Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan believe that Vasser Sullivan has been able to finally reap the benefits of its off-season transition with the team’s first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory of the year.
Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz delivered the long-awaited GT Daytona class win last time out at Watkins Glen following a string of races to start the 2021 season that hadn’t gone the Lexus squad’s way, for one reason or another.
“It’s been great for the guys,” Vasser told Sportscar365. “There’s been a lot of hard work.
“I think we’ve led an awful lot of laps and have never been out of the mix. We’ve been protagonists pretty much in every race but just had a long list of things and boxes ticked on why the results weren’t coming.
“From mechanical failure to getting hit by other drivers, untimely yellows… you name it.”
Sullivan said: “We’ve studied the issues. One thing that’s common is that they [all] were isolated [incidents].
“You’d love if there was some overbearing or central issue that was common amongst all of them that we could just nip in the bud but they were all just very different, which quite frankly, made it even more frustrating.
“For us, everyone in the organization and the team got tired of getting kicked in the teeth.
“We expected to win these races. To have the Watkins Glen sprint race be our first victory of the season… It was exciting we got it finally.
“The spirit and the will of the team, and certainly Lexus and their technical support, has been unbreakable to get to this point.”
The WeatherTech 240 marked the team’s first win since the rescheduled Mid-Ohio round in September 2020, but it was also the first with its slightly different crew after a transition away from previous operators AIM Autosport.
While the majority of the crew had stayed on, there had been several key staff changes heading into the 2021 season when the entire program was brought in-house.
“There was a lot of work that went on in the off-season transitioning from our partnership with AIM and setting up in Charlotte,” Vasser explained.
“A lot of the key ingredients, other than losing Ian and Keith [Willis], which were a foundation of the team for sure… Engineering stayed pretty much intact, crew chiefs and driver lineups intact for the most part.
“There’s a lot of similarities still.”
Vasser said it was an “all hands on deck” endeavor to get the team turned around for the start of the season.
“We had to go testing in December,” he said. “With Sebring [2020 season finale] having been in November, it was an undertaking. But we took it one thing at a time.
“I spent some time in Charlotte initially to make sure there was anything I could do to help Greg [Cates, team manager] take things off his plate or get him all of the tools necessarily to get ready.
“I think it really made it easier for us to have the Roar and the 24 become one event.”
“Anytime there’s change, for the good or for the bad, it takes work for the change to benefit everybody,” Sullivan added.
“We showed up to do a job and the job didn’t get done for the first five rounds. Thankfully we’ve got the monkey off our
back and met our own expectations.”
Vasser: “We’ve Got to Keep Fighting” Despite Challenging Title Prospects
While both the Nos. 12 and 14 Lexus RC F GT3s are mired down in the GT Daytona championship standings, Vasser said the team isn’t giving up hopes, despite two of the next three events at Lime Rock Park and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca typically being challenging tracks for the car.
“I think we have made some gains with the car on the platform, just from a tire deg perspective,” Vasser said.
“I think the BoP is pretty close and they haven’t been changing it much in GTD.
“It’s probably the best it’s been as far as being close and competitive across the board. It puts more focus on the drivers and teams to manage it.
“The unfortunate part is that we’re down in the overall points because of some of the [setbacks].
“But we’ve got to keep fighting and try to put ourselves in a position for the last couple of races to have a shot at it.”