The close to IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Mid-Ohio was a nail-biter in the GT Daytona category, but it’s safe to say the final laps were the only moments where the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 program felt any heat from behind on its way to a breakthrough win for the Japanese model.
A long and oft-delayed start to the Lexus GTD effort saw its first RC F GT3 binned in favor of a newly developed chassis, and with the intended 2016 debut pushed back to 2017, the Michigan-based squad weathered a series of humbling problems before the cars became contenders.
Returning in 2018 with a new Pro-Am driver lineup, the RC F GT3s were clearly fast and held immense potential that was finally rewarded on the twisting Ohio road course as its Nos. 14 and 15 entries qualified 1-2 and led every lap of the GTD race. Considering how far off the program was in the beginning, its transformation into a winning effort is among the most remarkable achievements so far in the 2018 season.
“We are ecstatic,” said Lexus Motorsports Manager Mark Egger. “We were able to take all of the pieces that we’ve been able to put together over the last year and a half developing the RC F GT3 with some near misses and some heartbreaks throughout the last year and get our first GTD win. 3GT Racing did a fantastic job putting together a great program and everything came together this weekend, so we’re very happy to get that first win with the RC F GT3.”
Kyle Marcelli, who shared the victorious No. 14 with Dominik Baumann, shared Egger’s enthusiasm.
“This is a huge win. It’s always difficult to get the first one. There is always a lot of pressure,” he said. The Canadian-German duo chased the sister No. 15 Lexus for a good portion of the race, and with Baumann in for the closing drive, he withstood all Meyer Shank Racing’s Alvaro Parente could muster in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3.
Baumann would have less than two-tenths of second in hand at the finish line.
“I felt the pressure coming with 15 minutes to the end,” he said. “We struggled a little a bit with the used tires in the second half of the stint. We have to push harder at the beginning of a stint to pull a gap. I was maybe a little bit lucky with traffic which depends on when you get the prototypes, if it’s between two and four or near the infield. I think one more lap and he would have passed me for sure.
“I was happy when I saw the white flag, one more lap, he closed in so quick and I just tried to defend with everything I’ve got. It’s a great feeling. I thought, ‘no mistakes, go to the finish line. stay focused.’ It was crazy in the car, and it’s an honor for me to drive the car over the finish line for [the first win for] 3GT and Lexus, it’s just an amazing feeling.”