Final week Dale Coyne advised Autosport: “As long as they proceed to be in IndyCar, I believe ‘Sulli’ and Jimmy will stay companions with us. They’re not going to exit on their very own, and I don’t suppose different groups can provide them what we give them.”
Nonetheless, Sullivan has painted a special image of VSR’s short-term future, saying that he and Vasser are contemplating different partnerships for 2022.
Sullivan fashioned SH Racing in 2010 to compete in motocross and rallycross, earlier than hooking up with Kevin Kalkhoven’s and Vasser’s IndyCar crew KV Racing on the finish of 2013 to type KVSH Racing. Nonetheless, regardless of Sebastien Bourdais scoring 4 wins over the course of the subsequent three seasons, the crew was dissolved in early 2017.
The next yr, Vasser and Sullivan reunited to turn into co-entrants of the #18 Dale Coyne Racing entry, raced by Bourdais, and the combo scored on its race debut in St. Petersburg – an occasion they might win once more the next yr.
Whereas Bourdais was launched on the finish of ’19, and the crew misplaced each technical director Craig Hampson (to Arrow McLaren SP) and race engineer Michael Cannon (to Chip Ganassi Racing), Vasser and Sullivan stored religion with Coyne, working Santino Ferrucci in 2020. The spotlight was fourth place within the Indianapolis 500.
This yr, nevertheless, Ed Jones within the #18 DCR with Vasser Sullivan entry has been largely nameless, not helped by mechanical points proscribing lap time in apply, a number of poor pitstops and unlucky methods, in order that the #18 automotive presently sits 22nd in entrant factors. The 2016 Indy Lights champion’s points have left him within the shadows, significantly compared with the continuously glowing performances of ex-Formulation 1 driver and IndyCar rookie Romain Grosjean within the sister automotive, the #51 entry co-owned by Coyne and Rick Ware and engineered by the #18 automotive’s former engineer, Olivier Boisson.
The result’s that Sullivan says he and Vasser consider one thing of an upheaval can be vital within the offseason.
The partnership of James “Sulli” Sullivan and Dale Coyne could not proceed past this season.
Picture by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images
Sullivan defined to Autosport: “Our industrial relationships are strong, however we’ve bought to ship on the monitor. Off-track, we do what I’d contemplate an above-average job, however subsequent yr we now have to ship as-good if not higher than we did in ’18, ’19 and ’20 and that clearly must contain change from what we’re doing in 2021.
“What change that type will take, we haven’t fully determined, however everyone knows that issues need to look completely different subsequent season.”
Relating to the driving force of the #18, Sullivan commented: “Ed’s need and purpose for 2021 was to show that he may nonetheless do that after a yr off [following his release by Ed Carpenter Racing at the end of 2019], and I’ll say there have been a number of occasions this season the place he has pushed extraordinarily effectively and fairly frankly we didn’t give him the automotive or alternative to succeed. However there have additionally been a number of occasions the place Ed may have carried out one thing in a different way, or maybe been a bit extra aggressive.
“So I don’t suppose there’s one downside that you might pin this on. It’s a mixture of this association that has not borne fruit in the way in which we hoped it could. We now have positively had some unhealthy pitstops, we now have definitely had occasions the place we now have not given him a ok automotive, and there have been occasions the place I believe even Ed would agree he may have carried out issues a bit in a different way.
“However on the finish of the season, Jimmy and I want to have the ability to look ourselves within the mirror and understand that it doesn’t matter the place the fault comes from: the accountability is on us to ship. And that’s solely going to occur with the right combination of driver, engineering, crew and companion.
“The online result’s that the crew goes to need to look a bit completely different subsequent yr, and it’s too early to go on report and say what type these adjustments will take, however the truth is that we’re dedicated to this sport and we’re not glad with merely being a part of the scene.
“It might be that we proceed with Dale Coyne Racing, or it might be that it’s a special partnership. We’re listening to others, testing concepts which were introduced to us for brand new partnerships.”
One half of Coyne’s evaluation – that Vasser and Sullivan aren’t but able to type a freestanding entity in IndyCar – is right nevertheless.
“Jimmy and I do in the end wish to try this – going out on our personal, and having the IndyCar and IMSA operations figuring out of our Charlotte store,” mentioned Sullivan. “We’ve mentioned that, and we determined that 2022 is not going to be the yr that occurs.”
IMSA prospects wanting brighter after first win of ’21
Picture by: Artwork Fleischmann
The Vasser Sullivan Lexus crew has been removed from nameless within the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sports activities Automotive Championship, VSR’s first season with out being in partnership with AIM Autosport. Nonetheless, outcomes have been powerful to come back by, provided that the GT Daytona class – because of IMSA’s largely masterful dealing with of its arguably regrettable Stability of Efficiency system – has resulted in amazingly shut competitors between the marques.
However after scoring 4 wins final yr and seeing Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth ending third and fourth within the championship, it’s little marvel that Sullivan has been pissed off by to this point touchdown only one win – and 5 different top-five finishes – within the after seven of 12 rounds in 2021.
“Yeah, it’s been tough,” he mentioned. “However first let me say that the Lexus program is working higher than ever. It’s one thing we’re awfully happy with: having the raceshop in Charlotte has been a giant plus for us.
“However this season has been difficult for us for various causes in IMSA than in IndyCar. Up till the Watkins Glen dash [2hr40min] race, we had been fast however hadn’t been capable of shut the deal and get the win. You pound your head in opposition to the wall wishing there was one central downside that wanted to be solved to meet our potential there, as a result of then we’d simply resolve it!
“However within the first 5 occasions, we had 5 extremely remoted completely different causes for not successful or not being on the rostrum. And the problems weren’t all the way down to lack of tempo or a flaw within the driver line-up, they usually weren’t all the way down to the crew for essentially the most half. For instance, within the Watkins Glen Six Hours, we confirmed that the folks that we’ve bought and the vehicles that we’ve bought are all sturdy, however what are you able to do a few warning flag that falls on the incorrect time and turns the order of the highest eight or 10 vehicles again to entrance so late within the race? That’s simply a type of conditions that you may’t management, however Jack and Aaron salvaged a sixth place there.
“Then within the Glen dash race the next week, we rebounded actually strongly and bought a 1-2 which implies the blokes bought their emotional tanks refilled! There’s quite a lot of worth in that. And final week at Lime Rock, a monitor which traditionally has not been variety to our vehicles, we confirmed up stronger than we’ve ever been there and we bought a podium. That was like a win for us, so we’ve bought wind in our sails now.”
And searching on the GT program for the short- and medium-term future?
“Jimmy and I don’t have something formal to announce but concerning Lexus however we’re getting fairly shut,” mentioned Sullivan. “Everybody’s need and intent is there to proceed in GT racing, so look out for an announcement quickly.”
Sullivan added that there’s nothing on the horizon to distract Vasser Sullivan Racing, comparable to him returning to his SH Racing roots.
“I nonetheless love rallycross, I like the electrification of rallycross and don’t be stunned if some methods down the street we announce a return,” he mentioned. “However that may not be a accountable transfer proper now.
“We’re fiercely centered on getting again on the rostrum in IndyCar and successful a championship in IMSA GTD and on. Like I say, we’re not in both collection simply to be there, so going rallycross, including a 3rd spoke to our wheel, will not be one thing we’re instantly contemplating. We now have unfinished enterprise with what we’re doing already.”
Aaron Telitz, Jack Hawksworth, Zach Veach and Frankie Montecalvo have a good time the Vasser Sullivan Lexus 1-2 in Watkins Glen’s 2hr40 race.
Picture by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images