Motor1 had a chance to chat with driver Jack Hawksworth, as well as 3GT Racing Technical Director John Gentilozzi, during a test session day this week.
If you're a racing fan living in Canada, you should know that as a group, you're considered some of the most knowledgeable fans in the world. That's coming straight from the mouth of 3GT Racing driver Jack Hawksworth, who is piloting the Lexus RC F GT3 in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this weekend during the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix. Taking place at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, it's the first time the heavily-modified RC F will be competing on Canadian soil.
Motor1 had a chance to chat with Hawksworth, as well as 3GT Racing Technical Director John Gentilozzi, during a test session day this week. Both seemed in good spirits as we relaxed in a trailer, while next door their team was a flurry of activity as they worked away on the number 14 and 15 RC F GT3s.
In terms of the car itself, Gentilozzi says the race version really isn't wildly different from the production model you can purchase at your local dealership.
"We have to take a little bit of the production car away in order to fit the tire in," says Gentilozzi. "We add a roll cage, and there are a few of the production bits that get deleted, but for the most part, the body shell itself is the same you'd see roll off the line."
The same goes with the engine, which shares many similarities - including the block, crankshaft, camshafts, and VVT system - with the 5.0-litre V8 that's fitted into the production RC F.
"They (Lexus) have tried to keep a lot of the spirit of the car and certainly a lot of the base engine architecture involved in this (GT3) car versus the production car," says Gentilozzi.
As for Hawksworthe, he's been driving the RC F GT3 since October, and he describes the car simply as "a lot of fun." He even drove the "base" RC F briefly, and notes just how powerful it is for a "road car" (540 horsepower out of the box certainly isn't anything to scoff at).
This weekend will be Hawkworthe's first time racing at CTMP, and while he's heard good things about the track and is eager to compete, both he and Gentollizini are pretty excited about the open track walk, where fans can meet the teams right on pit lane on race day ahead of when the green flag is waved.
"It's very unique, and I think it's one of the neatest things that IMSA does really because you're never going to get that kind of opportunity in any other racing series," says Gentilozzi. "From our perspective, when we get that open fan access, fans will come up and ask you a question, or ask 'can I stand in front of the car and get a picture with my kid?' - that's the kind of experience you want fans to leave with, not just standing at the back of a tent and kind of peering over someone's shoulder."
Gentilozzi also notes how important it is for Lexus customers, dealers, and partners to experience the weekend, and realize that Lexus is more than just a brand that makes luxurious, comfortable cars.
"In a lot of cases, your average Lexus buyer may not have been a motorsport fan, but to get those customers to the racetrack and to see the effort is part of what this program is about, to change the perception of Lexus, to see Lexus as a performance brand and as a motorsport brand and to see our car in this environment at a track that has this much history is really important for the brand side of our program."
Aside from the business aspect of the weekend, it's those Canadian racing fans that both Hawksworth and Gentilozzi have high praise for.
"I've always loved racing in Canada, because people love their racing up here, and people understand their racing up here. They don't just come to the track and watch. They actually understand what's going on, whether it's Formula One or IndyCar or Sportscar," says Hawksworth.
Gentilozzi adds that "I think that's maybe one of the differences we see in the States, the people here aren't just a fan of one category. They're knowledgeable in a lot of stuff, and when you talk to them, it's neat because there's fathers and sons or daughters and they're getting their kids into it, they're explaining what's going on, they bring them around the car. And we like to sort of foster that. If we've got a free minute and the kid wants to sit in the car or something, it's a neat thing to do, and that's pretty universal throughout Canada."
So if you're planning on attending the Grand Prix this weekend, don't be shy about picking drivers' brains, or asking for an autograph or selfie. They'd expect nothing less from their Canadian fans.
Photos: Sideline Sports Photography/Lexus Racing, Daniel Barron