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“Too Early to Tell” On Additional Lexus GTD Entries

TRD taking measured expansion plan for Lexus RC F GT3 car…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

TRD President and General Manager Dave Wilson said it’s “too early to tell” on when there will be additional Lexus RC F GT3s on the grid in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as the Japanese manufacturer, under an agreement with the sanctioning body, is set to scale back its level of factory involvement for next year.

3GT Racing has campaigned the pair of GT Daytona class contenders this season, scoring a season-best sixth place result in last weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with the No. 14 Lexus of Scott Pruett and Sage Karam, which rebounded from a heavy accident in qualifying.

While still working to claim its first podium result with the new program, Wilson stressed that 2017 has been very much a development year, with modest expectations also set for customer sales in the short-term.

“We don’t have a hard target,” Wilson told Sportscar365. “I think, without a doubt, our focus is still to get the car from a performance standpoint to the point where there is some demand.

“We’re ultimately trying to make sure that we get our performance such that a customer team would be attracted to partner with us.

“One of the things you don’t want to do is spread yourself too thin early on and not be able to address some of the core issues that we’re working on now.”

Wilson, who also oversees Toyota’s involvement in NASCAR, said they would ideally like to employ a similar approach to its GTD program in having multiple teams running the Lexus in the class in the future.

“Looking at it philosophically and from a competition perspective, and this would apply across most forms of motorsports, you’d often better served to have at least a couple or three different [teams],” he said. “It’s a way of hedging your performance.

“We’ve learned those lessons. For us from a competition perspective, I view it as more of an opportunity to diversify.”

While 3GT is set to continue next year, it will be under a more customer-focused effort, per Lexus’ agreement with IMSA, which allowed only a single year of significant factory backing.

The same agreement also applies to HPD with its Acura NSX GT3 currently campaigned exclusively by Michael Shank Racing.

Wilson said the level of support from Toyota Technocraft in Japan has already been reduced, with only a few engineers present at Watkins Glen and none on-site this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

“Scott [Atherton] and his team at IMSA have been very accommodating and sensitive to that,” he said. “We’re going to be respectful and certainly it’s the assumption we’ll migrate to the more traditional customer-based program.

“Even relative to our participation with 3GT Racing, the optics of that next year will change from what they are today.”

As for future expansion within the WeatherTech Championship, Wilson said they’re also taking a cautious, yet measured approach.

Prospects of a move into the GT Le Mans class have been put on hold, at least for the time being, despite having shown interest in the class earlier this year.

“As a matter of doing research and understanding the sport, since that time we’ve looked at the other classes of [sports car racing],” Wilson said.

“What I’ll say about GTLM is that it’s GT racing but it’s a big step from where we are today. Yes we can be a ‘factory team’ but you really have to have the commitment.

“I think you’d have to have a car that’s suited to go racing in GTLM and the organization with a very purposeful determination to go GTLM racing. I don’t foresee that any time in the near future.

“It’s an aspirational class but we’re focused on getting our feet underneath us on where we’re racing right now.”

Wilson has also ruled out a DPi effort for the short-term although he said they would leave their options open for the future.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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