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Imola. Isn’t that where we lost Senna? Yes. While it’s fair to say that most empty race circuits feel a little melancholy – unused potential, perhaps – the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari has a more chilling edge than others. It’s probably the tributes: T-shirts, posters and myriad Brazilian flags that flutter in the breeze, their personal touches and messages interspersed by decaying flowers – all arranged on the catch fencing at Tamburello corner. The place that, on 1 May 1994, claimed the life of Formula One deity Ayrton Senna. Since that moment, this circuit has been a place of pilgrimage to honour the man who touched so many – and a profoundly moving place. But it’s also still a fantastic racing circuit. And race circuits aren’t happy unless they’re being used. Fitting, then, that the contemplative calm is rudely, violently punctured by the angry bark of a Lamborghini V10. And not just any V10. It’s the engine powering Lamborghini’s forthcoming hardcore Huracán flagship – the Performante. What’s a Lamborghini Huracan Performante?
If you think of Performante as a snazzy Italian word for “GT3” you won’t be very wide of the mark. Put simply, it’s a harder, faster, more focused Huracán, built to smash circuit lap times (fastest-ever Lambo around the ’Ring, apparently) and do an equally effective job of making jaws drop when pottering around town. Antonio Grandi, Performante R&D project leader, tells us the Performante is derived – at least in part – from Lamborghini’s GT3 experience. How so? It uses a new style of forged carbon fibre, as well as other weight-saving measures, to deliver a 40kg reduction over the standard Huracán; the naturally aspirated V10 has undergone substantial development so that it now delivers the highest specific engine power of any in its class. There’s an all-new exhaust system (which exits higher up the rear of the car) that reduces back pressure and boosts “emotional sound”; the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission has been “re-optimised” for faster shifts; and an all-new P Zero Corsa has been developed with Pirelli specifically for the car and features new double-compound technology. Inside, there are new forged carbon elements (vents, centre console) combined with Alcantara seats and steering wheel, and revised HMI graphics. It feels fresh.
Talk to me about the suspension and aero. Lambo has reworked it, delivering a ten per cent increase in vertical stiffness and 15 per cent less roll, with the arm bushings improving radial and axial stiffness by 50 per cent. And if you combine that with revised active steering (again remapped to deliver more connection) and the reduced steering ratio in Corsa mode, you get… umm… good things. Basically, it’s a thorough job, and pretty much every bit of the Huracán has been fettled. There’s a huge rear wing and more aggressive front splitter – the usual performance bolt-ons. Even in funky camouflage, you can’t miss them. But the way these two elements combine to handle and optimise the air flow is where the magic lies. The Performante is the first Lambo to feature what the company is calling ALA – Aerodynamica Lamborghini Attiva. Or, to put it in a less exciting accent: active aero. At the front, there are two flaps which, with the ALA system off, remain closed and, in conjunction with the rear wing, deliver maximum downforce. With ALA active, they’re opened by an electric motor nestled in the centre of the splitter, boosting air flow and reducing drag and underbody pressure. The huge rear wing – one of the new forged carbon-fibre elements – is actually hollow, and the two upright supports have airboxes at their bases (which sit inboard, in the airflow at the base of the rear glass decklid) each containing motorised flaps. The airboxes sweep up the fast- moving air from the decklid and flow it through the rear wing upright and into the wing itself. That speedy airflow then runs through the spoiler’s horizontal plane and is released through a narrow channel underneath its surface. Because the forged carbon can be made into complex structures, each side of the wing has its own channel fed independently from the airbox on each respective side. With ALA active, the flow through the wing is optimised in different ways. Under heavy braking the airflow is stopped, leaving the wing to act traditionally, and keep the car balanced and planted. When cornering, the system monitors the steering and yaw inputs and shuts off air to the inside to increase the downforce on that wheel, while opening the valve in the channel on the other. It’s active air braking downforce. Sort of. What it definitely is, is the world’s first actively aero-vectoring rear wing. (Hover over the airflow pics in the gallery above for further explanation)
The Performante is making me look legendary, its stability through the corners is dramatically undramaticUm, got it. Does it all work? After a few laps solely spent admiring the circuit (and desperately trying not to rear-end Lamborghini test driver Pierluigi Veronesi in a standard Huracan up ahead), we start to go faster. And the Performante starts to show its stripes. As we exit Rivazza and blast down the pit straight, the Performante is hunting down the standard Huracán with ease – even with me at the wheel. I take my braking point from Pierluigi – reacting to his brake lights – and the Performante sheds speed with a stability and violence so dramatic I have to accelerate again. Amateur. We pour through Traguardo in third and let the car flow through Tamburello in fourth, fifth as we charge down to Villeneuve, hard on the brakes… again too early, and on to Tosa. Lesson learned, I’m later on the brakes than Pierluigi and beginning to get the idea as we head up to Piratella – a fast, committed left-hander. Pierluigi is busy in the Huracán up ahead. Through here, and even though I’m not Italian, a racing driver, don’t have fast shoes and have nothing like his talent, the Performante is making me look legendary. Its stability through the corners is dramatically undramatic, and the braking power on offer is giving me the confidence to leave that part of the equation later and later as we barrel downhill into Acque Minerali. Back up the hill towards Variante Alta, which has more kerbs, then some more kerbs and then a bigger kerb – all of which Pierluigi uses, so I feel it would be rude not to. The Performante stays unruffled. So it’s a huge step up from the ‘regular’ Huracan then? Yep. When I head out in the regular Huracán, there’s not only less noise and fury, but the shifts aren’t as snappy – the whole experience is less visceral. Most importantly it’s less stable too, makes Imola a much scarier place than it had felt in the Performante, and understeers where that car had continued to grip. The Performante was always encouraging me to go faster and faster. It might feature tech so advanced mere mortals like me struggle to compute it, but no matter how complicated the theory, it’s the practice that matters. And the Performante delivers in spades. We’ll see the full car very shortly, so stay tuned to TopGear.com…
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