday through Sunday (Sept. 7 - 10) and elected to not attend the track portion.
Here's how the event went
The instructors and staff arrived at Road America around 6:30am. The rest of the track event registrants had until 8:00am to get to Road America, empty everything out of their vehicle, and attend the mandatory drivers' meeting led by lead instructor Mike Clemens and Road America Safety Officer Mike Wirtz. This meeting was very thorough as each went over every part of the racecourse and instructions on how to pass, how not to pass, and most importantly, safety on and around the track. Failure to follow these guidelines meant getting a black flag for a pit lane discussion with the stewards. At the end of the drivers' meeting each Novice (green wristband) and Intermediate (orange wristband) driver was paired with the instructor that was assigned to him or her. The Advanced and Instructor groups had purple and red wristbands.
Throughout the day, track participants had the option of going out on the track with instructors during the allotted time slots per skill level, or walking around Road America to view drivers on the track and to visit with others in attendance. The 640-acre Road America facility has a large gift shop, large paddock area, and a sizeable food service area.
Acura was onsite to provide a Ride and Drive event where one could test drive the 2018 TLX A-Spec or MDX Sport Hybrid with professional instructors/Acura Brand Specialists around the scenic country roads just outside of the race circuit. The Road America staff also invited those who had interest to come sit inside Race Control and see what goes on behind the scenes with all the cameras planted around the circuit, and the communication at every turn from the corner workers. Weather conditions for Day 1 included an official high of 66 degrees with a brief afternoon rain shower that wetted down the track for about an hour.
Wednesday was also the first time in the 20-year history of NSXPO where the track was shared with another very special group, Type R EXPO. Very similar to NSXPO, the Type R Expo is an annual gathering of the iconic Acura Integra Type R. Many refer to the Integra Type R as the baby NSX, and on this Wednesday, every track group could be seen with NSX's, Integra Type R's, and a collection of miscellaneous other vehicles including the Honda Civic Type R. This made for some fun mixed track sessions and great photographs. Unlike NSXPO that includes track event days and social event days, the 17th annual Type R Expo was compressed within the two track days, with the banquet dinner taking place after the first day. With the 75+ NSX’s and 60+ Integras sharing the circuit, this co-op event was possibly the largest gathering of Acuras ever seen at a track event!
Thursday started off with drivers’ meeting, sessions separated by experience, and hot laps. Thursday was also registration for the Social Event, welcome dinner and announcements being held at Road America. Throughout Day 2, James and Nick Robinson again gave hot laps to those daring enough to crawl into the Time Attack NSX’s as the passing afternoon rain clouds and cool weather continued, this time wetting down the track twice. Sometime around 2:00 pm, Acura NSX Global Development Leader Ted Klaus decided he would give those who paid attention rides around the track as well.
As has been the case in years past, Ted does such a good job of just being one of the guys — those who did not know who he was may have thought he was just some guy with a Casino White Pearl 2017 NSX who somehow did not have to drive around the track with an instructor.
The people who were standing in line waiting for the Pikes Peak NSX’s paid little or no attention to Ted’s NSX but you could see some puzzled faces as the few of us who understood what an amazing opportunity this was climbed inside. By this time some other guy in a No. 42 1992 Grand Prix White NSX started taking people around the track as well. There were four cars to choose from, none of which were poor choices.
As the day progressed, the West Paddock parking lot would slowly fill up as NSX’s arrived in preparation of the parade lap, group photo and of course, the Welcome Dinner.
By 5pm, every one of the 104 Acura NSX’s at the track (there seven or eight more back at the hotel) were slowly making the way around the iconic, 4.048-mile ribbon of asphalt that is Road America. One very cool lap around, and one very cool group photo with the cars, and it was rotisserie chicken and beer trailer time. That’s right, a trailer with pull taps on the side. Skip the bartender, skip the middleman and go straight to the foamy stuff.
