Jimmy Vasser is known in racing circles as a championship winning driver (IndyCar 1996), and as a teammate to some of the most well-known racing drivers in the world, including Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. After retiring from his extremely successful career as a driver, Vasser became a team owner (with Kevin Kalkhoven) and won the 2013 Indy 500 with Tony Kanaan as their driver. Now with co-owner James Sullivan, he runs the Lexus factory racing program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in both the GTD Pro and GTD categories. We caught up with him during the weekend of the 2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach where he gave us some interesting tales about Alex Zanardi. He also talks about transitioning from driver to team owner, and specifically, his factory Lexus team. Enjoy!
NOTE: At Long Beach, both of Vasser’s team cars finished on the podium (#14 in 2nd, #12 in 3rd). Overall, his team won three GT races in 2022, including the first win for Lexus in the GTD Pro category at Road America. Combined with nine podiums and four pole positions throughout the year, the team won the season finale (Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta with third driver Kyle Kirkwood) to give Lexus its first endurance win in the GTD Pro class.
By Larry Mason
Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason
Jimmy Vasser is flanked by Max Papis on the left and Chip Ganassi on the right. They’re holding up the plaque to commemorate their friend, teammate, and champion driver, Alex Zanardi (not present), who was being inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame. You can visit and see the real bronze plaque in front of the Long Beach Convention Center in southern California.
The Vasser Sullivan Lexus racing team is fielding two RC F GT3 cars in IMSA. One in GTD Pro and one in GTD. The cars are mechanically identical, but the pro car features only pro drivers, while the GTD car must have an amateur pilot behind the wheel. Here the Pro car (in Turn 6) is easily recognized by its red outside mirrors and is piloted by Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat.
The GTD car has green outside mirrors. This one, piloted Aaron Telitz and Frankie Montecalvo, is also navigating Turn 6.
The striking livery of the Vasser Sullivan Lexus cars stands out amongst the other competitors in GTD Pro.
The vertical strakes on the rear diffuser are easy to see with the fluorescent yellow/lime green finish that complements the rest of the car.
Interview and photos Copyright © by Larry Mason