Return of the NP01

When the NASA Prototype debuted at the Performance Racing Industry show in December 2014, it was just a small model and a promise of debuting full scale in the fall of 2015 with an introductory kit price of $64,995.

When chassis Nos. 000 and 001 emerged from the Élan Motorsports facility in Braselton, Ga., NASA and Élan had delivered on what they promised: a closed-cockpit prototype racecar for less than $75,000, a car that filled a hole in the motorsports marketplace that had existed undetected for decades.

I had the privilege of being involved in its rollout, and it was one of the great thrills of my professional life. I got to visit the plant where they were built, with access to every part of its construction process. We took photos, shot videos, interviewed engineers and put both chassis on track for a media day at Buttonwillow Raceway in November 2015.

Now the NP01 is back, so to speak. I use the words, “so to speak,” because the NP01 never really went away. The latest development is that the car is now being built a by a new company, SEBECO Motorsports in Hoschton, Ga. One key difference is that SEBECO will be handling all aspects of NP01 manufacturing, car and replacement parts sales in house. The idea behind the move is to reduce costs to purchase, own, operate and repair a NASA Prototype.

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With the new program, you can expect bigger things, namely more power, better aerodynamics and improved grip at a price point slated at less than $69,950 for a complete, assembled car. The new program also will bring a significant reduction in spare parts pricing, so I’m looking forward to seeing the NP01 fields begin growing again.

Of course, existing NP01 owners also will be treated to special benefits and discounts from the factory to show appreciation for their support of the program. We’ll be sure to keep everyone up to date as new information becomes available.

When we hosted that media day back in November 2015, I was on hand to cover the event for Speed News. I was supposed to have the opportunity to get behind the wheel, too, but only after all the invited journalists had their turn. As the day wore on and the names were checked off the list, I was giddy when I was confident I’d get to drive it.

What a machine! If I hadn’t been so foolish as to conceive children who are currently poised to need a college education, I’d have an NP01. I love everything about it. First and foremost, I fit in it, which is not always easy when you’re 6-feet, 4-inches tall. The Mazda 2.0-liter MZR is potent and raspy and wonderful, and controlled by the versatile AEM Infinity ECU. The view out of the car is unexpectedly good. With no-lift shifts, the transmission is a joy to operate. The mechanicals are easy to access and the suspension adjustments are easy to make. Tires are durable, as are the brakes. There’s quite a body of knowledge building about car setup, too.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Ask anyone who owns a NASA Prototype.

You can drive your car on America’s greatest racetracks with NASA, and it’s easy. Sign up for a NASA membership at drivenasa.com, click the “Events” pull-down menu to find an event near you. Register for the event, show up at the track with a helmet and your car, and have the time of your life!

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