After dinner (presented by Pirelli Tire), event host Peter Cunningham (aka PD) introduced the core team of volunteers responsible for organizing and implementing NSXPO 2017. NSXCA Midwest Region Representative Wes Spryshak John Vasos, Jake Cole, Sachin Shah, Ella Fullerton and Leon Schmidt were each recognized. PD then went over the plan for the next few days.
The first event Friday morning had only been identified as Special TBA Location. This turned out to be the first of a number of the event’s surprises: PD introduced Doug Danuser, Vice President of Honda Aircraft Company, who provided a brief history of his outfit and revealed that the first stop of Road Tour Friday would be a visit with HondaJet!
The Road America outline on our name badges, the ones that were either Red or Blue, the color was an indicator of which group you would be with during Friday’s events throughout the morning and afternoon. The Blue Group was mostly Central and Eastern time zone people and Red Group was mostly Pacific and Mountain time zone residents. What this really meant is those who were already an hour or two sleep deprived were able to sleep in as the Red group did not start activities until 9:15am Friday. The Blue group started at 7:45am. The NSXPO 2017 had officially begun.
After a nice continental breakfast (thank you Euroboutique) in the east parking lot of the Osthoff Resort, the two time-staggered groups departed for a busy, event-packed day.
The first stop for both the Red and Blue Groups was a small regional airport in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, not to be confused with Cheboygan, Michigan. Each attendee was provided an opportunity to park next to and take a photo with Honda’s masterpiece, a private class, rarely seen engineering wonder. The HondaJet had arrived the night prior, specifically to attend NSXPO 2017.
After photos with the HondaJet, the groups caravanned to the headquarters of RealTime Racing, the stalwart Acura team currently competing in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Championship with a pair of NSX GT3s.
Since this writer was in fifth grade, RTR has been winning championships for Honda and Acura in ice racing, rallying and road racing. This was a chance for NSXPO attendees to see first-hand where the magic happens before each race of the season. This visit, all RealTime staff was on deck, getting the NSX’s ready for transport later that afternoon to the next Pirelli World Challenge race to take place the following weekend. As guests, we were free to roam around the facility, take photos, and talk with RealTime crew as long as we did not impede their work.
After the race shop, each group had lunch (presented by Carbon6 Composites) at the beautiful Virmond Park in Mequon, Wisconsin, overlooking Lake Michigan. The menu included a variety of locally crafted mini submarine sandwiches, cheese curds, bottled water, and a portable soft Igloo brand lunch box with the Acura and NSXPO 2017 logos printed on the front.
The next event for the day was a short drive to the RealTime Collection Hall, a private collection of Honda and Acura -mostly passenger vehicles that it has collected over the years. In the showroom alone were special vehicles like a 1966 Honda T360 mini pickup (first-ever fourwheeled Honda model), a Fiat Jolly-looking thing called a Honda Vamos, and a first generation Honda Accord LX Coupe (the car model that completely changed the landscape of the automobile industry in the mid- 70s) that was still in the wrapper. PD gave a tour of the entire 50-car facility, which included anecdotes of racing and the histories of many of the vehicles.
The attendees had already traveled to four different and diverse destinations but the day was far from over. After the RealTime Collection Hall, the Red Group and Blue Group would finally converge at the beautiful Milwaukee Art Museum for another group photo, silent auction, and dinner with a special guest speaker.
The Milwaukee Art Museum is an architectural marvel on the shores of Lake Michigan, designed by internationally known Spanish architect and artist Santiago Calatrava. It has wings that open and close, making for another great photo opportunity while key event organizer Jake Cole’s shiny black R-styled NSX welcomed attendees in front of the drive as they arrived to the local landmark. Wealth investment managers Terra Capital and Clariphi were our gracious sponsors for Friday night’s dinner.
