Back when I was 10 years old I saw a Lamborghini Countach on the cover of a magazine. Mesmerized and intrigued, little did I know it was the first step to what would become my life, passion and career. To regular readers of PRN Ignition, you might remember a few years ago I finally got to drive a Countach, and wrote a column about it here in PRN (Episode 13, April 2011). It was a very special moment, finally coming hands to steering wheel with a childhood hero and icon. The Countach didn’t disappoint and, it furthered the mystique that Lamborghini has always had in my mind and heart.
So, imagine my excitement when very recently I was asked to race a Lamborghini in the new Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series!
The series features a factory-built race car based on the Gallardo LP 570-4, and like the beloved Countach, it screams exotic. Its huge rear wing, front splitter, dive planes and F1-esque rear diffuser makes the already radical-looking Gallardo into something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Hands down, it’s one of the meanest and sexiest GT cars around.
And it’s not just a pretty face! Its 570+ hp, all-wheel drive, big Brembo brakes, seven-speed paddle shift transmission, Pirelli racing slicks and downforce from all the aero appendages make the car one very serious machine.
Unique to the series is that it is a true pro/am format with 50-minute races and mandatory pit stop to allow for several driver combinations. You can race as a solo driver, as a car owner with a pro co-driver, as two amateur drivers or even have two pros share the car. So far, it has made for a diverse blend of owners, amateurs and professional drivers all mixing it up on the track. And wow, just one of these machines looks exciting on its own, seeing a full grid of them borders on breathtaking.
Regardless of this being a pro/am series catering more to amateur and gentleman drivers, there is nothing amateur or gentle about driving these cars. It is a full on raging bull that requires a very strong (and respectful) hand to tame.
The combination of nearly 600-hp and all-wheel drive means the rate of acceleration is immense. Corner exits feel akin to being launched out of a catapult hurling you to the next corner. Every time I came out of Turn 1 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (aka Mosport) I found myself being amazed (and slightly frightened) at how quickly I arrived at Turn 2!
The downforce, all-wheel drive and big Pirellis (275 fronts and 305 rears) mean cornering speeds are incredible, and with that the level of corner entry commitment required. All in all it’s a lot of speed, grip and inertia to control. Chassis balance was very neutral and, when pushed to the limit, it gave me plenty of oversteering moments to keep me feeling young and brave! The brakes are simply brilliant as well – big six-pot Brembos that put your body into the seat belts and continually encourage you to brake later and deeper.
I was expecting a slightly more user friendly gentleman’s car, but I’m very pleased to find the Super Trofeo being every bit as serious a GT machine as any of the current crop of IMSA GTD cars. In fact, the lap times between the front-running IMSA machines and “our” Gallardo were not far off at all.
The opportunity to race the car came from the newly-formed Musante-Courtney Racing team, who are eager to prove their strength in the series. As an outsider stepping in, I was highly impressed. Throughout the course of the weekend, we as a team continually made set-up changes and improvements to the car.
I am very proud to report that we drove from pole position in race one on Saturday morning, and set a new lap record and drove the fastest lap in the wet race by over three seconds on Sunday morning. The races were bittersweet. On both days, minor errors during the pit stops robbed us of what should have been two straightforward wins. All in all, we as a group definitely proved a point, and were seen as the car to beat all weekend long.
Being an all-Lamborghini racing series has several added perks. Drivers are given new OMP racing suits and gear to wear, plenty of flashy clothing and access to the VIP pavilion. The food and drink there alone is worthy of a column; all very fabulous and stylishly Italian. You can learn more about the series and follow the remaining 2014 rounds at: http://squadracorse.lamborghini.com.
The cherry on this Lamborghini weekend was getting to test drive the all new Huracan! There are literally only two of these machines in North America at the moment so it was another rare and special moment to get to drive one so soon. At home in Ontario no less! With 610 hp, a retuned twin-clutch gearbox, adaptive handling et cetera et cetera, it’s a simply stunning machine!
Without a doubt, the car, the series and the weekend as a whole was an incredible experience I will never forget. Joe Courtney and Chris Musante, I can’t thank you two enough – you’ve helped a 10-year-old’s dream come true.
Yours in driving,