Lap records don’t really matter. They matter slightly more than 0-60 sprints or quarter mile times in that they can provide some notion of lateral acceleration and braking prowess, but most lap times are held up in a vacuum like this one with little other to compare it to. Peter Cunningham ran a 1:35.663 lap of the 1.968-mile Long Beach street circuit last week in the new Acura NSX, which serves as the pace car for the event.
Since Toyota discarded its sponsorship duties of the Grand Prix of Long Beach after 44 years of promoting that event as a tentpole of American motorsport, Acura picked up the discarded event and began to dust it off. The new title sponsor has done a good job of keeping the event afloat, and are even starting to wear this new hat as its own.
Prior to this lap, no such record existed. It was purely something Acura made up to get people like us to talk about it. Perhaps the closest analogue prior is the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race which last ran in 2016 using stock Toyota 86s. Alfonso Ribeiro set a fastest lap of that race with a 1:42.102, though admittedly those cars have been lightly upgraded over stock.
From a race perspective, the overall circuit record is a 1:06.2254 set in qualifying for the 2017 IndyCar race by Helio Castroneves. Castroneves also set the pole time for this year’s IMSA sports car event, driving a Penske-entered Acura prototype with a lap of 1:11.332. The GTLM category of that same series featured a pole lap from Porsche’s Nick Tandy of 1:16.313.
Taking nothing away from Cunningham’s efforts, this is an incredibly quick lap time with some real high speed action in a production spec car. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving at these speeds without proper racing equipment like a roll cage and harnesses, but Cunningham is apparently secure enough in his talents to need just a helmet and a goddamn short sleeve t-shirt.