The rapid evolution of the internal combustion engine in the 19th century led to an equally rapid acceleration in the research and development of automotive technology. These turns of events helped set the stage for the world’s first motor race, held in Paris in 1895. More than a simple spectacle, the roundtrip race between Paris and Bordeaux also served to demonstrate the safety and reliability of cars.

Learn more about Lexus’ journey in motorsports:

This Panhard et Levassor model - on display at Fuji Motorsports Museum - won the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race. The roundtrip race is known to be the first-ever motor race in the world.

What this history tells us is that the motor race—where carmakers compete to see who can push automotive technology the furthest—is an essential laboratory for improving on yesterday’s cars to create the far superior cars of tomorrow. Every day, carmakers test the limits of automotive technology and use what they learn to improve their racecars’ performance on the circuit—and also the performance of the road-going cars driven by the public. This is why the world’s most renowned carmakers are constantly entering their latest models into circuit, off-road, and hill climb races that take place in some of the toughest driving environments.

Lexus, of course, is not an exception. The Japanese luxury lifestyle brand made its motor racing debut in 1999, just ten years after it was founded in the United States. In 2008, Lexus expanded its motorsports activities by entering the LF-A—later renamed LFA—into one of the world’s most grueling endurance races, the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Lexus has also been active in the world of customer racing, where privateer teams compete against each other in cars they build and maintain themselves. Today, such races are considered just as important to automotive development as competitions involving factory-backed teams.

Motorola Cup series

Lexus made its motorsports debut in 1999 at the Motorola Cup series. Two GS 400s were entered into the Sports Class category and ended up winning six races—an impressive record for the brand’s first year in motor racing.

Since then, Lexus has treated the world of motorsports as an R&D lab for cars, using what it learns from competitions to produce breakthroughs in automotive technology. It has entered its cars into a variety of events, from sprint races on Formula One circuits to endurance-testing 24-hour races, hill climbs to 4,000-meter-high mountaintops, and dangerous off-road races in the desert.


One major milestone for Lexus was the 2006 Super GT season. It was the year Lexus made its biggest push yet into motorsports with the SC 430.

The Super GT also created a new class—the GT 500—with a set of unique car regulations that allowed vehicles to attain speeds that were far higher than formula cars of yesteryear. As a result, the GT 500 entrants were dubbed the world’s fastest grand touring cars.

The Super GT takes place on some of Japan’s most important racetracks. They include globally renowned names like Suzuka—a historic Formula One circuit—as well as Fuji Speedway, a World Endurance Championship venue; and Motegi, a MotoGP venue. The series also included races in Malaysia (Sepang International Circuit) and Thailand (Chang International Circuit), providing Lexus with opportunities to conduct its technological development on a variety of race courses around the world.


In 2015, Lexus released the GT3, a high-performance racecar version of the RC F, allowing many of its customer teams to compete in the Super GT GT300 Class and other races around the world.

The GT3 is a global racing car that has proven its worth at the Blancpain GT Series (or GT World Challenge Europe as it is known today) and other European series, as well as in Northern American series sanctioned by IMSA and other organizations.
In every series, the RC F GT3 has taken on rivals from around the world on a range of challenging racetracks.

In the Blancpain GT Series, these courses have included Monza in Italy, an ultrahigh-speed circuit that allows drivers to push their engines to the limit, and Hockenheim in Germany, a technical course that mixes high-speed and low-speed zones. In the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, they have included the oval Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was built in 1909 and is now the oldest active race course in the world; Daytona International Speedway with its 31-degree banks; and the street circuit in Long Beach.

The car has performed exceptionally well in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having scored a number of podium finishes at legendary circuits such as Daytona, Sebring International Raceway, and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

But North America and Europe aren’t the only regions that Lexus has set its sights on. In the past, Lexus participated in the Macau Grand Prix with the four-door sedan IS CCSR and now has been racing in the GT World Challenge Asia with the RC F GT3, which features races in Asia’s top circuits such as Suzuka, Fuji, Sepang, and Chang.

In this way, the RC F GT3 accumulated data from the world’s toughest motor races to help accelerate technological innovation at Lexus. In particular, racing on public roads in Long Beach and elsewhere—where frictional forces are lower than on racetracks—has provided very useful feedback for developing road-going cars.


Meanwhile, back in the Super GT, Lexus’ flagship coupe, the LC 500, was entered into the series in 2017 and demonstrated the car’s incredible level of performance. In just its debut year, the car achieved five wins.

The LC 500 continued its streak through 2018 and 2019, racking up fourteen wins over the course of three seasons. In those years, the Super GT was held on six Japanese courses—including perennial Formula One venue Suzuka—as well as Chang, where engines could easily overheat in the tropical climate.

Also in 2019, as part of a joint promotion with Super GT, Germany’s DTM, one of the most prestigious racing series in Europe, arranged for Lexus and two other Japanese manufacturers to each enter one team into the Hockenheim Final. This was followed by the Super GT x DTM Dream Race on Fuji Speedway, which featured seven teams representing German manufacturers. Despite some tough competition from top drivers, Lexus scored a pole-to-win finish at Fuji on this historic occasion.


Motorsports provide carmakers with the opportunity to test their technologies under a wide variety of conditions—which is what makes it such a formidable laboratory. For example, the CCS-R—a customer racing model based on the IS F—was entered into the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in July 2012. Participants compete to set the best time on a 20-kilometer-course up Pikes Peak in Colorado. The course climbs 1,439 meters from an elevation of 2,862 meters to the peak, 4,301 meters above the ground.

