gdh300

Lexus in motorsport 2019

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Here we go again! Well, almost.

The so-called "Roar Before the Rolex 24" will run for two days from tomorrow at Daytona. It is the first opportunity for the North American RC-Fs to have a proper run in their new team, AIM Vasser Sullivan. For those Twits amongst you, their Twitter page is here.

I hope they won't mind that I've nicked a picture, just to show the new colour scheme as the Lex comes off the truck...

 

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Just over a day now until the start of qualifying at Daytona for the 57th Rolex 24. Forty seven cars competing in four categories, a combined infield and oval track for a whole day's race, what's not to like? 

Lexus enter their third season in GTD (that's D for Daytona, not Diesel!), with RC-Fs that are the same specification as the GT3 cars we see in the Blancpain GT series. With new tyres this season in Weathertech, I read there was some talk of the need to slow down the GTD cars as they were getting too close the the GTLM spec cars from the class above! A new team is charged with running the Japanese two cars this year, the new AIM Vasser Sullivan outfit who showed a good turn of speed at the recent Daytona test. 24 hours though, will be a very different kettle of fish... 

There's a nice preview to all the makes in GTD here at dailysportscar. Elsewhere, full details of the Weathertech Sportscar Championship can be found at the IMSA website

Over the weekend live streaming should be available in UK on imsa.tv. One year it was properly foggy at dawn; not the best conditions for motor racing, or streaming... 😁

Good luck, Lexus!

PS: Lexus appear to be committed to GTD - at least for the immediate future - and are not looking to move into any prototype formula. News article here.

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What a messy race the Rolex 24 turned-out to be! Daytona was wetter than a haddock's bathing costume, which made for a disappointing streaming experience...

But, through it all, a good race for Lexus and their new team. You can read about it here. Meanwhile, look at this:

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Oh, by the way, it is the Bathurst 12hrs this weekend. No Lexus involvement, but a great race and the weather can't help but be better! Coverage will be on the Nismo YouTube channel, and full details of the race are available here.

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If you haven't seen it by now, I guess you aren't going to, but Daytona spoliers alert!

The post-race exclusion of the Land Motorsport Audi R8 that finished second on the road at Daytona means the #12 RC-F of the débutante AIM Vasser Sullivan team is promoted one place from what was already an impressive third. 

Meanwhile, I read an Toyota Gazoo Racing press release this weekend (admittedly that's been out for nearly a month) which confirms that the new Supra will take on SuperGT duties in 2020. So, 2019 will sadly be the last we see of the bonkers LC500 in GT500 guise. Understandable why Toyota are doing it; it's pretty much a 'silhouette' series so the bodywork on top is interchangeable, and the Supra will need a motor racing presence rather more than the LC.

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Which begs the question, what is the long term racing plan for Toyota and by extension, Lexus?

The RC-F is likely to be racing in IMSA until 2022, and hopefully in GT3 in Europe for a similar time. Disappointingly, there doesn't seem to have been any take-up by other teams, or may be Lexus just aren't making them available; perhaps they just aren't interested in flooding the customer market like Audi do with the R8. But by 2022, you'd imagine the RC-F will be out of production, or at least withdrawn from some markets. Is there a model in the pipeline to replace it in the Lexus range? Will the petrol GT car be as dead as a Dodo by then? May be the opportunity will be in the speculated replacement for the LMP1 category. The vaunted 'Hypercar' regulations are about as settled (and popular!) as a Brexit deal, but it could be a route for Toyota, and may be a good fit for the Lexus brand if the Supra is to be the chosen new GT3 model. I imagine it also depends how well the corporate investment in WRC goes the next few years.

Ultimately though, I guess it will turn on customer focus groups and how effective the investment in motorsport is considered. I can't help feeling as we move towards an electric, semi-autonomous, wheeled mobile phone, car-leased-by-the-hour world, that motorsport will become even more of a minority sport than it is already. Which makes me a little sad. 

 

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I had an email today from Emil Frey Racing, and it appears their involvement with the Lexus GT3 spec RC-F is over. 😢 Seems they are to run Lamborghini Hurican's in Blancpain this year instead. They say:

"We were able to support Lexus with the GT3 Project from the testing and developing stages (2015/2016) to the finished, homologated race car (2017/2018). We are proud to have demonstrated the Lexus´ competence in the world´s most competitive GT championship by winning the six-hour-race in Paul Ricard and taking third place overall in the championship"

...which does sound like a sign-off, sadly. 

Understandably, this announcement came the same day as Toyota Gazoo Racing release their full program for 2019, which is perhaps more varied than you'd imagine. There is a line in the GT3 programme for Europe, but it is 'TBD'. I suppose 'TBD' could mean 'To Be Declared', hinting someone is waiting in the wings for an announcement in the next few days, or equally it could mean 'To Be Decided', which you might interpret as nothing will happen this year...

