U.S. Lexus fans' hopes for seeing a 2nd-generation IS on the racetrack were finally fulfilled by its inaugural competitive outing at the fifth round of the 2008 SPEED World Challenge GT Series
season, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
on Sunday 20 July 2008
at 4 PM
. As reported in a recent my.IS Front Page story, DRC Motorsports
has big plans for its two-car team of Lexus IS racers. But, just as an infant needs to learn to crawl before he becomes a walking toddler, any new motorsports racing effort needs to start deliberately and cautiously, and the decision was made to start partway through the 2008 season with one car, the #72
, driven by Jeff Altenburg
, competing at Mid-Ohio.
Wiser heads prevailed at DRC Motorsports regarding the tenuous stretch of a connection between these Lexus IS racers and the IS F, and, rather than continuing to call these SPEED GT cars Lexus IS GTF (as they were referred to in the initial Press Release received by my.IS), all the links from the SPEED World Challenge website's 2008 Mid-Ohio page
more properly call it a Lexus IS 350, as does Jeff Altenburg's website.
Although, if you're going to be really
proper about it, IS 470 would be its more correct name. And, while noting DRC Motorsports driver Robb Holland's (my.IS member WC IS350 GT) denials,
this author sides with the majority of observers in seeing the DRC Motorsports Lexus IS 350 as built up from the stillborn Team Lexus American Le Mans Series GT2-S IS350 racers.
The #72 DRC Motorsports Lexus IS 350 made its initial Mid-Ohio appearance during the second practice session, but entered pit lane before completing a full practice lap. The team opted to sit out qualifying, as well, and, thus, started at the very back of the pack of the 30-car SPEED World Challenge Grand Touring class grid. Still, it would be unrealistic to expect blazing qualifying times or podium finishes from the very first race in a new, unproven car. After all, the whole point and purpose of running an abbreviated 2008 season is in gaining valuable track time and experience that would enable the DRC Motorsports team to make more of a strong, full-on assault for the 2009 season. Yet, never underestimate 2007 SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Champion Jeff Altenburg, for he managed to finish the race in 24th place, only one lap down from the first 19 cars, and ahead of five Dodge Vipers and a Chevrolet Corvette, delivering a very credible first effort.
The race will be televised on SPEED TV
on Thursday 24 July 2008
at 10 AM Pacific Time / 11 AM Mountain Time / 12 Noon Central Time / 1 PM Eastern Time.
The next race in the series, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, will take place on Sunday 10 August. That event should see the team's second Lexus IS 350 racer ready to compete and driven by Robb Holland.
Our thanks go out to the official SPEED World Challenge website
for this information, and to the Jeff Altenburg Motorsports website
for the photographs accompanying this article.