Vasser Sullivan’s Off-Season Transformation “Paying Off”

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Vasser Sullivan’s third year as the steward of Lexus’ IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship program comes with significant changes behind the scenes including a relocation to a new facility in Concord, N.C. which co-owner James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan says has led to an “improved caliber of talent” within the squad.

Sullivan, along with co-owner Jimmy Vasser, split from their partner of the past two seasons AIM Autosport following last year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring primarily in order to relocate to the Charlotte area.

The move puts the team in the middle of a hotbed of motorsports talent, while their headquarters are now just miles from their technical partners at Toyota Racing Development.

“It’s no secret in the motorsports world that there’s a tremendous amount of talent and human resources in Charlotte and that geography,” Sullivan told Sportscar365.

“That was a big reason for relocation of the program number one, and then number two to be closer to our engineering partner TRD, which is based in Salisbury.

“The move has paid off in that regard. We’ve been able to fill in the holes and also improve the caliber of the talent of the team members on the Lexus Vasser Sullivan squad.”

Among the additions are former Dempsey Racing and Magnus Racing team manager Greg Cates who also served as the crew chief for 3GT Racing when that team ran the Lexus program in its first two seasons.

Cates most recently worked for Joest Racing North America.

The team has filled out its crew roster with new faces from NASCAR and sports car racing, supplementing the U.S.-based crew that was drafted in last season when COVID-19 travel restrictions made it difficult for AIM’s Canadian mechanics to service the cars.

“We have some extremely talented people that have joined us freshly from the NASCAR world,” said Sullivan. “They have, as you’d expect, a little bit of education on their hands as to how things work in the sports car world, but talent is talent.

“Water is always going to find its level, so you can quickly see these guys finding their level here, and they’ve been good additions.

“Also, specifically within the Charlotte area, we’ve been able to add some great full time sports car players that have come into our program from other extremely competitive programs.

“We’ve really done a good job of assembling a team which is capable of advancing this program, quite frankly, which is what the expectation is that’s been placed on us.

“We’re coming into our third season now and yes, it is the first time without our former partner AIM, but it’s still the third year of the program in our hands.

“There’s got to continue to the advancement and that’ what we expect to be doing.”

Vasser told Sportscar365 that the crew has had a packed schedule in the short time since the conclusion of the 2020 season.

“Fortunately we were able to retain the assets that we shared with our partners at AIM Autosport last year, so that helped out a bit in regards to equipment and trailers,” he said.

“In the two months time we were able to get two cars for two days of testing at Daytona and another single day of of testing, so five car-days of testing.

“We did four days of simulator runs, and two days of other shaker rig development for dampers. We really were able to pack a lot into a short amount of time.”

Team Committed to GT Future

With uncertainty around the future of IMSA’s GT class structure hovering over the paddock, both Vasser and Sullivan said they’re focused on the season at hand before laying plans for 2022 and beyond.

Both owners, however, expressed a strong desire to remain in sports car racing generally, and GT racing specifically, for years to come.

“We’re open ears at the moment,” said Sullivan. “The clear direction right now from the perspective of Vasser Sullivan Lexus is that we are going be here, we’re going to be in IMSA, and we’re going to be in GT racing.

“Right now our eyes and ears are open to what GT racing looks like from the direction of John Doonan and IMSA. Once we get a clear-cut direction on that then we’ll immediately begin to make concrete plans.”

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