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Lexus' RC F GT3 will race on two continents in 2017

Lexus unveiled a racing version of its RC F coupe, called the RC F GT3, early last year, but the car is only now getting to turn a wheel in anger.

The RC F GT3 will get its first taste of competition in 2017, in two different race series on opposite sides of the world. As previously discussed by Lexus, it will compete in the U.S.-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The automaker also announced on Friday that the RC F GT3 will race in the Super GT series, in Lexus’ home country of Japan.

Entering the RC F GT3 in both series is pretty straightforward, because the two classes within those series Lexus plans to race in — IMSA’s GT Daytona and Super GT’s GT300 — have similar rules. Both are built around GT3-spec cars like the RC F. These are racers based on production cars that have to retain stock components like the chassis and engine.

In the Super GT series, the RC F GT3 will race alongside its big brother, the LC 500. With its crazy-looking bodywork, the RC F GT3 looks like it would be at home in a Japanese anime series. It uses a version of the 5.0-liter V8 from the road-going RC F, tuned to produce over 500 horsepower, rather than the 467 hp civilians get. That power is sent to the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox.

The RC F GT3 will make its racing debut later this month at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the legendary 24-hour race held at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway. In the GT Daytona class, the Lexus will be tested against a diverse array of opponents, including racing versions of the Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracán, Acura NSX, Audi R8, Porsche 911, Mercedes-AMG GT, and Acura NSX. It should be quite a show.

That all goes down January 29, when the Rolex 24 kicks off. The two-pronged racing program is the latest effort by Lexus to cultivate a sportier image in order to better compete against established German luxury brands in the showroom. It may not be as exciting as the track but, for car companies, that’s where it really counts.