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Lexus’ GT3 Commitment Led Thompson to Vasser Sullivan

Parker Thompson on his move to Vasser Sullivan Lexus, full season goals for 2024…

Photo: Lexus Racing

Lexus’ long-term commitment to GT3 racing was a significant factor for Parker Thompson’s move to Vasser Sullivan according to the Canadian, who is targeting to become a full-time driver with the team in the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The 2022 Porsche Carrera Cup North America presented by The Cayman Islands champion is undertaking the four-round Michelin Endurance Cup this year in the team’s No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 alongside full season drivers Aaron Telitz and Frankie Montecalvo.

The trio, along with Kyle Kirkwood, recorded a fifth place GTD class finish in last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

For the 24-year-old, landing the ride came after an up-and-down off-season that initially saw his FIA driver rating moved to Gold and had erased a number of opportunities in the WeatherTech Championship paddock.

“After a big off season I had, getting recognized by the FIA for being fast and getting bumped to Gold, going through the appeals process and getting back down to Silver, this was an opportunity that came up in December,” Thompson told Sportscar365.

“I had always stayed in touch with Jimmy and Sulli; we’ve been in touch the last few years. I’ve always contacted them about an opportunity but I think after winning Carrera Cup that was kind of the tick in the box they needed to take me seriously.”

Thompson said discussions with team co-owners Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan lasted all of 15 days, with his first test in the Lexus coming just two days after coming to an agreement.

“I’m so excited to have [done] my first Rolex 24 because this was the box you needed to tick for teams to really say, “Ok,'” he said. “Everybody knew I was fast in Carrera Cup and everyone had known I was fast when I started in sports cars.

“But can you manage brakes? Can you keep a car on track for 24 hours? Can you have a clean race? There’s so many things you need to do.

“I’m pretty proud that Sulli and Jimmy gave me this chance.

“It’s only the four races. Obviously I’m looking for more but at the same time this is a great place to make my home, to start my WeatherTech Championship career.”

With a number of GT3 manufacturers either expanding into the GTP class or continuing dual-class programs, Thompson said he found benefits by aligning with a brand that holds deep roots in the production-based ranks, with no short or medium-terms plans to enter the prototype ranks.

“Lexus is continuously investing in GT3 racing,” he said. “I can’t say that about every manufacturer in the paddock right now.

“Everybody’s going GTP racing, where Lexus has made a commitment where they’re putting more money into the program, there’s a new car in the pipeline and I think this is going to be a really good home for the future.

“If you look at other manufacturers, you can really get lost in the driver pool. Where here, you know all of the Lexus factory guys and you know everyone in the pipeline because they’re in the cars.

“There’s only two Lexus cars. I know obviously Lexus is probably wanting to expand that to more cars on the grid [in the future] but it’s pretty awesome to see that you’re under the highlight right away in your first race.”

While having his eyes set on a potential full-season ride next year, Thompson said his immediate target is to help assist Telitz and Montecalvo secure the GTD title.

“The goal is 2024, looking at trying to be in for the full season,” he said.

“Both sides of the parties have said, ‘We want this to be a long-term partnership. This isn’t just a ‘Come in and fill the endurance seat.’

“I think for a long time, Vasser Sullivan’s weak link has been the third guy in the car in some of their teams. That’s what really accelerated our conversation.

“They said their No. 1 goal is to win a championship in GTD. They’ve been close but they haven’t got the nail in the coffin yet. That’s what I’m here to do.”

Driver Rating Bump Dashed Porsche North America Selected Driver Hopes

Thompson, who was initially announced as a Porsche North America Selected Driver in November, indicated his initial bump to Gold rating impacted his chances of landing a GTD ride in a Porsche.

“That’s nothing against Porsche on that front,” he said. “It was the timeline I was given and where things came. A lot of things were different before I got bumped to Gold.

“But when I got bumped to Gold, all of those opportunities went away and I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines this year when I had offers to come drive for great teams with factory [support] in Lexus.

“We’ll see. Right now, there’s no other plans to drive anything else. There’s been a few offers come through the pipe but I’ve obviously got to get Lexus and TRD’s permission to go do those things.”

He added: “Driver ratings are necessary for the sport. I’ve said it publicly in every talk I’ve had. I don’t disagree with being bumped to Gold. The pace was there and the facts were there.

“I look at how other people have done pit stops and have done things that justify their gold rating. Where me, in the five talks I had with teams when I was a Gold, it was basically a non-starter that I’d never done more than one stint on a stint of tires and I’ve never done a pit stop.

“I do think there needs to be some re-looking there. Europe is a bit different because a lot of the Carrera Cup guys go and do endurance races.

“But for my case, I definitely agree with getting bumped back down to Silver. I just didn’t have the experience to justify a Gold.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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