Ex-McLaren factory driver Ben Barnicoat has joined Lexus and Vasser Sullivan Racing for its GTD Pro effort in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.
Barnicoat will team up with fellow Englishman Jack Hawksworth for the full season, with the pairing joined by NTT IndyCar Series driver Kyle Kirkwood for the Michelin Endurance Cup races in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3.
The 24-year-old spent four years as a factory driver with McLaren, most recently competing in Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS prior to making his WeatherTech Championship debut in last month’s Motul Petit Le Mans with Inception Racing.
It was at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta where Barnicoat held discussions with top brass from Lexus and Vasser Sullivan that ultimately led to the opportunity with the luxury automaker.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining Lexus Racing USA,” Barnicoat said.
“Hearing the future plans and ambitions that the Lexus brand has, to really write themselves into the history books of motorsport, is truly inspiring, and really excites me about this program and my future with Lexus.
“I can’t wait to get to work with the Vasser Sullivan team and my super-fast teammates Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood in our IMSA GTD PRO campaign with the Lexus RC F GT3.
“After meeting Jimmy and Sulli for the first time and seeing the team in action at Petit Le Mans last month, it’s clear to me that they are the team to be with in IMSA right now.
“The level of professionalism, along with the dedication and hunger to win races and championships was incredible, and I can’t ask for any more than that as a driver.
“I have a lot to learn with it being my first full season of IMSA, but I have an incredible car in the Lexus RC F GT3 and the best team of people around me to learn from and achieve our goals.
“We will be a force to be reckoned with. The green flag at the Rolex 24 in January can’t come soon enough.”
Hawksworth, who has been part of the Lexus program since its inception, will be returning to Vasser Sullivan for his fourth season with the Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan-owned team.
“I couldn’t be happier to be continuing this journey with Lexus as we venture into the GTD Pro category,” he said.
“I’ve been a part of the Lexus family for over five years now and I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited about where the program is and where it is going.
“We have a fantastic group of people within the Vasser Sullivan team and with the addition of some new faces, the team is continuing to push forward in the never-ending pursuit of excellence.
“Partnering alongside Ben and Kyle gives us a young and hungry line up, but with plenty of experience and I look forward to starting our on-track work together at Daytona.
“Thank you to everybody at Lexus, TRD and Vasser Sullivan for their continued support! I can’t wait to get out there and give it 100 percent.”
Andrew Gilleland, Group Vice President and general manager of Lexus added: “Together with Vasser Sullivan and TRD, we’re continuously finding ways to be competitive in North American sports car racing and drive the Lexus performance message to new levels.
“Racing in IMSA has helped strengthen awareness and consideration of Lexus performance models amongst our dealers, owners, and competitors alike.
“Our momentum is rapidly growing and everyone at Lexus is excited to race for an IMSA championship.
“Jack has been integral in the development and success of the RC F GT3 program from day one, and we are thrilled to have a driver of Ben’s caliber join the Lexus family.
“Paired with Kirkwood for the endurance rounds, our GTD Pro entry aligns perfectly with the Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing program.
“They are young, quick and poised to fight for the top step of the podium all season long.
“We know we’ve got something special here and we’re excited to get out and earn our first GT championship together beginning with Rolex next month.”
Drivers for Vasser Sullivan’s single GTD entry for 2022 have yet to be announced.
Frankie Montecalvo and Zach Veach steered the entry this year although former No. 14 Lexus co-driver Aaron Telitz, who has been upgraded from Silver to Gold in FIA driver rating for 2022, could be in contention.