From the onset, the only challenge was to align four rows wide, bumper-to-bumper, 110+ cars deep of NSX’s while keeping NSXPO attendees and any passersby out of the photo. The art museum closed down the main crosswalk bridge from the museum to the parking garage and non NSXPO attendees were ushered around to other entrances and exits until Acura and NSXPO staff were finished taking photos. During this time, there was a nice cocktail session outside of the museum on the Baumgartner Terrace. A 2017 Casino White Pearl NSX and a 1992 Grand Prix White
NSX were parked on the museum lawn facing opposite directions as if part of the museum exhibits. The blue Clarion Builds NSX was also parked on the adjacent lawn of the patio area.
Inside, a silent auction took place. The guest speaker was Acura Global Creative Director, Dave Marek. He gave a presentation on the history of the Honda/Acura NSX from a design perspective of the original NSX and showed early drawings and renderings many people had never seen.
After the museum, everyone drove back to Elkhart Lake. Many were tired from the event packed day and relaxed at the resort. However, some walked across the street to the world-famous bar at Siebkens Resort, where, as long as you had your NSXPO badge, the beverages were taken care of. Many of the Acura corporate people joined the NSXPO attendees and shared stories of life, business, and established friendships that would only grow.
A continental breakfast of donuts, toasted bagels and Danish Kringle pastries was served at the East Lot of the Osthoff, this time presented by Cedar Ridge Fabrication. NSX owners had the opportunity to park their vehicle on the Osthoff Resort’s South Lawn for the traditional NSXPO Concours, this year presented by Pirelli. Unlike most other concours events, there was lunch available and NSXPO Sponsors could set up a row of vending tables to sell goods and exchange business cards for later deals. Lunch (also by Pirelli) was cooked nearby on an outdoor charcoal grill with offerings of hamburgers and Wisconsin brats with sauerkraut, served down by the lake.
Next up were a series of Technical Presentations by NSX tuners and professionals including Larry Bostanza, Chris Willson and John Vasos. Nick Robinson and James Robinson were joined by Rookie-of-the-Year Peter Cunningham to provide a recap of this year's Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Each offered a unique perspective of this iconic motorsports challenge.
Saturday was the perfect day to relax for a few hours and take in the sights of the small town of Elkhart Lake. All three events for the day were contained within the town, which was a welcome change from Friday’s sequence of events that spanned an approximate 142-mile roundtrip tour of southeast Wisconsin.
The only driving to be done on Saturday was an optional tour of the original Elkhart Lake street course, which circled the actual body of water named Elkhart Lake. Prior to the opening of the Road America circuit in 1955, this is where sports car drivers tested their mettle in the early 1950s. Although this event was a little disjointed due to a cramped schedule of events, there were still 50 or so NSX’s able to follow the lead NSX, a 2017 Nouvelle Blue press car – thank you Acura – around the 1950 version of the original race course. For the NSXPO cruise, the group opted to start heading south from the Osthoff Resort, as it was easier to lead a parade of vehicles with multiple right turns instead of left turns against oncoming traffic.
Saturday evening saw the traditional NSXPO guest speakers, live auction and gala banquet dinner, sponsored by Acura. There were hors d'oeuvres and two hosted bars during the predinner social hour. NSXPO sponsors had a tables set up showcasing their wares and Acura had an area set up in the back with a table full of the latest NSX Collection brand clothing and accessories. NSXCA member Kevin Strauss is an executive at Plymouth, Wisconsin's Sartori Cheese Company and arranged a beautiful array of fine cheeses and meats for all to enjoy.
The banquet was held in the Osthoff's Grand Libelle Ballroom. Outgoing NSXCA President Brian Urlage took the stage and talked briefly about his past three years as the club’s leader before passing the baton to incoming president, Peter Cunningham. Next up was the announcement by May Lee that NSXPO 2018 would take place in the San Francisco Bay Area Sept. 26 – Sept. 30.
The rambunctious crowd went respectfully silent as special guest Jon Ikeda, Vice President and General Manager of Acura, stepped up to the dais to address the room. His heartfelt message of appreciation for the enthusiast community and clear excitement for the future of the Acura brand was well received!
