DAYTONA, Fla. (January 29, 2018) – The No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3, with driver Jack Hawksworth at the wheel, finished P9 at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The No. 14 finished P15, with new driver Kyle Marcelli taking the car over the finish line.
Hawksworth, who had qualified the car and began the race at P3, said he was happy to bring home the top-10 finish and to get some points early on, but he’s convinced the team and the cars are prepared for better finishes as the season progresses.
“With all of the testing we’ve done up to this point, I could tell pretty early in the race that the grip and the balance of the car was not as good as it had been in the practice,” said Hawksworth. “I struggled a little bit in the beginning and then dropped back a bit. Then, as the night came in it got a little bit better and I felt a little bit stronger. Obviously, we had some issues towards the end with a bit of contact with a GTLM car and then we had the incident in Turn 5 and that really hurt the balance of the car.”
The Turn 5 incident occurred when Hawksworth’s co-pilot, David Heinemeier Hansson, took the No. 15 into a tire wall just two laps before he was due to come in for a driver change. DHH acknowledged having a few struggles in his first stint driving when it began to rain.
“This is the first time I’ve made it to the end of Daytona,” he said. “It’s much easier when you finish after 10 or 12 hours. But that first stint – when the rain started – was a new experience for me and I definitely struggled. The afternoon was much better until two laps before I came in. The race, for me, was definitely a baptism by fire.”
Hawksworth, who drove for nine hours, said that after the incident at Turn 5, the damage to the front caused the car to act a bit like a sail, making the straights a little slower, but smooth on the slow speed corners. He was very happy with the crew.
“The guys did a really good job with the pit stops and everyone stuck it out to the end,” Hawksworth said. “It’s really easy to lose your head in a situation when things are kind of going against you a little bit, but we kept our heads up, kept on battling and came away with a top-10, so we’ll take that.”
Dominik Baumann, one of the entirely new team of drivers on the No. 14, qualified P6 in the Lexus RC F GT3 and took the car from sixth to the lead in the early laps of the race. This was Baumann’s first race in the U.S., earlier he was the class winner in Dubai’s 24-hour race.
“After the technical problem early, it made it hard for us to show what we really can do in the Lexus RC F GT3,” he said. “I think we could finish top 5 easy, so we have to work on it keep pushing and show what the car and drivers can do.”
Kyle Marcelli, co-driver in the No. 14, noted that the race was particularly grueling because it was nearly green flag for the entire 24 hours.
“Only three cautions, only 20 laps of nearly 800 under yellow,” he said. “Hats off to the drivers and teams for keeping it safe. It was a flawless job, just goes to show the level of competition. We got really excited after qualifying – qualifying 3 and 6 – felt pretty good. But the temperature was a lot different come race time. We picked up some understeer, didn’t quite have the same pace that the car had in practice and in qualifying. But if you look at the whole race, the drivers and team pretty much executed a flawless race. No major penalties, no major mistakes. We had one hiccup at hour six, but all in all a really good job. Half the battle of these 24-hour races is just finishing.”
The Rolex 24 at Daytona was not only the kickoff to the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series, but the race was also the last for veteran sports car driver Scott Pruett, who announced during the Roar Before the 24 that the endurance race would be his last.
Pruett is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. The longtime sports car champion drove last year with 3GT Racing in both the No. 14 and No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 cars. He and 3GT Racing’s Managing Partner, Paul Gentilozzi, have been friends for more than 30 years.
Gentilozzi said he is still having a hard time believing that Scott Pruett is retiring. In 1994, he and Pruett teamed up with Butch Leitzinger to win the overall Rolex 24 at Daytona. And together, Pruett and Gentilozzi, earned two class wins at Daytona, and Pruett won a TransAm Championship while driving for Gentilozzi.
“I still don’t believe it,” Gentilozzi said. “For 30-plus years, Scott’s been a competitor, a co-driver, a friend. You don’t often have competitors who are friends, but he’ll be a friend for life.”
As for 3GT Racing’s finish at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Gentilozzi said he plans to take the lessons learned during the grueling race to heart and get ready for the next race.
“We raced for 24 hours with everybody else, we raced really hard. We learned a lot about our team and our drivers and our cars. So, I’m going to take away that satisfaction. This is not the end we want. But when you look at yourself and say ‘Well, we could have won.’ Yes, we could have won, but so could three or four other teams. Everybody has their good and bad luck. I’m happy with the team we have. We’re going to celebrate and focus on Sebring.”
Next up for the 3GT Racing team is The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 17 beginning at 10:30 a.m.
About 3GT Racing
3GT Racing was formed to race the Lexus RC F GT3. Owned and operated by five-time Trans-Am Series Champion, Paul Gentilozzi and his longtime partners, Tony and John Gentilozzi, the East Lansing, Michigan-based team principals have been involved in motorsports for more than 48 years and have claimed more than 75 victories and 15 manufacturer and driver championships.
Brenda Brissette Mata