Solid progress has been made at AIM Vasser Sullivan despite a “big learning curve” in coming to grips with the Lexus RC F GT3 machinery, according to team principal Ian Willis.
The newly formed IMSA GT Daytona class squad, which has seen Canadian-based AIM Autosport join forces with the open-wheel combo of Jimmy Vasser and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan, makes its public debut at this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24.
The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship pre-season test also marks the first time the team has run as a two-car operation, after completing last month’s Michelin On-Track Opportunity at Daytona with a single Lexus.
Willis, who is also serving as race engineer on the No. 12 Lexus of Townsend Bell, Frankie Montecalvo, Aaron Telitz and Jeff Segal, admitted the team’s previous experience of running Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3s in Pirelli World Challenge has helped its transition in some ways.
“It’s still a big learning curve,” Willis told Sportscar365. “The baseline we’ve got with the car [from TRD] was pretty good.
“Out of the box, it’s not that far out of the ballpark.
“It does what we expect for a front-engined car. It’s a bit under-steery and rear tire degradation is our enemy. It’s all stuff we learned running the other car.
“Our goal has been just to do miles, gain laps. We really haven’t been tweaking on the car.”
Willis credits the addition of Jack Hawksworth, who was part of the previous 3GT Racing Lexus organization, in helping the team and new co-drivers get up to speed.
The Englishman set the fifth quickest time in class in Friday’s opening day of track action.
“It’s provided us with a [good] sanity check in just where we’re at,” Willis said.
“Now it’s just learning what we’ve got to watch for maintenance and reliability and learn for us what it’s going to take to run 24 hours.”
Having been absent from the IMSA paddock since 2014, when it ran a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 for Bell and Bill Sweedler, Willis admits it’s also taken “a lot of work” to get the team reassembled for the new program.
Willis and brother Keith, who will engineer the No. 14 Lexus, both worked at JDC-Miller Motorsports last year, while AIM took a hiatus from racing in search of a new partnership.
It was found through team co-owner Andrew Bordin, who helped make the link with Vasser and Sullivan for the venture, which came online shortly after October’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans.
“We’re fortunate enough to be able to purchase ESM’s equipment, which shaved a bunch of prep time for us,” Willis said.
“We also chose to set up shop in Charlotte for the first six months of the program, through Sebring, primarily to be closer to TRD, to help us learn quicker.
“I think once we get through the first six months and two long races, we’ll be comfortable enough. We’re still trying to figure out spares and what we’ll need and go about it all.”