Longtime NSXPO supporter, and former Large Project Leader of NSX 2.0, was the next presenter to step up to the microphone, Ted Klaus, with the new title of NSX Global Development Leader. Continuing with the theme of philosophy of the goals of the New Sports eXperiment version 2, Ted provided further insight to Acura's special halo vehicle. As with Dave Marek’s talk from the night before, his words were not for the public at large, but instead exclusively for the elite group present on this special evening.
Senior Manager of Acura / NSX Strategic Planning, John Watts, then announced a pair of exclusive offers to NSXPO attendees for the purchase of a new NSX. Judging by the applause, these offers were impressive to the crowd!
NSXCA Midwest Region representative and NSXPO Co-Lead Organizer Wes Spryshak presented the NSX Concours awards before getting he crowd rowdy again as he had the assistance of a professional auctioneer for the evening’s live auction.
A number of special items donated by sponsors were auctioned off to generate cash to help pay for this mega 20th annual NSXPO event. A couple of the highlights were a StopTech Big Brake Kit, which sold for $4,100, and a series of 1:10 scale Acura NSX GT3 models that sold for $600 each. In addition to these items, a number of others were auctioned to benefit the Red Cross and its Harvey and Irma Hurricane Relief Funds. $3,700 was raised to help those affected by these horrible storms.
The keynote speaker for the evening was NBC Formula One analyst and Elkhart Lake resident, David Hobbs. One of the silent auction items from the night before was the ability to sit at the table with Mr. Hobbs. Congratulations to Ed Somers for winning the opportunity to be at that table with the comedic racing legend.
After the auction, David Hobbs wrapped up the evening, entertaining the crowd while finding ways to playfully roast PD and Ted Klaus and making multiple plugs for his own dealership, David Hobbs Honda. By the way, it's located at 6100 N Green Bay Avenue in Glendale, Wisconsin. He would have wanted everyone reading this article to know that.
After the banquet you could start to feel that NSXPO 2017 was winding down. Several dozen attendees hung around the banquet hall while vendors slowly packed up, getting that last bit of socializing in. Some visited Seibkens one last time. For many, the fun but exhausting weekend was just too much. The window of time to say goodbye for the majority of attendees was rapidly closing as many were leaving early in the morning to head home.
Sunday morning, after a champagne brunch presented by Science of Speed, those who remained at the Osthoff could take part in the NSXPO 2017 sendoff activity. Unlike many NSXPOs in the past, the scenic drive was the last event.
NSXPO 2017 was packed so full of events, but the organizers worked in a beautiful drive that took driver southeast back towards the Milwaukee airport while cruising down the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. There were two groups people could be a part of. Depending on the desired pace, people had the option of the Rabbit or the Turtle group. The Rabbit group took the drivers at the posted speed limit, give or take. The Turtle group took things no more than the posted speed limit. This was a beautiful route, and attendees had the option to pull of the route and head home at any time.
NSXPO 2017 was a weekend that gifted attendees with far more successes than shortcomings. The amount of sponsorships the staff was able to put together remained an incredible accomplishment in the minds of each and every person able to attend the event. It was an event where attendees finally could put faces to forum names and finally get to have those conversations and establish further friendships among cross country counterparts.
It seemed as if all those who were attending NSXPO for the first time were hooked and couldn’t wait until next year. Usually when these annual events are over, you can hear people say good bye to each other with the words "This was really fun". This year, you kept hearing people repeat "Wow, this was amazing, how did they even do all of this?" And of course, "Was that an amazing NSXPO or what?!"
NSXPO is not just about the cars we drive, but instead, the cars we drive is what brings us all together. It's not the large cruises most people miss when it’s all over, it's the newly established friendships. It’s hard to describe but people start to immediately have NSXPO withdrawal by the time the Saturday evening banquet concludes. We all hope to see each other again in Northern California at NSXPO 2018
by Jhae Pfenning