Lexus is among the newcomers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year, with the luxury automaker embarking on its first season with the new RC F GT3 in the GT Daytona class, supporting the 3GT Racing team.
With a long-term commitment to the championship, including a potential move to GT Le Mans, Sportscar365 caught up with TRD President David Wilson to get his thoughts on the program’s launch and objectives.
What are your expectations in the first year of the program?
“I think early on, our expectations have been pretty modest. Part of the challenge is working with so many different stakeholders. That’s a good thing but it’s also a challenge.
“The reason we’re here is because of Lexus and what’s most important for me in my role in TRD is to provide them a good experience and to make sure we lay a healthy foundation.
“If somebody asks me, ‘What’s the measure of your success?’ It starts with that we’re here 10 years from now, whether it’s GTD, GTLM or the P [class], it doesn’t matter. What’s most important is that we lay a strong foundation.
“I’m a student of history and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been at the start of almost every major motorsports program that Toyota and Lexus have launched.
“If you look at each one of them, there’s not been a single one that’s come storming out of the gate. It’s typically been a journey.
“We’re here to build some performance credibility behind [the Lexus brand]. You don’t do that in one year; you do that over decades like our competition has done. We have to stay pretty humble right now and just appreciate the fact that there’s this commitment and genuine belief in motorsports.
“It’s a testament to IMSA and the direction that sports car racing is going in the U.S. It is getting stronger. For me, it’s emotional. This is where I started as a young engineer. It’s pretty special.”
How much different is this program compared TRD’s structure in NASCAR?
“It’s quite a bit more modest. We have to respect and appreciate that we’re competing in the GTD class.
“This isn’t a factory class. IMSA right now is being accommodating to with the understanding that we’re helping Lexus and 3GT get their feet underneath them.”
How has it been working with the other Lexus teams in Europe and in Asia, and do you share data between all programs?
“That’s still a work-in-progress. The focus globally was to launch here. There’s a lot of folks from TechnoCraft here. They hope to learn as much as possible, so that launches in other markets, such as Europe and Asia, go a little smoother.
“We’ll be really dependent on TTC to be the linchpin because they’re the common denominator across these various markets.”
Do you anticipate the same level of support in years to come?
“For the Rolex 24 and Sebring, all hands on deck, just because of the challenge of those particular races. I think as the season goes on, some of the support will start to be pared off. Honestly right now it’s a little bit overwhelming.
“This isn’t the factory class. We’re here to support 3GT and Lexus. We’ll adjust that level of support as the season goes on.”
What is the timeframe for additional customer teams beyond 3GT?
“There’s certainly the understanding that’s in the future. Obviously we wouldn’t be looking at anything before 2018.
“Part of what we need to do is establish ourselves We know many of our competitors in the garage and they’re watching us. Right now the focus is on getting this car developed well.
“We’d love to see some other Lexus cars out there, given the right circumstance, team, drivers and all of that.
Has there been any interest from teams yet?
“There’s been some casual interest… I have a tremendous amount of respect for any team that puts their hand up first.
“They’re making a leap of faith and they’re saying we trust you. We’re very appreciative of that. Now it’s up to us collectively to do the best job we can.
“Hopefully, if you look at our performance and you put a stake in the ground now and compare it to where we are in a year, hopefully we’ll have made some performance this season.”
Do you plan to expand beyond IMSA into Pirelli World Challenge?
“First and foremost we’re loyal to IMSA. Obviously the relationship they have with NASCAR is important to us politically. We thought that was the appropriate entry point.
“But absolutely there’s no reason why this couldn’t grow into other series such as the Pirelli World Challenge.”