07/06/2011—Although the Lexus LFA (Lexus Fuji Apex) is named in part after the Fuji Speedway in Japan, the Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany has played an equally influential role in the development of the Lexus supercarwith countless laps in pre-production prototypes, this legendary 15.5-mile racetrack has long served as the LFA's most difficult challenge.
It’s also the only track in the world where the LFA has raced competitively. Since 2007, the Gazoo Racing team has been entering racing versions of the Lexus supercar in the annual 24 Hours of Nürburgring racea high-intensity endurance race that spans a full day of competition against the top touring car teams in the world—and once again returned this year with two LFAs in the SP8 class (for 4.0 - 6.25L engines): the #87 LFA with drivers Takayuki Kinoshita, Andre Lotterer, and Juichi Wakisaka, and the #88 LFA with drivers Akira Iida, Hiroaki Ishiura, and Kazuya Oshima.
Having such a skilled set of drivers and two cars expressly tuned for the Nürburgring, both teams did well in the qualifying rounds, with the #88 LFA starting the race 23rd overall (2nd in the SP8 class) and the #87 LFA following up at 26th overall (3rd in the SP8 class).
But if endurance racing is made up of equal parts skill, preparation, and luck, then luck was in short supply for the Gazoo Racing team this year. The #88 LFA managed to reach 20th overall before a collision in the eighth hour caused extensive damage to the rear diffuser and exhaust system, which sidelined the car for close to three hours before rejoining the race way back in 138th place.
However, the #88 LFA clawed its way back to finish the race 41st overall and third in the SP8 classextremely impressive considering the adversity. (Meanwhile, the #87 LFA, which required that its V10 be replaced during the race, finished 8th in the SP8 class.)
Kristof Pitteljon, a Lexus spokesman who posted Twitter updates from the Nürburgring, confirmed the general mood after the race: “The teams were very proud that both cars finished the race, despite the very serious technical problem,” he shared over email, “There was a great deal of satisfaction that the team overcame the challenges, and we learned a lot in the process.“
In its own way, the resolve shown by the Gazoo Racing teams at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring is a reflection of the LFA itselfafter all, there was a time when a Lexus supercar would have been considered impossible, just as a crash and engine replacement could have taken the LFAs off the field for the remainder of the race. Instead, engineers and racers soldiered on, and that perseverance has become part of the LFA's DNA, its very character.
And all that work is paying offjust prior to the Nürburgring 24-hour race, a video surfaced on YouTube showing Gazoo driver Akira Iida lapping the Nordschleife in 7:22.85, a time good enough for 10th place on the all-time production car list. What was he driving? The LFA Nürburgring Edition, an ultra-limited, track optimized version of the production LFA named after the track that played such an instrumental part in its creation.
—KEVIN WATTS, THE LEXUS ENTHUSIAST(Special thanks to the Lexus Europe team for their excellent racing coverage!)