Lexus Makes A Championship Debut in Grand American Rolex Series
TORRANCE, Calif. (Nov. 4, 2004) - With two championships, five wins and 11 poles in Lexus' debut season in the Grand American Rolex Series, it's been a hugely successful rookie campaign for the manufacturer.
The season was topped off with Max Papis and Scott Pruett driving their CompUSA Ganassi Racing Lexus to a dominating victory to clinch both the Driver's and Team championships at the season-ending Lexus Grand American 400 at the California Speedway.
"We've enjoyed more success in our first season than we ever would have imagined and winning the championship at our own Lexus Champions Weekend was the icing on the cake," said Lexus Vice President of Marketing Mark Templin. "Racing is all about partnerships and we've been tremendously fortunate to partner with some great teams and drivers. In addition, the Rolex Sports Car Series has given us an excellent platform for us to demonstrate the performance potential of our passenger car V8 engine."
In addition to winning the championship, Papis and Pruett combined to win a record 11 pole positions in 12 races. The duo also combined to win a series-high four races and finished either first or second in seven of the final 10 races, while also earning top-10 finishes in every contest this season. Their #1 CompUSA Lexus led more than twice as many laps as any car in the series.
"It has been a tremendous year winning the Grand-Am Championship in the first season for both CompUSA Ganassi and Lexus," said Papis, a two-time Rolex 24 champion. "We had some fantastic competition out there, but Lexus really stepped up and gave us another great engine for the last race and we were able to leave the competition racing for second-place."
As important as it was to win a championship with Papis, Pruett and the Ganassi Racing team, it was just as important to see all of the Lexus-powered teams enjoy success in 2004 with five different Lexus-powered cars finishing on the podium in at least one race this season.
While not reaching the highest rung of the victory podium, Jimmy Morales and Luis Diaz did combine to give the #02 CompUSA Lexus six top-five finishes on the season including three top-five finishes in the final four races. Morales finished sixth overall in points, while Diaz placed 10th.
The Doran-Lista Racing team also proved to be a consistent contender throughout the season and became the second Lexus-powered team to win this season when Didier Theys and Jan Magnussen drove to victory at Watkins Glen in August. The team registered five top-five finishes for the season and barely missed putting Lexus into the Winner's Circle at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona where they finished second. While racing with three different co-drivers during the season, Theys positioned himself eighth in the final points standings.
At the beginning of the season, few outside of the Toyota Atlantic Championship circles knew what to expect from Michael Shank Racing, but by season's end, the small Ohio-based team had established itself as a legitimate contender on the way to placing fifth overall in the team points race. After a strong fourth-place finish at Daytona, Oswaldo Negri and Burt Frisselle stepped into the Lexus-powered Doran and registered eight more top-10 finishes in the season's final nine races, including a season-best second at Watkins Glen in August.
In addition to the four teams that campaigned the full season, CompUSA Ganassi Racing also entered a third car for the season finale Lexus Grand American 400 with IndyCar Series stars Scott Dixon and Darren Manning becoming the fifth Lexus-powered team to earn a podium finish in 2004 with a strong third-place effort.
For the season, Lexus-powered cars won five races, 11 pole positions and secured 11 additional top-three finishes for a total of 16 podium finishes. The Lexus engine used in the Grand-American Rolex Sports Car Series is developed from the LS/GS/SC production engine.