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Lexus Secures Second in Inaugural IMSA Sprint Cup Championship
"Lexus finished second in the inaugural IMSA GTD Sprint Cup Manufacturer’s Championship following a ninth-place result by Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand in the No. 14 RCF GT3 on Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The AIM VASSER SULLIVAN (AVS) No. 14 finished runner-up in the Sprint Cup team championship and Hawksworth and Heistand are third in the final Sprint Cup driver points.
Fellow AVS drivers, Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo, rank seventh in the final Sprint Cup team and driver standings. Bell and Montecalvo finished in 11th-place behind the wheel of the No. 12 Lexus at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile Northern California road course where Lexus serves as the Official Luxury Vehicle.
After 10 races this season, the AVS Lexus RC F GT3 entries have combined to earn two wins, five podiums, nine top-fives and 15 top-10 results. Lexus is currently fourth in the overall GTD manufacturer’s championship standings with one race remaining. The AVS No. 12 Lexus drivers are currently sixth in the overall GTD driver’s championship and the No. 14 RC F GT3 sits seventh.
Sunday’s race at Laguna Seca was the seventh and final sprint race on the 2019 schedule before closing out the season in the 10-hour Petit Le Mans endurance event at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on October 12. The season-finale at Road Atlanta will be broadcast live on NBC, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EDT. The race action will also be live on the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. Fans can also follow Lexus Racing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by using #LexusRCF GT3, #LexusPerformance and #LexusRacing, and online at www.Lexus.com/Motorsports."
I attended the race as a guest of Lexus. I am not a race reporter so this isn't a report of the race. Other publications and television have provided a blow-by-blow report of the race. My intent is to talk about my experience.
It's been a long, long time since I've attended an IMSA race, probably back in the 1990s. When I lived in Toronto I traveled once to Mid-Ohio to watch a race; back then Nissan, headed by Geoff Brabham, was winning team. There were four classes, GTP, Lights, GTO, and GTU. As best as I remember it was a very exciting race.
In the 1990s I attended two races at what was then just Laguna Seca Raceway. Both times a friend of mine worked to a race team. The first time he worked for an independent GT Light, rent-a-racer team out of Florida. The driver of the day slapped the outside wall while exiting turn eleven (the exit was much tighter than it is now). The whole left side of the car's body was destroyed. In order to be paid for the full ride the car had to be in the actual race. I was recruited to help in the repair. The damaged fiber-glass was cut off and replaced with plywood. White Mylar was laid over the plywood. It actually looked pretty good and the car made the race.
Then later in the '90s my friend was working for Comptech Racing when they ran the Acura GT Light program. Toyota was king in GT with the Gurney team.
So it has been a long, long time since I've been to an IMSA race. I have to say that I was impressed. IMSA's organization is top notch. Prior to the race the drivers signed autographs - It was like autograph row! The race itself was exciting with a lot of bumpin' and pushin' in all classes. One of the things casual race fans may find confusing with IMSA are the classes - DPi (Daytona Prototype International), LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2), GTLM (GT Le Mans), and GTD (GT Daytona). To me DPi and LMP2 look very similar -
DPi (illustrations from IMSA)
DPi includes Acura, Cadillac, Mazda, and Nissan.
LMP2 had two cars, both from Oreca. GTLM includes the Chevrolet Corvette C7R, BMW M8, Ford GT, and Porsche 911 RSR. GTD includes the Acura NSX GT3,BMW M6 GT3, Ferrari 488 GT3, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Lexus RC F GT3, McLaren 720S GT3,Mercedes-AMG GT3, and Porsche 911 GT3.
Photos by Sideline Sports Photography/Lexus Racing
Although both Lexus cars did poorly at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca they finished second in their class championship which is very good for a new team. They freely admitted that there cars are not suited to this track.
Racing and racers don't stand still. I expect AIM Vasser Sullivan to do better next year. Of course their competition will be looking to improve as well. That's all part of racing.
One big plus for me was to meet Scott Pruett again. I first met Scott way back in the '80s at a race. Then towards the end of the life of the first generation Lexus IS (around 2005) Lexus brought one with a 5-liter V8 to the Western Automotive Journalists Media Day at what was then Laguna Seca. Scott was the designated driver.
Photos by Sideline Sports Photography/Lexus Racing
I've always admired Scott Pruett for two reasons. First he has been successful in a variety of cars. And second he always seems to enjoy what he does. At the race Sunday, while I was up in the Lexus suite, I saw Scott down below me talking with a camera crew. He had a huge smile on his face. Later I got to talk to him briefly. He's "retired" now although he's still involved in racing. I told him that he seemed at ease with his life and he said he was. He told me he was concerned about retirement, about finding the next adrenaline rush. But he said life was good, he did testing for Lexus, and works as their racing Ambassador.
Scott also has also has a vineyard, Pruett Vineyard (https://www.pruettvineyard.com/) that makes some very "tasty" (his word) wine. To me Scott is still a kid and I wish him many more years of enjoying life.
A huge thank you to Lexus for allowing me a peek behind the curtain. There is a lot of hard work behind a race team. There are many unsung people making sure everything is just right. As I found out many years ago no matter how well prepared the team and car(s) are there can always be a unsuspected problem. That's where a great team comes into play - they don't panic they just get the job done.
Next time IMSA comes to the area you should go. It's a great show.