SEBRING, Fla. – They may be running third in the three-horse race for the GT Daytona championship, but Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz like their odds for coming away with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class title when the checkered flag waves Saturday at the 68th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Hawksworth, in fact, says, “I feel like in many ways we’re the favorites” in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3.
Telitz sits third in driver points, eight behind No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura drivers Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry, and a single point behind No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche drivers Patrick Long and Ryan Hardwick. The No. 14 is 10 points behind the No. 86 in the team standings and Lexus is a mere two points shy of Acura in manufacturer bragging rights, so all the championships are up for grabs in the iconic race that closes the 2020 season.
Hawksworth based his optimism for overcoming the deficits on recent history. He and Telitz won the Cadillac Grand Prix of Sebring in July, though it was the standard two-hour, 40-minute distance and not the marathon 12 hours. Kyle Kirkwood joins them as the third driver in the No. 14 this weekend.
“I feel pretty good about this one, to be honest,” Hawksworth said. “We obviously raced there earlier in the year in the sprint race and we won. We feel like we’ve got a good baseline there, we’ve got a good car.
“The points situation is what it is,” he added. “Basically, that means we just need to win this race and I think the Acura (No.) 86 needs to finish (fifth) or worse. It’s definitely possible; I feel like we’re in really, really good shape.”
Telitz has accumulated two more driver points than Hawksworth (248-246) because he drove two races this season in the team’s No. 12 Lexus. There was discussion within the team of splitting the drivers between the two cars to double the chances of winning the drivers’ title, but it was quickly nixed.
“We did decide that our best chance is to stack the (No.) 14 car as best we can and have the best drivers, best everything and just go for it,” Telitz said. “We’ve got a great lineup and our car is quick at Sebring, so we’ve just got to execute now.”
Telitz and Hawksworth have already won the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup, consisting of points accumulated in the seven races this season of two hours, 40 minutes or less. It marked Lexus’ first championship of any kind in its fourth year of GTD competition.
“It is testament to the hard work of everybody at the AIM Vasser Sullivan team and Lexus that we have been able to secure the first title in IMSA for the Lexus RC F GT3 car,” said Hawksworth, who has been with the Lexus program since its inception. “A lot of time and effort has gone into making this happen over a number of years, so to see it all come together and culminate in a championship is very special.”
Now, however, the focus quickly shifts to the overall class championship. A Sebring victory would go a long way in making that happen plus provide Lexus another first: an endurance race win.
“Winning the Twelve Hours of Sebring is a huge accomplishment in itself and that’s our goal,” Telitz said. “We’re going in there guns a-blazing, going for the win. Everybody knows it. And whatever happens championship-wise, we’ll take it from there.”
“The race in itself is a championship,” Hawksworth added, “as are all of these big races – 24 Hours of Daytona, Sebring, Petit Le Mans. Just winning one of those big races can kind of make your season anyway. And as we spoke about, the situation we’re in points-wise, we have to win the race so it’s pretty simple, really. We want to win the Twelve Hours of Sebring, and if we do that, I think we’ll probably win the championship.”