Lexus plans next-gen IMSA GT3 car, adds Le Mans to wish list

Lexus will replace its “Frankenstein” IMSA GT Daytona car with a purpose-built racer, likely based on Toyota’s new GR GT3 Concept, that it could take to the Le Mans 24 Hours in future.

Lexus plans next-gen IMSA GT3 car, adds Le Mans to wish list
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Lexus has raced in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with its RC F since 2017, based on a road car platform that was never intended to race in the GT3 arena.

Parent company Toyota unveiled its GR GT3 Concept at the Tokyo Auto Salon last month. This new design isn’t based on a model from its current road car range, but is a ground-up, next-generation GT3-specification racer (pictured below) that could be morphed into a future Lexus model.

GR GT3 Concept

GR GT3 Concept

Photo by: Motorsport.com / Japan

Speaking at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, Andrew Gilleland, group VP and general manager of the Lexus Division, hinted at the direction of travel that his brand has lined up with its parent, the Toyota Motor Corporation.

“We have some future products that we’re connecting the dots with TMC and globalizing our GT program, and we want to win where we race,” said Gilleland. “Obviously with the rules package… everybody says have a big, wild, hairy goal – well I’d love to go to Le Mans one day. Now I’m not sure that’s going to ever happen but, boy, that would be cool.

“So this globalization of GT racing is really driving it, even at TMC level, everybody saw the car they showed on stage in Tokyo. You don’t need much imagination to figure out where that’s going.”

On Monday, Lexus teased images of its “possible next-generation BEV Sport” – a long-nosed, short-tailed coupe from a future range of road car models that would embrace electrification. Its basic dimensions (below) put it in step with those of the GR GT3 Concept.

Lexus BEV Sport
Lexus BEV Sport
1/3

Photo by: Lexus

Lexus BEV Sport
Lexus BEV Sport
2/3

Photo by: Lexus

Lexus BEV Sport
Lexus BEV Sport
3/3

Photo by: Lexus

Lexus’s current RC F racer is homologated through 2026, but Gilleland declared: “We will not be racing this car in 2026, I can assure you of that. But we will be racing in 2026.

“In our particular situation today, we’re an underdog. I love outperforming brands that we have no right to be up there with, and we do it consistently.

“It’s helping us with TMC, and I think Akio [Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota] is very interested in sportscar racing, so it’s almost perfect timing for all this to be coming together.”

Toyota Racing’s David Wilson, who is responsible for the delivery of Lexus’s racing activities in North America, explained the lifecycle of the Lexus RC F and how it became a “Frankenstein” car among IMSA’s GTD ranks.

“I’ll be candid in saying that this is not a GT3 car,” said Wilson. “But this has been a learning opportunity for our company because the car we’re racing right now is an afterthought to make it a GT3 car, and that’s not how you bring a GT3 to market. Before you put the first line on paper, as an engineer you determine that’s going to be a GT3 car.

“We call it a bit of a Frankenstein, to raise the level of performance, and that has been impressive, the work that we’ve done in North America in collaboration with our partners in Europe and Asia, to make a competitive race car that’s won races and we’ll keep racing with it and hopefully compete for championships.

“Today, we’re racing against 10 makes, 35 cars in the GT class – to see Lexus mix it up with Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis – that’s where we should be, it’s very special. This car is homologated through 2026, but I say, ‘God help us if we’re still racing this car then.’ It’s long in the tooth even today.

“We are working behind the scenes with our partners and colleagues in Japan on the development of the next generation, and that’s exciting.”

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