When Lexus entered the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona (GTD) class in 2017 with its RC F GT3 race car, it was the start of something entirely new for the marque. What’s more, it was going up against a host of other manufacturers all with far more experience of racing GT3-spec machinery.
Along with the all-new RC F GT3 came a young driver who’d never raced a sports car or been involved in developing an unproven program into a winning proposition.
“Yes, it was my first time in a new racecar that had never competed before,” says Jack Hawksworth. “But whether it’s a new car or existing car, you’re always trying to develop and improve on what you already have.”
In motorsports, changes and challenges come fast and frequent. Over the four seasons since the RC F GT3 program’s launch, Hawksworth has been one of few constants. There’s been a change of team to AIM Vasser Sullivan, a change of tires to Michelin and, in Hawksworth’s case, a different co-driver each season to learn how to work with on car setup.
“The racecar was initially developed in Japan,” says Hawksworth, “so once we got it over to the States, we had to figure out how to adapt and optimize it to the types of tracks and races we’d be running. We made big strides in every area, starting with the ABS brake system and tire management. Then, in 2019, we had to do a big rethink when the series switched to racing on Michelin tires.”
There were goals to be met for each season, Hawksworth explains. Year one was consistent fast laps; year two, start winning races. By year three, the goal was to be a consistent challenger at every race. And for season four, success in meeting those targets has put the team in a position to vie for multiple GTD class titles.
Having been a part of it from the start, Hawksworth’s proud of the progress made, but won’t rest until he and the team deliver a title.
“As a driver, I’m only a small part of a much bigger puzzle,” he says. “To win championships, every person in the team has to perform. This year, we’ve really gelled, and we are in the fight. Every day we continue to learn, build on our strengths and address our weaknesses. The aim is to win a championship. It doesn’t always go your way, but no matter what, everyone involved in this project is focused 100 percent on that. Win or lose, we keep on pushing and never take our eyes off that goal.”
When AIM Vasser Sullivan became Lexus Racing’s IMSA GTD class customer team in late 2018, there wasn’t a minute to lose.
“We got our first race cars right around November 1, and had to be ready for the Rolex 24 at Daytona the following January,” recalls team co-owner Jimmy Vasser. “It wasn’t just the cars, it was equipment and people, too, and that’s where Ian and Keith Willis from AIM were a huge asset. It was also where being a Lexus customer team was a great help. Lexus is here to win and it has input, but it doesn’t hold your hand every step of the way. We still had a lot to learn on our own. It was daunting, but a lot of fun.”
Now, the Lexus RC F GT3 is one of the cars to beat in the super-competitive GTD class. Despite the extraordinary challenges of the 2020 season, Vasser says the team has worked through it with only the championship in mind.
“It’s been an interesting and ever-evolving season,” he says. “On the team side, Ian [Willis] and Kevin Stittle have done an incredible job of keeping everyone focused. I’ve never been one to make predictions, so as we head toward the end of the season, we’ve still got to keep pushing hard. It’s a challenge, but one that we all relish.”