I really hope there is a team ready to race the RC-Fs in Blancpain, GT Open, may be even a national GT3 series. It has its limitations as a platform sure, but it would be such a shame if it never turns a wheel again as it is a proven winning car. But may be the support that other manufacturers offer, for example AMG, Lamborghini and most notably Audi is too much for any prospective team to turn down. The low take up of McLaren, Nissan and Bentley GT3 cars may be a similar situation; either that or the factories want to control their efforts. Wish I knew more! 

That Toyota Gazoo Racing press release is here if you're interested. There's confirmation on there of the drivers and six teams for the LC500's last season in SuperGT, plus the three RC-Fs in GT300. 

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Phew, that's a relief!

A welcome announcement today that GT3 spec RC-Fs will be racing in Europe this year. They will compete in the Blancpain Endurance and Sprint Cups (hopefully two cars) in a new team under the management of Tech 1 Racing and Panis-Barthez Compétition. Both have a proven [a-hem] track record but I can't quite fathom which name they will run under. I recall Monsieur Bartez (yes, that Bartez, he formerly of Manchester United) driving a Ferrari 458 in a GT series a few years ago, so perhaps his name will be the best fit for the Lexus effort as Tech 1 are more associated with single seaters. Panis-Barthez Compétition have also been running in European LeMans. 

There is pre-season test on March 13 and 14 at Paul Ricard. That's not that far away, so hopefully we'll get drivers names in the next couple of weeks. And you never know, may be we will be surprised by a second customer team.

Elsewhere, more RC-F news! Racing Project Bandoh will run a GT3 spec car in SP9 in the 2019 Nürburgring 24 Hours. This makes two Lexus competing, this RC-F alongside the works Gazoo Racing LC500. 

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It's been deathly quiet on the Tech 1 Racing / Panis-Barthez Compétition front since that announcement on 12th

Finally more today, and a little underwhelming it is. An article is here in Sportscar365, but the summary is the RC-F will not be competing in the Pro category, and are likely to run a single car, at least for the first few races.  

Not to knock the new team before they have even started, but to me this seems a big step back for Lexus. It means we won't see the drivers of the calibre of Albert Costa etc. pedalling the Lexus, so a repeat of the glorious win at Paul Ricard last year will be a that much harder to achieve. Nothing at all wrong with the Am category, nothing at all but this will be the only Lexus representation in Blancpain. I could understand it if they were offering customer cars, but so far these are not been offered or aren't been taken up. May be the late switch from Emil Frey (which might have been acrimonious, who knows) meant there just weren't the pro drivers left available. 

Oh dear. Anyway, PMA. Let's see what happens at the pre-season test. 

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Hello friends, Blancpain GT news from the south of France.

Sadly, not reporting in person (no time off for me!), but I was keeping an eye on the timing from the two day test at Paul Ricard at work. Just the single RC-F from the Tech1 Racing, driven by Fabien Barthez and Konstantin Tereschenko. Paul Ricard was of course the setting in 2018 for the first Blancpain win for Lexus, so you would hope for a strong showing here but as we know, testing isn't racing and there is a lot of serious competition this year. The new Porsche, the new Aston, the new Bentley, the already well-developed and potent AMG, etc...

Anyway, here are the times:

13/03/19 Testing Session 1 (4 hours): 42 laps completed, fastest lap 1m 55.801s in p42 (fastest session lap was a 1m 53.132s)

13/03/19 Testing Session 2 (3 hours): 49 laps completed, fastest lap 1m 54.200s in p23 (fastest session lap was a 1m 52.856s)

14/03/19 Testing Session 3 (4 hours): 59 laps completed, fastest lap 1m 53.687s in p24 (fastest session lap was a 1m 52.801s)

14/03/19 Testing Session 4 (3 hours): 49 laps completed, fastest lap 1m 53.486s in p8 (fastest session lap was a 1m 52.765s)

There were - from what I can make out - 46 cars at the test, although not all cars ran in every session. Solid progression by the team, then. Reasons to be cheerful!

Oh, I should say there may have been third driver, but I missed that; scusi...

 

 

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From Provence to Florida!

It's the Sebring 12 hours this weekend as the second round of this year's IMSA Weathertech Championship. The race starts tomorrow - from what I can work out - at 1430 UK time, and streaming will be available outside the US and Canada(?) at imsa.tv.

Just the second outing for the new AIM Vasser Sullivan outfit with their two RC-Fs #12 and #14. It's a long race of course, so qualifying position not that important, except as a guide for outright speed of course. And the Lexus qualified in p8 and p14 (dead last), so it might be a very long race!

 

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