AFTER A YEAR of speculation, Lexus is expected to confirm it will go racing in Australia with its sleek, V8-powered RC F coupe.
An announcement on whether that will be with V8 Supercars or as a factory GT3 entry at the increasingly popular Bathurst 12 Hour is also expected within a month.
“It’s time for Lexus to reach out to a broader audience, and motorsport, to me, seems like an ideal place for Lexus to do that,” Lexus Australia boss Sean Hanley told Wheels this week at the international launch of the new RX SUV.
“It’s important for us to take the brand where it hasn’t been seen before.”
Lexus has been seriously considering a motorsport berth for its 5.0-litre V8 RC F over more than 12 months.
The Japanese brand would join V8 Supercars in 2017 under the sport’s new Gen2 rules, which will move away from the current four-door sedan, V8-power formula and permit new coupe body styles and different engine configurations.
Hanley said he was three to four weeks away from making a decision, after conducting heavy industry research.
He said several V8 Supercars teams had approached him to run a car under the new rules.
“We’ve had a number of teams reach out to us, but we haven’t had any formal discussions,” he said. “But we’ve certainly had a number of teams express interest in our brand.”
Lexus already enjoys a close association with V8 Supercars, having signed a multi-year deal to provide an RC F road car as the category’s safety car.
Hanley said this had provided the ideal opportunity to evaluate the category without the major, multi-million dollar investment of running a team.
“I’ve got to tell you the safety car has been a good experience for Lexus,” said Hanley. “When the opportunity came up it wasn’t a huge investment, and it allowed us to get involved in the sport.
“We could be part of it, understand the business, meet the teams and meet the people who run V8 Supercars. And it’s been a great organisation to work with.”
But while Hanley was focused on V8 Supercars, Lexus HQ in Japan had other ideas. The company has since invested heavily in the development of an RC F GT3 racing team, which could provide Hanley with a more cost effective way of entering the motorsport arena.
“Look it’s expensive whichever way we go, but we could get global support with GT3,” said Hanley. “V8 Supercars would be solely local and the global direction is clearly the development of a GT3 team. It’s certainly true to say the global development of a GT3 car has put a different view on our thinking.”
Hanley said the increasing popularity of GT3 racing worldwide was also appealing, as was the chance to race alongside other prestige brands on a GT3 grid.
“But that doesn’t mean we’re entering GT3 and not V8 Supercars,” clarified Hanley. “The appeal [of V8 Supercars] is the broad audience. It is still the most watched form of racing in Australia, on a more regular basis.
“We’re very much focused on reaching out to those buyers who are coming out of mainstream brands and stepping up to luxury, and we want Lexus to be on their consideration list.”
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