Lexus will make the switch to an all-new team for the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, having announced Tuesday a partnership with the newly formed AIM Vasser Sullivan organization.
It comes a day after dissolving its relationship with 3GT Racing, which operated a pair of Lexus RC F GT3s over the past two years.
Headed up by IndyCar-winning team owners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan and former Grand-Am champions AIM Autosport, led by Andrew Bordin and brothers Ian and Keith Willis, the team will campaign two Lexus GT3 cars in the GT Daytona class next year.
The new program will mark Vasser and Sullivan’s foray into sports car racing, after a previous alliance with KVSH Racing from 2011-16 and most recently, the formation of Vasser-Sullivan Racing, which partnered with Dale Coyne Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year.
Drivers for the program have yet to be announced.
“Sulli and I are excited and looking forward to entering a new chapter in our racing careers,” said Vasser. “I have driven sports cars before, but my career was pretty much limited to the 24 Hours of Daytona, including a ‘class’ win in 1992 and second overall in 2008.
“The AIM Vasser Sullivan team, with the support of Lexus and our sponsors, has the tools to get the job done and we are looking forward to this new challenge.”
While set to initially operate from a newly established base in Charlotte, the team is expected to also utilize AIM’s longstanding headquarters near Toronto during the second half of the WeatherTech Championship season.
The Canadian squad, which most recently competed in Pirelli World Challenge, took a hiatus from racing this year, and focused efforts on securing a manufacturer-backed program for 2019.
Several members of the AIM crew, including Ian and Keith Willis, remained active in the WeatherTech Championship this year, working with JDC-Miller Motorsports.
“Having the opportunity to campaign two mighty Lexus RC F GT3 race cars in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship next year in partnership with Jimmy and Sulli is fantastic,” Bordin said.
“To compete for wins and championships in this ultra-competitive class requires excellence in all aspects of racing and we now have all of the right pieces in place”
According to Lexus Motorsports manager Mark Egger, discussions with the AIM and Vasser-Sullivan consortium occurred over a “period of time” since its mutual decision to not continue with the Gentilozzi-run 3GT squad next year.
“Lexus is looking to further our program and we felt that partnering with this race group will lead to continued progress, additional wins and the championship we would love to have on the wall,” Egger told Sportscar365.
“Jimmy’s past relationship with the Toyota racing program back in the Indycar days has definitely helped. Jimmy owns a Toyota dealership, which helps on that side too.
“We know what his business operations are like. We know his race-proven craft, and even taking it further into his current endeavors, just his professionalism and the way he goes to market.
“We’re all looking forward to the new team.”
Egger: No Additional Customers for 2019
AIM Vasser Sullivan will be the only Lexus customer team in the WeatherTech Championship next year, although Egger has expressed interest in expanding its reach for 2020 and beyond.
“We’ll definitely consider additional team partners when the time is right,” he said. “For 2019, it will just be two cars with AIM Vasser Sullivan. We will reassess our scope into 2020.
“Ultimately we would love to add additional partners under the right circumstances and progress the program further on our global scale program we’re currently in.”
In addition to its program in IMSA, Lexus is again expected to be represented in multiple GT3 championships around the world, including the Blancpain GT Series in Europe, as well as Super GT.