When International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) president and Chief Operating Officer Scott Atherton said the decision to move to GT3 specifications for the WeatherTech series’ two GT classes was going to pay off in terms of more manufacturers getting involved, he wasn’t kidding. Fans can expect to see the Lexus RC F GT3 at selected races towards the end of the season this year and there are plans for a multi-car, full-season effort next year for F Performance Racing, which has enlisted Scott Pruett and Sage Karam as drivers.
“I would say what we are witnessing now in both the GTLM [GT Le Mans] and GTD [GT Daytona] categories will continue and if anything become more competitive, if that’s possible,” Atherton said. “We saw the announcement of Lexus coming and that’s yet another mainstream major manufacturer that’s coming to the GT Daytona class.”
The switch to GT3 specifications may seem relatively minor to casual fans, but it’s huge to the manufacturers and it’s showing. They can focus on building one car for the entire world, making it more cost efficient and it’s no coincidence that Lexus’ return to racing for the first time since 2009 coincided with the move to GT3 specs.
“I have described it as the opportunity since the merger for us to have purpose-built rules and regulations,” Atherton said. “Up until this point everything’s been a compromise. It was a result of combining what was the Grand-Am GT class and what were the American Le Mans Series GT classes and putting them together.
Not to be outdone, Acura unveiled its new NSX GT3 at this week’s New York International Car Show. The car will be powered by a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged DOHC V-6 engine. The beginnings of the NSX GT3 can be traced to Lexus’ Japan race engineers and now additional testing duties and homologation to FIA (International Automobile Federation] GT3 racing specs will be handled by Honda Performance Development. HPD is hoping to have the homologation process completed in the fall.
“The NSX was designed as a pinnacle expression of Acura Precision Crafted Performance, and we’re looking forward to proving out its ultimate performance capabilities in GT3 racing,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development. “We’ll be working with the NSX engineering teams in Ohio and Japan to bring our dream of a truly world-class new Acura NSX racecar to fruition.”
Acura is no stranger to racing in IMSA, having won ALMS championships in 2009, when Acura captured the LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype 1) and LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) class championships.
At the 12 Hours of Sebring post-race press conference, Pruett said there was more testing to be done on the Lexus and he was hopeful the team would have a better idea of its plans towards the end of April. He also said a trip to Le Mans was most likely out of the question, as between working on the Lexus and Pruett Vineyards, his plate was pretty full.
Lexus announced in January an agreement that would have the car racing in the WeatherTech series GTD class through the end of the 2018 season, which is when the F Performance Racing also announced the addition of Karam.
“We have had our eye on Sage for some time,” said Paul Gentilozzi, Managing Partner of F Performance Racing. “His experience in IMSA events with Scott at Daytona and Sebring showed us great maturity. Our program is a building experience, and having Scott Pruett as a teammate/mentor is really a priceless commodity. I am sure Sage will fit in with our group and help us get a first victory for Lexus and F Performance Racing.”
The next stop for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championsship will be April 16 for the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. The Prototype, LMPC and GT Le Mans classes will contest the race. All four classis in the series will compete in the next event, the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 1.