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Kamui Kobayashi will make IMSA GTD Pro debut, racing Lexus for Vasser Sullivan

Kamui Kobayashi IMSA GT

Two-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner Kamui Kobayashi will make his GT debut in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series this weekend at at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 for Vasser Sullivan.

Kobayashi, who races and manages the Toyota Gazoo Racing team in the World Endurance Championship, will be teamed with Ben Barnicoat for the two-hour, 40-minute race Sunday in Bowmanville, Ontario.

In addition to a 2021 victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two WEC championships, Kobayashi won the Rolex 24 in 2019-20 with Wayne Taylor Racing. Since last year, he has been driving endurance races in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac of Action Express (and befriending teammate Jimmie Johnson). Kobayashi, 35, has eight IMSA starts, all driving a Cadillac in the DPi category.

In the CTMP race Sunday, Kobayashi will be filling in for Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth, who is recovering from an injury.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to drive the Lexus RC F GT3 with Vasser Sullivan this weekend in Canada,” Kobayashi said in a release. “I wish Jack a good recovery from his injury and hope he is back in the car soon. Obviously, my experience is quite low in a GT car. It’s going to be quite different than what I’m used to driving, and it’s going to be challenging, but I’m excited to see how well the RC F handles.

“I have a lot of support from the Vasser Sullivan team, Lexus and TRD, USA to help make me comfortable going to Canada. It will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The No. 14 is second in the GTD Pro points standings with Lexus second in manufacturer standings (Vasser Sullivan also fields a Lexus in the GTD division). In his first full-time IMSA season, Barnicoat has two podium finishes, including a win at Detroit with IndyCar rookie Kyle Kirkwood.

“It’s great to be heading straight to Canada on the back of a positive endurance race at Watkins Glen International where we showed great pace,” Barnicoat said. “We’ll be looking to continue the momentum going into Canada. I’m extremely excited to be sharing a car with Kamui. He was a Formula 1 driver when I was growing up, coming through the ranks of motorsports so that’s going to be an amazing opportunity for me to share our Lexus with a driver of his caliber and also help guide him with our RC F GT3. We’re aiming to have a strong weekend and continue pressing on for the championship as we head into the second half of the season.”

Sunday’s race, which will be broadcast on NBC at 3 p.m. ET, will mark the first time since 2019 that IMSA has visited the 10-turn, 2.459-mile road course.