By IMSA Wire Service
LEXINGTON, Ohio — Lexus put forth the dominating performance it had been dreaming of since entering the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) class in 2017 Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
It was just a matter of which of the two Lexus RC F GT3s was going to pull off the feat.
Saturday afternoon, Jack Hawksworth in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 scored the manufacturer’s second WeatherTech Championship Motul Pole Award. While the drivers of the team’s other entry – Kyle Marcelli and Daniel Baumann in the No. 14 Lexus completed the 1-2 sweep of qualifying.
At the end of Sunday’s race, it was Marcelli and Baumann on the top of the podium after dominating the second half of the two-hour, 40-minute Acura Sports Car Challenge to deliver the historic first North American victory for the Lexus RC F GT3.
“This is a huge win,” said Marcelli, who also won overall in yesterday’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Mid-Ohio 120. “It’s always difficult to get the first one. There is always a lot of pressure. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself. This is the first sprint race of the season and I knew we had a strong car and a strong driver line-up and we needed to execute. I knew if we didn’t make a mistake then we should get a good result.
“It’s a team effort, the 3GT guys have worked so hard for two years. It’s the second year of the program, so it’s an honor to bring them the first win for 3GT and Lexus. (Going to Detroit), I guess you could say it’s a home race for the team, so again we’re probably going to put a lot of extra pressure on ourselves to go ahead and execute.”
Between the two Lexus racecars, 3GT Racing led every lap of Sunday afternoon’s race. Hawksworth and co-driver David Heinemeier Hansson led the first 43 laps and ultimately finished fourth, which also bested Lexus’ prior best finish of fifth up until Mid-Ohio.
However, the win wasn’t without it’s drama.
Alvaro Parente in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 looked to deliver heartbreak for Lexus and a victory for the race’s entitlement manufacturer, at one point pulling within inches of Baumann on the final lap of the race. Baumann was able to hold off the charge, leaving Parente and co-driver Katherine Legge with a runner-up GTD finish for Acura.
“I felt the pressure coming with 15 minutes to the end,” said Baumann “We struggled a little a bit with the used tires in the second half of the stint. 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. (The first win), it’s a great feeling.”
Rounding out the podium were Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts winners Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracán GT3, who increased their lead in the championship to eight points following their third consecutive podium.
The next race for the WeatherTech Championship GTD class will be the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Belle Isle Park in Detroit on June 1 – 2. Tickets are available at detroitgp.com.