Just look at them. There aren’t many cars that give you the same feeling Lamborghinis do. There’s something primal about them. Aggressive, untamed, dramatic, almost… evil. We’re at Silverstone and a storm is brewing overhead. Actually, a lightning fork in the background would set this scene off nicely. We’ve a few spots of rain, but no luck with timely electrostatic.
It may not have the longest history in motor sport, but Lamborghini has well and truly stepped up a gear in recent years. With the formation of its Squadra Corse factory racing arm in 2014, the Italian firm has absolute control over its racing range for the first time since the mid-1990s. Former Ferrari F1 team boss Stefano Domenicali is CEO, and the brand is on a roll in GT racing.
It all started with the Diablo Super Trophy back in 1996, when a fledgling SRO Motorsports Group convinced Lamborghini to start a single-make series, with Stéphane Ratel promoting it. That laid the foundations for the GT3 category we have today in many ways, but after that series finished in 2002, the firm largely took a step back from racing. Under new ownership by the Volkswagen Group from 1998, the brand was remodelling its road car range as the Diablo was retired with no suitable alternative for racing available – the flagship Murciélago was too expensive and the Gallardo had yet to come along. The net result was Lambo being absent from racing for the next eight years.
It re-entered the sport with the single-make Super Trofeo series in 2009 – using a modified Gallardo LP560-4 – that was largely designed and built by third-party partner Reiter Engineering in Germany. For Lambo, it was a marketing exercise, but soon grew, sprouting sister series in North America, Asia and the Middle East. Now, only the Porsche Carrera Cup and Ferrari Challenge can boast a similar global championship reach.
Lamborghini finally had the momentum, reputation and machinery to make itself a real force in GT racing, and committed to re-opening the factory motor sport division.
“Our racing history may not be as intensive as other brands, but motor sport has always been in our DNA,” says Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s chief technical officer. “We ran class one [P1] Powerboats for many years [through the mid-1980s], making naturally aspirated V12 engines to produce 1000bhp and achieve 220kph on water, so our motor sport story is perhaps not as short as people think.
“As for circuit racing, for us it was always run as a marketing tool, with our engagement being as little as possible. But then the board wanted to do something more serious and our first decision was to put motor sport under the responsibility of research and development and take control of it in-house. That way we can design the cars the way we want, and give our customers the sort of quality they expect from Lamborghini.”
The two race cars here are the first true products of Squadra Corse – the Huracán Super Trofeo Evo and GT3 Evo – flanking their progenitor, the Huracán Performante.
But what level of engineering goes into each step on the newly founded Lambo racing ladder, and how do you make an already rapid road car into a ballistic GT3 Batmobile? We spoke to the experts.
“If you have a good base car, it is much easier to develop into a race car, and the Huracán is the best model for this category of racing,” says Reggiani. But why that specific model?
“When we developed Squadra Corse, we had the choice of two models – the flagship Aventador or the Huracán. The Aventador is the pinnacle of Lamborghini, in terms of performance, technology… and price. It has a full carbon-fibre monocoque and a 770bhp engine. It would have been killed under Balance of Performance [BoP] in GT racing, so the Huracán was better placed.”
And by “better placed” he doesn’t mean it sits in the Aventador’s shadow, because the Huracán Performante has enough sporting credential of its own. In 2017, it caused an upset when test driver Marco Mapelli took a camouflaged version around the Nürburgring Nordshleife in 6min 52.01sec to set a new production car record. That’s 5sec faster than the Porsche 918. Not bad for a car costing £215,000 – around a third of what you’d have to fork out for a 918 when they were actually available.
At the heart of the Performante is a 5.2-litre V10 engine derived from Audi. It produces 630bhp and 442lb ft of torque at 6500rpm. The car’s already lightweight at 1382kg, with carbon fibre bodywork.
“What the Performante achieved around the Nürburgring was extraordinary,” says Reggiani. “It’s based on a different technical solution of four-wheel drive with active aerodynamics. For motor racing, many of these things aren’t allowed, but we knew we had a good performance base, so we focused on taking the parts we couldn’t use out.”
“Racing is a particular business, and you have to do it well”
Giorgio Sanna is Lambo’s long-serving test driver, and now its head of motor sport. He was in charge of developing the road map to turn an already quick car into a world-beating GT racer, and assembling the staff to do so within Squadra Corse.
