Lexus has ruled out a move to the DPi class for 2020 although has continued to monitor developments in the evolution of IMSA’s top prototype category, according to TRD President and general manager Dave Wilson.
The luxury automaker, which is entering its third season in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with the Lexus RC F GT3, looks set to remain in the GT Daytona ranks for at least the next two years, with the short-term goal of expanding its customer racing lineup.
Wilson has stressed that Lexus, which competed in the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype class as an engine supplier from 2004-09, is taking a measured approach for its planned long-term involvement in sports car racing.
It’s understood the manufacturer made an initial five-year commitment to IMSA when it entered the GTD ranks in 2017.
“I think what’s most important for Lexus is building a foundation in motorsports,” Wilson told Sportscar365. “I remind our management all the time that we’re competing in a playground against competitors that have been doing this for decades.
“We’ve had some start and stops through the ways.
“I don’t mind racing in the most elemental Pro-Am class because I think earning our way is important.
“It’s the same way we came into NASCAR as the first non-domestic manufacturer. We raced in the Truck Series for three years before we raced in the Cup Series. That let us learn, build relationship with the fans and I think that correlation is the same with Lexus.
“I think it makes sense to stay at this level for a couple of years and build on some success.”
Lexus has partnered with the newly formed AIM Vasser Sullivan for 2019, in what’s believed to be a multi-year deal with the Jimmy Vasser co-owned organization.
While an expansion to DPi is understood to have been on the table over the last 12 months, Wilson has downplayed any imminent move.
“Realistically, I don’t see 2020 as being a possibility,” he said. “We’re at least a couple more years in GTD.
“Nobody would like to come in to do it for one year [of regulations eligibility] facing some unknown change.”
When asked about the FIA and ACO’s recently confirmed ‘Hypercar’ regulations, which parent company Toyota looks set to embrace for its World Endurance Championship campaign, Wilson indicated the costs associated with the platform makes it unfeasible for the WeatherTech Championship.
While IMSA has yet to officially rule out Hypercar as a replacement for its current-gen DPi formula, which is confirmed through the 2021 season, it’s understood the sanctioning body will continue dialogue with manufacturers this week to define a potential evolution of the current rules or an all-new set of regulations for 2022.
“It’s hard to see a connection, honestly, right now with the cost differential,” Wilson said of the Hypercar regs.
“What they’ve developed with DPi is a really efficient model. It still lets the manufacturers engage with their specific powerplant yet by controlling the chassis, it’s quite affordable.
“I think the model they’ve created has been quite successful and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they push it out a year or two more.”
No Replacement for RC F GT3 in Pipeline
Wilson said there are no plans introduce a new GT3 car, despite the lifespan of the current RC F road car potentially winding down.
While recently announcing an updated production and new Track Edition models for 2020, the RC F’s future within Lexus’ lineup remains uncertain, although the race car is homologated through the end of 2023.
“We’ve got some runway,” Wilson said. “Relative to the lifespan of the production vehicle, it’s kind of reaching the end.
“For the moment there’s not another specific car targeted. I’d love to see a production sports car that is closer to a true GT3 caliber car.
“Part of our challenge is the RC F is a great little sports car; it’s not quite a GT3 car from an out-of-the-production side of it, with the weight and power. It’s caused it to be more difficult and expensive to get it to that level.
“I want to believe a lot of this will happen organically.”