#89: VasserSullivan, Lexus RC F GT3, GTD: Ben Barnicoat, Parker Thompson

‘89’ Is Prime for Lexus at Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Manufacturer Celebrates 35-Year U.S. Heritage with GTD Win


By John Oreovicz


Unofficial Race Results


LONG BEACH, Calif. – Lexus fielded a special entry in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach carrying the No. 89 to signify 1989, the year the brand debuted in America.


Parker Thompson and Ben Barnicoat helped the now-well-established auto manufacturer celebrate that 35-year milestone by driving the No. 89 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 to the GTD class victory in the first sprint race of the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. They won by 1.449 seconds over Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3.


Thompson earned the Motul Pole Award with a track record lap on Friday, then he and Barnicoat combined to dominate Saturday’s 100-minute race. They only briefly lost the lead during their single pit stop and driver change.


The No. 89 was an amalgamation of the Vasser Sullivan team’s two-car Lexus team that is normally split between the GTD and GTD PRO classes. Thompson generally co-drives the No. 12 Lexus with Frankie Montecalvo in GTD, while Barnicoat is teamed with Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14 GTD PRO entry. At Long Beach, Hawksworth and Montecalvo shared the No. 12 since the GTD PRO class wasn’t in action.


The Vasser Sullivan Lexus program has achieved 15 wins in IMSA competition, including 10 in GTD. The team’s last GTD win came at Watkins Glen International in June 2023.


Barnicoat, whose FIA Platinum driver grade earned him the nickname “Platypus” within Vasser Sullivan, heaped praise upon Thompson, who at age 26 is considered a rising star in international sports car racing.


“He crushed it,” Barnicoat said. “Track record, and he was faster than me in the race too, so I might have to look out for my seat in the No. 14. He’s definitely one of the up-and-comers. He’s got a bright future and I’m very lucky to drive with him now. He’s going to achieve great things, no doubt.”


Thompson, who has earned the Motul Pole Award twice in three races this year, demonstrated his trademark enthusiasm in Victory Lane.


“It’s Long Beach, come on!” he exclaimed. “This is the crown jewel of the sprint season. (The first) sprint race in my GTD career and already a win thanks to the ‘Platypus,’ Ben Barnicoat. Mr. Platinum himself brought it home for us. I can’t thank him enough.


“The year 1989 was the year Lexus came stateside,” Thompson added. “It’s pretty awesome to honor them with the number on the car. I’ll be remembering this one for a long time. This is a big one.”


The No. 96 BMW qualified seventh but vaulted up to second place when the Turner team chose not to change tires as Gallagher handed the car to Foley. His deft tire management was key to the podium finish.


“We have the best guys in the business on pit lane and had a really good stop, which we knew we needed to leapfrog everybody,” said Gallagher. “The strategy here is always whether you take tires or not, and we worked on (maintaining tire life) all week long to put us into this situation.


“But the Lexus was in another zip code.”


The No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT GT3 qualified sixth, led briefly during the pit stop exchange, and finished third in the hands of Mikael Grenier and Mike Skeen. Stevan McAleer claimed fourth place in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 he shared with Sheena Monk after a forceful drive from the back of the pack following engine problems kept it out of qualifying and forced the car to start last on the 17-car GTD grid.


The No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes finished seventh, maintaining a commanding 185-point lead in the GTD standings for drivers Russell Ward and Philip Ellis.


The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N, May 10-12 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. GTD PRO will rejoin the fray for a bill along with the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) and GTD classes.