Conditions are tough, with low oxygen levels in the upper reaches causing engines to lose power. However, Lexus saw the so-called Race to the Clouds as a chance to push its automotive technology forward.


Lexus has also taken part in its share of endurance races. In 2008, its LFA was entered into the Nürburgring 24 Hours, which takes place on a 25-kilometer course composed of the 5-kilometer GP-Strecke (Grand Prix Course) and the 20-kilomete.r Nordschleife (North Loop).

The Nordschleife is particularly challenging, as it features more than 170 corners, an elevation difference of 300 meters between its highest point and lowest point, and a course that is both bumpy and narrow. No wonder it’s nicknamed “The Green Hell.” By navigating this track for 24 hours nonstop, Lexus was able to refine its technology for producing parts that are both lightweight and durable and apply several updates to its production cars.

However, when it comes to motorsports, Lexus isn’t limiting itself to the racetrack. For example, customer teams have been entering the LX—Lexus’ flagship crossover—into the SCORE International off-road racing series.

The first time this happened was in 2009 at the Baja 500. Since then, the LX has been entered into the Baja 1000—the series’ highlight, a desert race on the Baja California Peninsula that was launched in 1967. Participants need to drive through 1,000 miles of mostly desert without rest or sleep. It’s the world’s longest continuous race—and only half of the participants ever make it to the end.

Lexus still competes in the Baja 1000, now with its latest LX 600 model. After all, the stability and durability offered by the LX were tested and improved in this incredibly challenging off-road race.

At Tokyo Auto Salon 2023, held in January, Lexus presented the RZ Sport Concept, a concept model for its battery electric vehicle (BEV). Despite its SUV-like outward appearance, the RZ Sport Concept is a fully electric racing model jointly developed with professional racing drivers. Lexus will use its technology and knowledge of driving performance and aerodynamics accumulated through motorsports to develop BEVs that can travel further—and which are safer and more exciting to drive.


The LFA marked the beginning of Lexus’ complete embrace of motorsports. Today, the brand sees the entire spectrum of motorsports as a laboratory for developing automotive innovations that push past existing limits. They’re actively participating in races with completely different road conditions, regulations, and weather conditions with such models as the flagship LC, the IS sports sedan and the LX, Lexus’ flagship SUV. They then apply what they learn at these races to develop even better road-legal cars. It’s the same spirit that drove Lexus to launch the RZ Sport Concept—they’re looking to stay competitive as the world shifts towards electric vehicles.

By applying the technology and knowledge they have gained through motor racing, Lexus intends to continue challenging itself so it can drive the automobile industry as a whole to new heights.


SC 430 / RC F GT 500 / LC 500 GT 500

From 2006 to 2013, Lexus raced to victory in the Super GT with the SC 430, leading to three championships. The brand's winning streak extended with the RC F from 2014 to 2016, culminating in a triumphant 2016 season with Lexus topping both driver and team rankings in the GT 500 Class. The LC 500 GT 500 carried this legacy of excellence forward, securing the championship title in both rankings in 2017 and again in 2019.


The RC F GT3 has brought Lexus a number of wins in the Super GT GT 300 Class as well as other prestigious racing series such as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The GT3 has also won some pretty major races, such as Race 5 at Circuit Paul Ricard in the 2018 Blancpain GT and Race 2 at Zandvoort in the 2020 GT World Challenge Europe.


The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is a classic race that started in 1916—just five years after the Indy 500. Lexus participated in this legendary race for the first time in 2012, entering the IS F CCS-R and clinching a 2nd-place finish. The following year, Lexus won the race. For the 2015 race, the brand entered the RC F GT concept car, which finished 5th in its class.


The LFA was first entered into a race in the 2008 Nürburgring 24 Hours, where it placed 7th in the SP8 Class. It subsequently placed 4th in its class in the 2009 race and won in its class in the 2010 race. The LFA went on to secure the top position in its class a second time in 2012, followed by a third time in 2014. An experimental model—the LFA Code X—was also entered into the 2014 race, winning the SP-PRO Class and adding yet another entry to Lexus’ list of Nürburgring 24 Hours victories.

LX 570

The LX 570, which made its motorsports debut at the 2009 Baja 500 in the SCORE International off-road racing series, won the race in the Stock Full Class. The same year, it completed the grueling Baja 1000 endurance race. Lexus continued to enter the LX 570 into SCORE International competitions until 2013. Its four victories in 2010—which earned the brand that year’s championship—and three victories in the Baja 1000 quickly built up Lexus’ reputation in the off-road racing scene.


Unveiled in January 2023 at the Tokyo Auto Salon, the RZ Sport Concept is a fully electric vehicle that incorporates both the technologies Lexus has accumulated through motorsports and feedback from professional racing drivers. The model suggests that Lexus is exploring new relationships between people and mobility.

About the Illustrator

Dan Matutina is a designer/ and illustrator based in the Philippines. He is a founding partner at Plus63 and Hydra Design Group. He was the recipient of the Art Directors Club Young Guns award in 2013. Dan’s His artworks have appeared in print, digital and animation. His illustration style is a combination of angular, graphic shapes layered with hand-painted textures.


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