As we wrote back in mid-July 2008
, "The Lexus IS F's path from production car to racing version has been a long and convoluted one". Since then, after initial
competition outings, the DRC Motorsports Lexus IS (itself descended from the stillborn Team Lexus American Le Mans Series GT2-S IS350 racers
) seemed to vanish down the rabbit hole that consumes so many aborted racing efforts. Yet, every so often, grassroots enthusiasm, sheer will and Quixotic dreams will converge to make these motorized warriors rise up again, phoenix-like, to fight on in the racetracks of the world.
Indeed, this newest effort at taking the Lexus IS F racing almost 3 years later takes place half a world away, in Europe. Among the racing series found there that are unfamiliar to all but the most die-hard motorsports devotees in America is the Superstars International Series
. This is one of a number of series production-based touring car racing series popular in Europe, Asia and Australia (with the FIA World Touring Car Championship
, the British Touring Car Championship
, Germany's DTM
, Japan's Super GT
and Australia's V8 Supercars
the most prominent among them). And, no, NASCAR shouldn't really count, as it jumped the shark a long time ago with its deevolution into a silhouette, quasi-spec race series
. The Superstars International Series originated as Italy's take on the subject, the Trofeo Nazionale Superstars (Superstars National Trophy) in 2004. A 2007 decision to branch out beyond Italy led to the creation of the Superstars International Series that complemented the Italy-only Superstars Campionato Italiano (Italian Superstars Championship). To be more precise, the Superstars International Series features 9 races, 5 of which are in Italy plus 1 each in Spain, Portugal, England and Belgium, whereas the Campionato Italiano counts just the 5 Italian events plus the Belgian race at the storied Spa circuit. The distinction may be moot, however, as Wikipedia
notes that only one of the two championships has been awarded on any given year.
Italy's Superstars International Series at present allows for 16 different V-8-powered makes and models, with the Lexus IS F the last of these to be homologated. Its rivals are (in order of original homologation) the Audi RS4 (B7), BMW M5 (E39), Jaguar S-Type R, BMW 550i (E60), Cadillac CTS-V, BMW M3 (E90), Chrysler 300C SRT8, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, Chevrolet Lumina CR8 (this is not
the North American mid-sized FWD model from the 1990s, but the name given in the Middle East and South Africa to the Holden Commodore and the late Pontiac G8), BMW M3 (E92), Maserati Quattroporte, Jaguar XFR, Audi RS5 (B8), Porsche Panamera S and Jaguar XF SV8. The series allows for V8s between 3800 to 7000 cc displacement that may be naturally aspirated or supercharged (turbochargers are forbidden), driven through an H-pattern or sequential gearbox, with either 2 or 4-door bodywork capable of seating at least 4 passengers. Self-locking differentials must be mechanically actuated, without the help of any electronic or hydraulic device. The Lexus IS F, as set up for Superstars International Series racing, weighs 1400 kg (3086 lbs), according to page 27 of the Superstars Series' Technical Regulations PDF document
. This is almost 700 lb lighter than an IS F in regular street trim, and is about midway between its lightest competitor (the BMW 550i E60 at 1305 kg / 2877 lbs in race trim) and the heaviest (the Chrysler 300-C SRT8 at 1490 kg / 3285 lbs in race trim). A peculiarity of the rules (shared with Japan's Super GT racing series) is the so-called "race weight handicap", which, in the interest of creating parity and closer racing, adds a weight penalty, via ballast, to the podium finishers of the previous race, as outlined on page 20 of the Superstars Series' Sporting Regulations PDF document
. The outright winner of a race will run the next event with 30 kg (66 lbs) extra weight, the previous 2nd-place finisher with an extra 20 kg (44 lbs) and the previous 3rd-place finisher with an extra 10 kg (22 lbs).
As of this writing, a single Lexus IS F has thrown its hat into the ring, the #06
entry from the MN Motorsport
team, shown at the top of our story. MN Motorsport is owned by Mauro Nocentini
, a veteran rally car tuner and preparer who also fields the MRT by Nocentini
team's Chrysler 300C SRT-8. This IS F will be piloted by Diego Romanini
, a 32-year-old Italian race car driver who is a two-time Austrian Formula Three champion. He has also competed in British and German Formula Three and, in 2004 made his first move into touring cars, with a season in the German Touring Car Challenge, where he finished sixth on points. Romanini also has a penchant for 24-hour endurance racing, and has participated in round-the-clock events at Spa, Dubai, the Nürburgring (where he won the 2009 SP7 class in an E92 BMW M3) and Daytona (where, in a rare trip across the Atlantic, he competed in the 2010 event in the MCM/Black Flag Racing Chevrolet Corvette, finishing 21st in the Rolex Series GT class). Although there is some internet talk of a second IS F for the MN Motorsport team, at this point only the #06 car driven by Romanini is confirmed, and even that is a bit tenuous, for it skipped the inaugural 2011 event at Monza on Sunday 10 April and, though promised for Round 2 in Valencia, Spain on Sunday 8 May, the team has, as of this writing, also missed the initial Friday test session.
Even further in the future is the second Superstars Series team to field a Lexus IS F or two. Nary a mention of them appears on the official Superstars website, but, in true 2011 fashion, Facebook
brings us the Maurer Motorsport
Lexus IS F, also shown above. The Swiss outfit is best known for its participation in the Chevrolet Cruze spec-series ADAC Cruze Cup, and now plans to move up in size and power. While the Italian MN Motorsport seems
to be an all-new effort, the Maurer Motorsport IS F bears a suspiciously strong resemblance to the DRC Motorsports Lexus IS née
Team Lexus ALMS GT2-S IS350. Further muddying the waters is the Maurer Motorsport's website's claim of three
new Lexus IS Fs. With neither car number(s) nor driver(s) yet revealed for the Maurer team, it's obvious that this story is just beginning to unfold.
Our thanks to my.IS moderator Lexusecutive for bringing us this story via a thread on our Race Related forum