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The lowdown on Lambo's racing future

  1. Ferruccio Lamborghini was a frontiersman in many ways. But it’s a lesser-known fact that he was actually a ground-breaking pioneer of the hotel industry. See, in 1948 he got an appetite for racing. So, with a new pair of driving gloves wrapped around his hands and a self-tuned Fiat Topolino fizzing beneath his bottom, he entered the Mille Miglia. Unfortunately, 700 miles later, he lost his racing appetite by ploughing the little Fiat bulkhead-deep into a hotel, introducing the world’s first ‘Express Check-in’ policy, for which TopGear thanks him.

    But this crashy experience cauterised Ferruccio’s craving for racing. And was ultimately used as a precedent for his company, as he didn’t believe that motorsport was necessary to sell and develop his cars.

    Pictures: Rowan Horncastle

    This feature originally appeared in issue 262 of Top Gear magazine.

  2. Admittedly, the Italian firm has flirted with racing - providing engines for F1 teams in the late Eighties, offering a series for race-spec GT1 Diablos to run around in during the Nineties and, more recently, providing the structure for third parties to race their cars in the Blancpain Super Trofeo series. But it has never built, developed, managed or run its own car. Let alone paid a team to keep it running, or sourced some handymen to place behind the steering wheel.

    But Lamborghini - the company - has been on a very different trajectory since Ferruccio’s formative family-run years. When VW stormed in and stuck defibrillators on the Sant’Agata HQ, they turned it from a small-volume supercar maker into a reliable, aspirational and internationally recognised brand.

  3. It’s only now, 50 years since its inception and with the added pressure from VW, that Lambo’s board of directors has set up Squadra Corse: a 20-strong motorsport department tasked with sending raging bulls racing. And they’re taking it very seriously.

    “I not only want to participate in Le Mans,” Lambo’s new motorsport coordinator and chief test driver Giorgio Sanna says, “I want to win.” As mission statements go, that’s bold. But they’re not letting the weight of overambition slow them down.

  4. That’s why Squadra Corse is currently drilling, measuring and scrutinising a 612bhp slicks ‘n’ wings special Huracán Super Trofeo like mechanically minded Trinny and Susannahs. Thanks to a lock-up and some electrical gremlins running amok in the engine and ‘box, the racecar has been pulled off the track, air-jacked onto casters and stretchered into a pit box for surgery at Lamborghini’s main testing facility in Vallelunga.

    The camo-clad Huracán is stripped naked in five minutes flat. Ethernet cables cascade out of the cockpit, thermometers are mercilessly shoved down the V10’s throat and a man wielding a hefty drill plunges straight into the bonnet to perform an emergency tracheotomy to help it breathe.

  5. This Huracán Super Trofeo is the first step to that Le Mans dream. Where the previous Gallardo Super Trofeo was a road car fabricated to race, the Huracán ST was born to do so. The ST project - with the help of chassis wizards Dallara - was developed alongside, not out of, the road-car programme. And with a caricature chin spoiler, air-devouring diffuser, massive rear wing, blistered arches, twin centre exit exhausts and sumo-wrestler stance, this thing means business. Literally.

    It’s set to compete in the Blancpain Super Trofeo championship, a one-make series for gentleman racers in Europe, Asia and the US. Cough up €230k (plus VAT) for the car, then split another €170k with a mate to enter, and even you can become a bona fide Lamborghini race driver. You can even pair yourself up with a handy pro.

  6. This makes setting the car up quite hard, as the potential pilots stretch from ham-fisted white-collar workers to twinkle-toed pros. A balance Giorgio and his team are trying to work out… with the help of some kids.

    Outside the pit box are 11 drivers, all under 26 and buzzing around like their first day at Big School. They’re all part of Lambo’s new Young Drivers Program: an institute to develop ex-Super Trofeo drivers to become professionals of motorsport. They’re tutored in how to handle the media, a team and have a hand in developing cars. It’s a real statement of intent, showing that Lamborghini is in this racing game for the long run.

  7. Being FIA applicable, 152kg lighter than the road car, RWD, equipped with an Xtrac sequential ‘box, racing ECU, composite fibreglass quick-release panels, a new muffler set-up to eke out more power, a mechanical diff, electronic looms with rapid connectors, steering-wheel-adjustable 12-stage ABS and nine-stage traction control, you’d think the ST is hardcore enough. But there are already plans for a GT3 car. Which, in essence, is the Super Trofeo turned up to gas mark nine. And a place of employment for the young bucks in the Drivers Program. “The car will be 80 per cent different to the Super Trofeo. It will be the absolute maximum,” says Giorgio Sanna.

    This is positive news for future Lambo road cars. The VW Group has seen the importance of endurance racing as a marketing and development tool for its production models (Audi for diesel engines, Porsche for hybrids). Lamborghini’s board has finally come round to that way of thinking, too. This means we won’t have to wait too long for a RWD Huracán.

  8. Squadra Corsa even has its own brand-new facility at Sant’Agata. It’s where the team is based and customer cars built. They’ve even made a big trophy cabinet. But what silverware do they want to fill it with? What’s the end game? “Our racing programme and budget currently extends to 2018,” Giorgio Sanna says. “F1 is completely out of our mind because VW is not interested. But endurance racing is a very good programme, and we have to look at LMP1. But we have to grow step by step.”

    A Lamborghini LMP1. Now that’s not an uninviting thought, is it? With Lambo’s new adoption of hybrid tech, Porsche back monstering down the Mulsanne against the ever-dominant Audi, as well of rumours of Ferrari’s return to La Sarthe, there could be something in this.

  9. But before that thought sinks in, there’s a hell of a lot of work to do. So with the data-logging equipment reset and some posh temperature-sensitive nail polish painted on the brakes, the Huracán is pushed out of the field hospital and back onto the track.

    Another chapter has just opened, and like the many before it, promises to be just as mad. Let’s just hope their new drivers don’t copy Ferruccio’s check-in technique.

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