It’s difficult to imagine the Bathurst 12 Hour getting any better. The 2017 event featured a diverse 50-car field which provided an entertaining and drama-filled day’s racing that kept AMC – along with record television and trackside audiences – riveted to the action throughout.
Yet, things should only get better when Japanese marques finally join the field en masse. So far only Nissan has taken on the European manufacturers in this new-age, once-round-theclock Mountain classic, its efforts rewarded with victory in 2015. Other makes from the land of the rising sun have been conspicuous by their absence in FIA GT3 competition globally. They are coming, though, with both Lexus and Honda (through its Acura brand) on the grid in the United States’ premier GT3 series, debuting in January’s Daytona 24 Hour.
Fingers crossed we will see both the Lexus RC F GT3 and Honda NSX GT3 at Bathurst in February 2018. Hopefully local executives can build a business case that sees these cars lining up on the pre-dawn grid. Lexus would have to be a better bet.
It’s not very often your writer is ahead of the curve. But a Lexus RC F was our ride to Bathurst for this year’s 12 Hour – an exercise in sampling a V8-powered coupe we’ve lusted over since its release in 2015 at Mount Panorama.
Rear-wheel drive and a 5.0-litre V8 is certainly a formula that has resonated with Australian buyers over the years. That’s why Lexus has aimed the RC F at buyers of mainstream performance cars who aspire to stepping up to a luxury brand. It’s a big step up, with the RC F going for $135,490. By way of comparison, the Lexus RC F is the most affordable luxury performance coupe on the market, significantly cheaper than its trio of German rivals. Meanwhile, its V6 sibling, the RC350, is almost half the price.
The RC F’s maximum power of 351kW comes at 7100rpm, while torque peaks at 4800rpm, which means it needs a healthy dose of revs to really impress and lacks the shove in the back of a typical Aussie V8.
It sounds great, though, and 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds is not to be sneezed at.
The RC F’s handling, as you’d expect from a low-slung coupe, is a sharp thanks to the super rigid chassis. Flicking the switch to Sport+ stiffens the suspension, although it’s only something we’d use on a track day.
Tipping the scales at 1860kg, the RC F feels more like a grand tourer than out-and-out sports car, but it is well equipped, luxurious and fun to drive. It’s looks have proven to be polarising, although, personally, I happen to dig them.
There was (just) enough room for my 11-yearold boy to sit in the back, while his 14-year-old brother was overjoyed he was too tall for a stint in the backseat. All three West boys (myself included) were super excited this was our ride for a weekend pilgrimage to Bathurst.
Overall, the RC F is an impressive vehicle and a worthy racing flagship for the Lexus brand.
Snaring lovers of top-end, homegrown muscle cars might be a difficult ‘get’ for Lexus. But just as the 12 Hour is attracting a new breed of Aussie race fans, there are opportunities to be had in new market niches as the automotive landscape changes here.
If the GT3 version hits that magical 6.2km ribbon of road west of the Great Dividing Range then we can see the RC F’s credibility going to a whole new level. In our eyes there are models that are raced and lesser ones that are not.