One of racing’s modern renaissance men, Justin Marks isn’t just a driver but also a team owner, businessman, colored sock aficionado and craft beer consumer.
He’s also set to return to the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the first time in five years as part of the lineup for Robby Benton’s Change Racing.
He’ll share the No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with Spencer Pumpelly and Corey Lewis, with the possibility of a fourth driver to be added to the GT Daytona entry.
Marks was part of TRG’s GT class win in the 2009 Rolex 24, and actually has history in the race dating back 15 years to 2001.
Given his Rolex 24 appearances have only been sporadic since that class win, Marks, 34, is well-qualified to indicate how far the presentation of the now GTD class has come since that point.
“The depth of the GT field and the quality of the equipment has gone up so much, just in the last couple years,” Marks told Sportscar365.
“My first time here was 15 years ago. It’s obviously a big difference from back then, but from 2011 with Mazda, even the difference just in the last five years is incredible.
“It’s really a reflection of how advanced these manufacturers are getting with their racing programs, and especially how committed they are with GT3-spec.”
Marks adds the Huracán to a list of other GT cars he’s driven that include a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, BMW M3 and Mazda RX-8 in six prior Rolex 24 starts (2001, 2004-2006, 2009, 2011).
It’s a cool opportunity for Marks to return to the race with Change’s Benton as well, given the two worked together in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series last year.
“(Robby) brings a high level of preparation to this team and series,” Marks said. “He’s so well organized and so competitive.
“He’ll have a very successful career managing this team. It’s fun to reminisce about our history together but now, this is the whole package.”
Marks grew in the Super Trofeo program last year. His other projects included attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500, running several other NASCAR races, and co-operating several teams, tracks and other entities as owner of The Drylake Group (Larson Marks Motorsports, HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, KartSport, GoPro Motorplex and IAME USA East).
His first Daytona laps in the Huracán GT3 came during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test. He was on-site in November, but poor weather prevented him from turning any laps.
“Every system on the car is just much better at what it’s intended to do,” Marks said.
“You’ve got the traction control, ABS, downforce and mechanical grip. It’s been a pleasure to drive in the limited laps so far.
“It’s a really good package right off the truck. The guys over in Italy have done a fantastic job building it, designing it and having it be race-ready with a minimal development curve.”
While Marks and Lewis were teammates in Super Trofeo last year, Marks is also reunited with Pumpelly, who was also with TRG and finished second in another car when Marks won in 2009.
“Spencer has so much experience under his belt,” Marks said. “He knows what it takes to win these races. He knows what it takes to set a car up in a 24-hour race.
“We have youth, experience and obvious good looks.”
Marks’ humorous side shows through fairly often. He joked during the Lamborghini World Final at Sebring in November that he likes a good beer to match his eclectic sock collection.
But he’s serious about the challenge ahead as the new lineup, team and new car make their respective Rolex 24 debuts as a unit.
“These are the most advanced GT cars I’ve ever driven,” Marks said. “From that standpoint it’s really exciting, because there’s so much depth in the field.”