“It was fundamental to develop the competence and knowhow within Squadra Corse,” Sanna says. “Motor sport is a particular business, and you must have the right people and the right competence to do it well. When making a race car, you must take into account its application, and that’s not just the application of the car from a driver’s point of view but from a team’s view too. A race car must be easier to work on, to maintain and be repaired. And there are fundamentals that have to carry across from the road car to the race car. Lamborghini’s principle is not just fast and fastest, it’s also being easy to drive and have good handling behaviour. We have many gentlemen drivers in the Super Trofeo series who are Lamborghini owners on the road and they must feel that link between the road and race car. We’ve even fed back from the race cars to improve the road ones. We have a good exchange of technical data between road and race.”
• Price £215,000
• Engine 5.2-litre V10
• Power 631bhp
• Torque 443lb ft @8000rpm
• Top speed 202mph
• Weight 1382kg
• Transmission 7-speed sequential with dual clutch, four-wheel drive
• Suspension Double wishbones all round
• Brakes Carbon-ceramic discs 380x38mm front, 356x32mm rear with six-pot calipers front, four-pot rear
Huracán Super Trofeo Evo
Now we’re talking. As good as the Performante is, it’s not a race car. And the race cars are why we’re here. So, how racey is the Trofeo against its road-going sibling?
Simple answer in terms of basic componentry is not a lot. Simple answer in terms of performance is… massively.
As a single-make series, or ‘Cup’ spec car, it’s the little things that add up to make the Super Trofeo a full-blooded race car. But all development comes at a cost, so Squadra Corse has been careful not to overdo things. The car has to be accessible, designed as an entry-level or intermediate step into GT racing for either Lamborghini owners or aspiring drivers looking to learn the ropes ahead of the wider world of GT3 competition.
“The chassis is the same as the road car, and we designed it so we can build the race cars on the same production line in the factory as the road cars, with no race-specific build queues,” says Reggiani. “Having the cars assembled on the production line gives a quality assurance, as the process scrutinises everything – from depth and alignment to tubing and the clamping of every component. I think we’re the first in the world to develop this sort of production technique.”
“The standard engine would be too much power in the race car”
The chassis is the same architecturally, but benefits from being 45 per cent stiffer thanks to the addition of the mandated crash structure. The engine is exactly the same as the Performante road car, with only the airbox and exhaust systems being changed, and a motor sport ECU is fitted. That creates a key difference in the engine’s mapping, reducing power to 620bhp and limiting the top speed to around 170mph. It can’t match the 202mph of the road car, but that level of performance is simply not needed.
“We’ve never had a driver say: ‘these cars are too slow, you could use with more power’,” says Sanna. “We restrict the top-end performance slightly to benefit acceleration. If we left the engine alone completely, it would be too much in the race car.
“We don’t use any titanium or different camshafts in the Super Trofeo engine, it’s really standard barring the ECU. We even use the road car’s suspension because it’s already twin wishbones all round, we just add a racing [two-way] adjustable damper.”
The big difference is aerodynamics. Squadra Corse has partnered with single-seater and sports car giant Dallara, and uses the Italian firm’s facilities for aero testing.
The result isn’t just an increase in aero performance over the road car, the Evo is also a big step up above the older generation Super Trofeo, which was introduced in 2015.
Lamborghini cites an eight per cent reduction in drag and a three per cent increase in aero balance. Also notable on the Evo are the heavily reworked rear aerodynamics, including a roof-mounted air ram, small shark-fin engine cover and extra intakes and outlets around the rear bumper to improve airflow through the chassis.
“We work with Dallara across both the Super Trofeo and GT3 cars,” explains Sanna. “With the Super Trofeo we are not forced to follow the regulations that restrict GT3 development so we have more freedom. We use the Super Trofeo to experiment and develop new technical efficiency and engineering that may be useful to the next generation of GT3 car. The drag resistance on this car is very low, which makes it good in a straight line. The shark fin makes it stable and predictable through fast corners, which is what you want for an amateur driver. If you look at the Super Trofeo grid, the gap between the novice drivers and the more experienced is very close, and that tells us we’ve made a car that looks after its drivers, that’s accessible to help them close the gap.”
There are reliability upgrades, like beefed-up radiators and oil coolers, an X-Trac six-speed sequential gearbox, racing clutch and lightened flywheel. A nine-setting traction control system and 12-setting ABS system are also included.
• Price £260,000
• Engine 5.2-litre V10
• Power 620bhp
• Torque 421lb ft @6500rpm
• Top speed 170mph
• Weight 1270kg
• Transmission 6-speed sequential (X-Trac) with racing clutch and lightweight flywheel, two-wheel drive
• Suspension Double wishbones with rigid bushing, front/rear anti-roll bars and two-way adjustable Öhlins dampers
• Brakes Steel discs 380x35mm front, 355x32mm rear; six-pot calipers front and four-pot rear; 12-position racing ABS system
Huracán GT3 Evo
GT3 has come an awfully long way since its formation in 2005. Back then cars could be developed cost-effectively by brands using stock chassis with a conversion kit of parts. Technical advancement across 15 years has changed that, and a modern GT3 is now a ground-up, purpose-built racing machine.
