Just six weeks after introducing the new IS 350 to the American market, Lexus announced today that it will enter the powerful luxury sport sedan in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT2 class in 2006 with a two-car team.
Under a new-for-2006 "S2" vehicle preparation standard, the IS 350 sedans will compete against established GT2 sports cars such as the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and Panoz Esperante and race for the same prizes, points and championships. Several other S2-prep cars are expected for 2006 as well, including the BMW M3.
"The ALMS endurance road-racing series is the ideal place to showcase the technology and performance of our new IS 350," said Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Bob Carter. "We expect the competition to be very tough, but we are confident that the new IS 350 will be a formidable challenger."
As with the previous generation IS, Lexus will team with its production car racing partner, Team Lexus, who will build, develop and campaign the new cars. After a successful four-year run in the Grand Am Cup series with two championships and numerous wins, pole positions and podium finishes, the team has already begun preparing the IS 350s for their new mission.
"Developing and racing two brand-new cars in a new category will be a major challenge, but one that we relish," said Team Lexus owner/driver Chuck Goldsborough. "We've been building our team along with the new cars this year and are looking forward to some of the most exciting road racing in North America."
The ALMS' S2 standard creates opportunities for new competitors to enter the series that were previously unavailable. This opened the door for Lexus to enter the new IS in a series with international appeal, populated with premium car makers.
"The Lexus brand coming into the American Le Mans Series is as close to a natural fit as we could ever imagine," said ALMS President Scott Atherton. "When anyone mentions Lexus, many of the same attributes that are associated with the American Le Mans Series come to mind - words like luxury, high performance, leading-edge technology, style and quality describe both brands."
Although Team Lexus expects to begin racing early in the 2006 season, the specific timing will be based on vehicle build and development progress. Driver lineup for the two-car team will be announced at a later date.