In February 1989, right around the same time the demonstration car was dropping jaws with its svelte, mid-engined looks, a gaggle of Honda engineers were waiting with polite expectation to hear a positive verdict on one of the companyâ€™s most ambitious projects ever.
It was called the New Sportscar eXperimental, and the engineers were confident that they wouldnâ€™t fail to impress the newly-minted Formula 1 champion driving their creation. The team had just completed an entire month at the Suzuka Circuit and considered their all-aluminum machine to be as forged and honed as a katana.
“Iâ€™m not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car,” Ayrton Senna said, trying to temper his criticism with kindness, “but I feel itâ€™s a little fragile.” With the first press drives scheduled for that summer, the Honda team was shocked. Theyâ€™d just been told their car was good, but not good enough.
Senna was in Japan testing his Honda-powered McLaren in February 1989, so his test of the NSX was almost a spur-of-the-moment event. Later, as the Honda R&D department regrouped at one of the first dedicated Japanese testing facilities at the NÃ¼rburgring, he would be invited back to help fine-tune the suspension. Honda engineers managed to increase the chassis stiffness of the NSX by 50 percent after Sennaâ€™s comments, and his further input helped create an even more balanced machine.
Sennaâ€™s perfectionism would turn out to be one more gift the Brazilian left the motoring world.