After the stellar season that Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat put together for Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing in 2023, handily capturing the GTD PRO crown in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, it only made sense for them to have a shot at repeating. They’ll have that opportunity, as Lexuas Racing and Vasser Sullivan confirmed today that factory drivers Hawksworth and Barnicoat will return as the full-time lineup in the Vasser Sullivan No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3. As was the case the last couple of years, IndyCar Series driver Kyle Kirkwood will join them for select endurance races.
“This team is special. Nobody put us in contention to be champions a year ago except us,” said Jeff Bal, Senior Manager – Motorsports, Experiential Marketing & Sponsorships – Lexus Division.
“We put our faith in Jimmy [Vasser] and Sulli [James Sullivan] to build a program that would gameplan for success and put the right people in the right places to ensure this team showed up every weekend to win. We were never the fastest car. We just kept finding ways to out-hustle everyone and stay committed to the gameplan. That’s what makes it special. The amount of planning and determination these guys have put into finding a way for this program to be relevant — that’s what it’s all about. We couldn’t be happier for what they’ve achieved. And we couldn’t be more excited for what they’ve got lined up to accomplish in 2024. The Rolex 24 At Daytona can’t come soon enough. We’re ready to defend what is ours.”
Hawksworth is back for his sixth season with Vasser Sullivan and eighth with the Lexus Racing program, where he’s captured 10 victories and 25 podium finishes. He has been with Lexus Racing’s GT3 program since its inception in 2017.
“To say I am excited as we look to defend our GTD PRO title in 2024 would be an understatement,” Hawksworth said. “We have a great foundation and consistency within the Lexus and Vasser Sullivan team which will allow us to keep pushing forward, work on refining our processes and bettering ourselves as we prepare for the challenges we’ll face in 2024.
“I couldn’t ask for better teammates than Ben and Kyle, and to be surrounded by such a talented and dedicated group in the garage and on the pit stand is special. 2023 was an exceptional year for us, but we start from zero in 2024, and it has only lit the fire to go and execute even better when the green flag drops in Daytona. Thank you to everyone at Lexus, TRD, and Vasser Sullivan for their continued to support. I can’t wait to get started!”
Barnicoat returns for his third season alongside Hawksworth, having been victorious four times and standing on 16 podiums, as well as earning a GTD class victory with Lexus at Detroit in 2022. On their way to the 2023 championship, Hawksworth and Barnicoat scored four pole positions and nine podium finishes in 11 races, including winning at the Long Beach Grand Prix in April and the Vasser Sullivan and Lexus double victory sweep of the GT classes at Watkins Glen in June.
“I’m so excited to be back with the Lexus Racing and Vasser Sullivan team for my third consecutive year, and to continue racing with Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood in the endurance races,” he said. “2023 was such a special year, and I’ve never enjoyed my racing as much, and it’s for this reason I’m delighted to continue working with all the incredible staff involved with our program.
“The GTD PRO class is set to grow next year which is great for the series and for our Lexus Racing fans who will be watching us and supporting us every step of the way as we take the fight to our rivals. The goal is clear, to defend the title, and I can’t wait to get to business at Daytona.”
Kirkwood has two IMSA victories in the Lexus RC F GT3, highlighted by the first endurance victory for Lexus and Vasser Sullivan at the 2022 Petit Le Mans. The Jupiter, Florida, native was also victorious with Barnicoat, winning from the pole in the GTD class at Detroit in 2022.
“I’m ecstatic to come back and join Vasser Sullivan in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3. Being alongside Jack and Ben has been a complete joy over the past two years,” said Kirkwood. “I think it’s obvious how much their success on the race track has consistently grown, and it’s been awesome to be a part of that. We’re going to be defending a championship next year and you couldn’t ask for a better lineup than the three of us to do so. Add to that the progression of the Vasser Sullivan team and Lexus being very seasoned with this car, and I’m confident we’ll have a foot in the right direction from all standpoints.”
The GTD PRO class will double in size in 2024 as several teams are moving to the class from GTD and new GT3 cars are coming from Ford and Chevrolet. Ten cars are expected to campaign the full championship, with an additional three joining for the endurance races. The 2024 season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway with the Roar Before the 24 on Jan. 19-21, ahead of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 27-28.