Lexus could have an increased presence in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year, with the luxury automaker exploring the possibility of a second customer GT Daytona team.
Having entered the GTD ranks with a two-car factory supported Lexus RC F GT3 effort from 3GT Racing, Lexus Motorsports Manager Mark Egger has revealed ambitions of potentially supporting an additional team when it shifts to a customer operation in 2018.
“It gives us that flexibility to look at it,” Egger told Sportscar365. “Right now we’re still looking and assessing.
“If we were to support a second team, that decision would probably have to be made in the next 60-90 days.”
Both Lexus and Acura will evolve to customer support roles in 2018, following the single-year agreement with IMSA that provided factory backing to both 3GT and Michael Shank Racing.
Egger said the interest level for the RC F GT3, a race-winner in International GT Open competition this year, has been promising, with inquiries having come from three continents.
“We’ve had people that have been interested from the U.S. We’ve had European teams contact us and also people from Australia to race the car in their respective markets. We’ve had lots of customer inquiries, which is good,” he said.
“In Europe, they’ve won some races and we’ve gotten a pole, had fastest laps and top-five finishes.
“We know historically this year the car is pretty sound, which gives us the opportunity to showcase that in other teams that are interested.”
Egger said a final decision on its customer program structure for next year is still being determined.
“We’re still assessing from what we stand with that in the three markets,” he said. “TMC [Toyota Motor Corporation], the parent company, is helping direct that from their side.
“With the customer enquiries we’ve had, we still need to look and see what direction we need to take.
“The car count here is too low to begin with. If we can all add a car here and there, it helps the series and helps IMSA grow.”
3GT Targeting Lexus Return
While a deal has yet to be reached, 3GT team principal Paul Gentilozzi said it’s his target to remain with Lexus next year.
“We’re obviously going to become a customer car program if we would race with this brand; we hope we do. We’re talking to drivers,” Gentilozzi told Sportscar365.
“A lot of the funding this year was my money. We’re proud of the relationship but now it’s time to stand alone.
“That’s what we’re working on. I want to keep as much of our group together as we can.”
Gentilozzi said the ideal situation would be to return as a two-car Lexus program, although potentially with an adjusted lineup with a more Pro-Am focus.
All four of the team’s full-season drivers are contracted to the East Lansing, Mich.-based squad, with Scott Pruett additionally having a marketing and promotional relationship with the manufacturer.
“That would certainly be my hope,” Gentilozzi said of returning with Lexus.
“When you come to the dance with somebody, you try not to let anybody else cut in until it’s time.
“We’re looking competitively at everything to keep running but we definitely want to run the Lexus. When you suffer the learning curve and the investment, you’d like to stay with it.”