AIM Vasser Sullivan team co-owner Jimmy Vasser says they are taking a “methodical approach” to driver selections for its newly formed GT Daytona effort that will debut in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year.
The 1996 CART champion and business partner James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan announced on Tuesday a joint venture with AIM Autosport to campaign Lexus RC F GT3s, marking Vasser and Sullivan’s foray into sports car racing on an ownership level.
While yet to announce its lineup, Vasser said they’ve already have a good idea on drivers for the two-car squad.
“We have some direction, but as we speak, we don’t have anything signed up right now,” Vasser told Sportscar365. “We have a pretty good idea of what some of it is going to look like.
“Hopefully we’ll have something in the coming weeks that will bring that more into focus.
“I’ve been pretty surprised, by just the rumors out there, and the amount of calls we’ve been getting. We’re going to take a methodical approach. We’ve got a white board working list already.”
Vasser indicated there could be a mixture of both new and existing drivers from Lexus’ current lineup that were seen with 3GT Racing this year, although stressed the need for paying Bronze or Silver-rated drivers within the Pro-Am-enforced class.
IMSA has put a greater focus on gentlemen drivers, who will be required to qualify and start the races in GTD next year.
The sanctioning body has also launched a dedicated driver rating committee, aimed to eliminate the so-called ‘fake Silvers’ currently competing in the class.
“With this being a customer program and very difficult to raise full budget and sponsorship, it’s a necessity [to have paying drivers], Vasser said.
“What we’re looking for are solid, proven pros in the class and trying to pair them with young amateurs and gentlemen drivers that are the best we can get, and work with them to make them better with their craft and more consistent.
“It wasn’t easy [understanding the ratings system] at first. It’s like, ‘Let me understand this Silver, Gold, Bronze.’ It’s interesting and will be a new challenge.
“The AIM guys are proven winners in the class and champions. Make no mistake, operationally, AIM is taking the lead to run the team and we’re going to move forward together.”
The 52-year-old, who retired from open-wheel competition in 2006, has ruled out a racing comeback for himself, even in the Michelin Endurance Cup races next year.
“As much as I’d love to drive and I miss driving, this is program that is going be without Jimmy Vasser [driving] for sure,” he said.
Expansion into Sports Car Racing a “Necessity” for Vasser Sullivan
Vasser revealed that KV Racing Technology was among the initial teams that placed a bid for the Lexus GT Daytona program in 2016, which ultimately went to Paul Gentilozzi’s 3GT operation.
“We threw our hat in the ring for this particular program initially,” Vasser said. “It wasn’t awarded at the time and since then KV Racing shut down and Sulli and I took a year or two to take a deep breath and just assess what we wanted to do next in motorsports.
“Obviously we were having IndyCar in the forefront of our minds as it’s been a bit part of our lives, and we came back this year and partnered with Dale Coyne in the Sebastien Bourdais entry.
“We always had in our minds of doing sports cars. Sulli comes from rallycross, and having another spoke in our motorsports realm is something so important and necessary to be in more than one space. It just feels like it’s necessary to us.”
Vasser confirmed the team will continue its involvement in IndyCar next year alongside the new GTD program.
“We’re going to be equally as focused on both programs,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in multiple classes or spaces in motorsport puts more focus on one or the other.
“With AIM not being a total newcomer to this, Sulli and I are going to be drinking from the firehose initially. We’ll be at all the events leading up to whatever our first conflict is. Then one of us will be there and one of us will be in IndyCar. It will be divide and conquer.”