With its debut year in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the books, Lexus returns to the Rolex 24 At Daytona with plenty of optimism – and a thick notebook filled with data – for its second season of GT Daytona competition.
A year ago, Paul Gentilozzi’s factory Lexus 3GT Racing team placed 14th and 27th in the GT Daytona class at Daytona, opening a year that saw Lexus place eighth in the GTD class manufacturers’ standings.
In 2018, 3GT will be competing in a pro-am context with Lexus factory support. Jack Hawksworth, Dominik Farnbacher, David Heinmeier Hansson and Scott Pruett will share the No. 15 Lexus RCF GT3 at Daytona, while Dominik Baumann, Kyle Marcelli and Bruno Junqueira co-drive the No. 15 entry. Pruett announced Friday that the Rolex 24 will be his last race, wrapping a remarkable 50 years in racing.
Gentilozzi comes to the event looking for his third victory in the Daytona endurance classic. He took the 1994 overall win with Pruett in a GTS-class Clayton Cunningham Nissan 300ZX. Gentilozzi and Pruett earned GTS honors in 2002 driving a Gentilozzi Jaguar XKR.
“We have the ultimate expectation for Daytona,” Gentilozzi said. “We’ve got to believe we’re going to win. If you don’t think you’re going to succeed, you probably won’t. We’re going there to win the race.
“In 2017, while we were really down on top speed, we led the Rolex 24 a couple of times and had we not had tire failures, I think we certainly would have been in the top three, because the car is extremely reliable,” he added.
Lexus Motorsports Manager Mark Egger is pleased with 3GT Racing’s progress entering the new season.
“We’ve gained a lot,” he said. “Coming into the Rolex 24 last year, we had a great big notebook that was empty. There was no track data information that the team was able to utilize. The drivers didn’t know some of the tracks, they didn’t know the car. There was a lot of learning that came through the year that we were able to build up that notebook to come into the second season. With that notebook, we’ve got a good baseline, a good foundation to set the car up, and the team has done a good job being able to be successful.”
En route to building up that notebook, Lexus enjoyed several highlights.
“We didn’t have a podium, we didn’t have a win, but we learned a lot that first year,” Egger said. “You don’t start off by winning races instantly. We had a couple of fastest laps, Sage Karam was able to get a pole in Canada, so we knew that the vehicle was very sound and reliable. Now it’s a matter of putting all those pieces together with the track data, learning what the car can do and what its strengths are, and come out successful.”
Egger has bigger expectations for 2018, but is realistic in setting his goals.
“We recognize we’re competing against manufacturers who’ve been around 40, 50, 60 years in motorsports, and this is our first real foray in sports car racing,” Egger explained. “I would like to see a podium – I’d love to see us win – but we’re very cognizant that we’re up against formidable competitors that are able to go further back in their notebooks to put their cars on the track than we are at this point in time.”