Following the exciting news that Lexus will spearhead its international motorsport programme with the phenomenal Lexus RC F GT3, we look back at some of the most important milestones in the history of Lexus in motorsport.
1999 – Lexus entered the world of motorsport with two GS 400 models prepared for the Grand-American Motorola Cup Sports class. Team Lexus won its sixth race in this inaugural year and went on to claim two track records and four podium finishes.
2001 – Team Lexus debuted three new IS 300 racecars in the Grand-American Cup North American Street Stock Series. The model was competitive immediately, scoring its first pole position in its fourth race and first race win in the fifth round.
2001 – On the other side of the Atlantic, 2001 saw the less powerful IS 200 make its first appearance in the MSA British Touring Car Championship in the hands of privateer team TotalMotorSport Racing. Though not officially supported by Lexus GB, the car was regarded as the fastest non-works machine in the championship.
2005 – Lexus became the first car manufacturer to compete in a major endurance race with a full hybrid car. This notoriety began with the Lexus RX 400h – not the most traditional of vehicles to take part in the Nürburgring 24-hour race but its success proved that hybrid technology was a viable alternative to diesel in the alternative fuels class. (Photo: Speedhunters)
2006 – Following the launch of Lexus in Japan, parent company Toyota decided that the Lexus SC 430 coupe should succeed its Supra racecar in the domestic Super GT series of the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championship. A total of four SC 430s were prepared for the premier GT500 class, where the model was immediately successful. An SC 430 won the debut race of the 2006 season and went on to capture the overall class championship. The model continued to be a dominant force in GT500 until it was retired at the end of the 2010 season.
2006 – Following its introduction as the world’s first rear-wheel drive hybrid sports saloon, and buoyed by the success of the RX 400h in the previous year’s Nürburgring 24-hour race, Lexus entered the new GS 450h in Japan’s only 24-hour race. The production-based GS finished fourth in its class and 17th overall in a field of 33 cars. But more importantly, its involvement allowed Lexus engineers to collect more vital data on the potential of hybrid systems in top-level motorsport.
2008 – Lexus joined the lower power GT300 class of Japan’s Super GT series with an IS 350 in 2008. During its debut season the car won its fifth race, but in the following season it powered its two pilots to the double-whammy of the drivers’ and team championships.
2009 – This year Lexus repeated the unusual decision to race its LF-A concept in the gruelling Nürburgring 24-hour race. The 2008 event was marred by an early crash, so for 2009 the investment was increased with the entry of two LF-A concepts and a production Lexus IS F in the SP8 class. One of the LF-As posted the fastest lap time in the class and set a top speed just 2.5mph slower than the fastest car in the top SP9 class.
2010 – A duo of production-specification Lexus LFAs once again took part in the Nürburgring 24-hour race, this time improving on the previous year’s performance with an overall class win. The purpose of competing for these past three years was to use the accumulated data and track experience to finalise development of the LFA before it entered production in December 2010.
2011 – The race debut of the Lexus CT 200h took place in the six-hour Adenauer ADAC Rundstrecken-Trophy at the Nürburgring. Primed by the same team responsible for the Lexus LFA racecars, the modified CT was particularly notable for proving the endurance and power of the forthcoming 2.4-litre Lexus Hybrid Drive petrol engine now fitted to the IS 300h, GS 300h and NX 300h.
2012 – The true purpose behind the development of the track-ready Lexus IS F CCS-R was similarly shrouded mystery. Revealed at the 2011 Tokyo Auto Salon, the CCS-R was used in anger on the 2012 and 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, achieving second and first places respectively in the event’s exhibition class. It was initially thought that the car’s enlarged 5.0-litre V8 and extensive use of carbon was to combat the debilitating effect of thin air at altitude. It later turned out that the car was a development mule for the forthcoming Lexus RC F Carbon.
2014 – Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, the Lexus RC F GT3 Racing Concept is the car tasked with taking the motorsport baton from the LFA and running off into the distance with it. That intention was reinforced with the model’s introduction into the GT500 class of Japan’s Super GT series. Five race-prepared RC F models entered the first race and delivered impressive one-two-four finishes. Perhaps most impressive was the car’s performance in the Suzuka 1,000km (see below), where it led the field for five-and-a-half hours and every one of its 173 laps.
2015 – At the recent North American International Auto Show, Lexus Racing revealed its new logo (see below) and details of its exciting new international race programme spearheaded by the Lexus RC F GT3. As well as continuing its involvement in domestic Super GT, 2015 will see the coupe homologated for competition in Europe’s FIA GT3 category. The following year Lexus Racing will continue to expand its portfolio into an undetermined series in the United States.