Lexus made its long-awaited IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut on the first day of a two-day sanctioned test at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday. A Lexus RC F GT3 (above), operated by Paul Gentilozzi’s 3GT Racing team, turned its first laps around Daytona’s 3.56-mile road circuit.
Though only one RC F GT3 is present at the two-day test, 3GT Racing will campaign a pair of the cars for the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season. Announced in early 2016, sports car legend Scott Pruett will co-drive one of the Lexus entries with Sage Karam.
“I’m so excited to be back at Daytona, I love everything about it,” Pruett said on Tuesday afternoon. “This is the start of everything with Lexus and everything they’re doing. Everything we have to learn about the car is new. We’re trying to get a lot done in a short period of time.”
While Lexus engines and vehicles have competed in the United States previously, the new program represents the first direct manufacturer involvement.
“We’ve had a fairly long history of racing here in the States, just not directly,” confirmed Lexus Motorsports manager Mark Egger. “We’ve had engines in prototypes, privateers run IS300 & GS400 cars and trophy trucks in the Baja series, but this RC F program in IMSA brings the whole package together. There’s a lot of excitement about starting a brand new program.”
The first day of testing at Daytona International Speedway also saw the familiar Michael Shank Racing (MSR) team bring out the all-new Acura NSX GT3 for its first official test session. With seven hours of testing available on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the test provides an opportunity for the team to learn what the new car can bring to the table.
“One car is working on chassis balance and the other is working on mileage for durability, and so far, so good,” said team owner Michael Shank. “We’re trying to over-deliver and just keep everyone headed in the right direction, try to keep everyone happy and make progress and knock our list down.”
The new relationship between Acura and MSR has been an easy transition for both sides. With MSR headquartered in Ohio, the shop is already located near Honda’s manufacturing, research and development centers.
“It kind of became a natural fit when we looked for which teams to help support the introduction of the GT3 NSX,” explained Honda Performance Development, Inc. Vice President and Chief Operation Officer Stephen Eriksen. “Because he (Shank) is located in Ohio, we were able to capitalize on resources within Honda outside of just HPD. We’ve actually been able to pull in key members from manufacturing and R&D that know the production car really well to work on the racing program. The whole thing has made for really nice synergy.”
The Acura driver lineup was announced late last month at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada and all four drivers are on-hand for this week’s test. Andy Lally and Jeff Segal are paired together for the test, while Katherine Legge and Ozz Negri are teamed up in a second car after switching from Prototype to GTD.