The Lexus IMSA GT Daytona program could have a new partner team in 2019. Multiple sources have told RACER the Vasser-Sullivan Racing team will join the Lexus Racing family in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. And while no definitive answer has been provided, the Jimmy Vasser- and James “Sulli” Sullivan-owned outfit could either serve as an addition to current Lexus partner 3GT Racing (pictured above), or as a replacement for the Michigan-based squad. Most have positioned the latter scenario as the anticipated outcome.
Under the KVSH Racing banner, Vasser and Sullivan were among the finalists when the Lexus GTD program was initially up for bid in 2015. Lexus, through its Toyota Racing Development division, ultimately awarded the contract to the Paul Gentilozzi-owned 3GT outfit.
Since the closure of the KVSH IndyCar team, the two partners returned to IndyCar this season with Dale Coyne Racing on the entry for Sebastien Bourdais and have been searching for other opportunities to expand their footprint in the sport.
Entered as Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, Bourdais’ No. 18 Honda has featured a variety of sponsors Sullivan has found and brought to the program. Provided the Vasser-Sullivan team is confirmed, Sullivan’s talents would play a central role in supporting a Lexus effort in IMSA’s Pro-Am GT class.
Upon 3GT’s debut with Lexus in 2017, IMSA allowed the Japanese luxury brand to fully fund the team for one season. Per the series’ rules, Lexus was required to dial back its financial support of 3GT for 2018, and as a result, a number of funded drivers have stepped into the race-winning RC F GT3s.
According to those with knowledge of the partnership being offered by Lexus, Vasser-Sullivan would be being responsible for supplying the majority of the operating budget, and in light of Sullivan’s expertise in this area, it could be a perfect commercial fit for both sides.
Vasser’s longstanding ties to Toyota as a dealer in Northern California, and links to the brand while using its engines in the CART IndyCar Series and the Indy Racing League, would also factor in the brand’s decision-making process.
Reached for comment, Vasser told RACER “we have nothing to report.”
As RACER reported in August, Lexus met with numerous teams over the summer to explore its partnership opportunities. Similar to the comments he provided last month, Lexus Motorsports Manager Mark Egger declined to answer whether a new partner has been chosen, and only offered thoughts on the current season.
“We’re 100 percent focused on 2018,” he said. “We have two races to go, we’ve won two races this year, and we’re going to continue to build on the success we’ve had earlier this year.”
Gentilozzi echoed Egger’s present-minded focus.
“Our focus is Laguna and the 2018 championship,” he said.
Through his former SH Racing Global Rallycross team, Sullivan had a full staff to run the high-profile project. It’s believed a Vasser-Sullivan IMSA effort would require a fresh round of hiring to put the program in motion.
Unrelated to IMSA, Vasser-Sullivan is also said to have purchased a brand-new Dallara DW12 Indy car chassis. It’s intended use is unknown.