GT3 has grown to be the first truly global category since the glory days of Formula Ford. If you own a car, you can race it pretty much anywhere, any weekend. And if you’re a young and aspiring driver, there’s arguably not a better career route at the moment. So, they have to be good, and Lambo’s offering is proving to be one of the best, having won multiple Blancpain GT Series rounds since its introduction last year, and across all classes too – Pro, Silver Cup and Amateur.
But to create it, Lamborghini had an issue. Engineering a GT3 car takes specialist experience, which Squadra Corse didn’t have when it opened. So it looked to parent firm Audi. The first Huracán GT3 was developed on a unified platform with the R8 LMS GT3. They shared a chassis, suspension, and engine. The Huracán began life as an Audi in a dress. The Evo has changed that.
“For year one , we wanted to develop the Super Trofeo and GT3 platform side-by-side,” says Sanna. “But we had a lack of experience so we worked with Audi Sport Customer Racing on a common chassis and drivetrain. Now, we have four years of experience from that. The Evo is completely separate from the Audi now. We have a different engine from the Performante [which is engineered in Hungary from an Audi block] and we develop internally the suspensions, the aero [again with Dallara] and the electronics. Four years ago the structure we have now wasn’t existing.”
Against its siblings, the GT3 Evo is lower, wider, more aggressive and, at least to the eye, more simplistically styled.
The chassis is made from aluminium and carbon fibre and sits 27mm wider than the Trofeo’s, and that extends to an extra 45mm with the aero appendages. The bodywork is carbon, the suspension retains its double wishbones but uses uniball joints and four-way adjustable dampers. The wheelbase is 28mm wider and the Pirelli slick tyres are an inch larger everywhere.
“The aero on modern GT3 cars is now similar to that of Formula 3”
But by far the biggest difference lies in the aero. Much development has gone into allowing air to flow over, through and under the GT3’s chassis, producing downforce.
“The level of aero in a GT3 car is now like a Formula 3 car,” adds Sanna. “It’s why a lot of drivers coming from F3 and F2 are immediately fast because they have the aerodynamic understanding – this is the biggest difference to the driving.”
The one thing that doesn’t improve is the power. While BoP means engine output and restrictors are constantly changing, the GT3 Evo is hit more than most. Due to its aero efficiency it pays a heavy price in terms of grunt, usually running at around 450bhp. That’s 170 down on the Super Trofeo, and even further from the Performante road car.
How does that affect performance? On the same track and the same conditions, the leading GT3 Evo took pole position at Silverstone with a time 1.8sec faster than the best Super Trofeo. Even though Silverstone is a power circuit. That’s aero for you.
The car we have here is one of Barwell Motorsport’s, the British team with close links to Squadra Corse as an official factory supported team for British GT and Blancpain.
Barwell boss Mark Lemmer says: “The Lambo is perhaps the most extreme high-downforce GT3. It’s quite pitch-sensitive, which means the angle of the floor to the ground and the way the air’s managed underneath the car is a very sensitive area. You need experienced engineers to use the right spring and damper settings, and it also changes the way the driver handles the car because pitch changes with how you brake.
“A GT3’s strength is never its acceleration or top speed. Down the straight this will hit top way before the Trofeo, but the difference is in the brakes and the cornering. You brake so much later and the aero means you have a much greater minimum speed through the corner, so you can accelerate earlier too.
“The systems on the GT3 are unbelievable. We have an extra mechanic just to look after the electronic systems, and an extra technician to manage the data during the big races. We have multiple screens in the car with lap times, rear-view, rear radar that tells you closing distances – which is great in the dark when the driver just has a blur of light behind. The amount of wiring is four-fold over a Trofeo car.”
Does a cutting-edge car not require stringent and often costly maintenance?
“The engine is fairly stock, because the aero out-performs it,” adds Lemmer. “The [Hör] gearbox is proven and the suspension, hubs and drive-shafts are all designed for endurance racing. The area we do have to constantly maintain is the carbon aero parts, like the floor, splitter, diffuser and sills. Because the cars are so aero heavy and run low to the ground at tracks where there are bumps or depressions – like Brands Hatch or Spa – the car’s actually touching the floor quite a lot. We have to replace or repair elements after almost every event, especially the rear diffuser. The Trofeo cars run around 15mm higher so don’t have that issue.”
Reggiani has the final word: “We look at the Super Trofeo as the university, and the GT3 as the PhD. The GT3 has to compete against different brands, whereas the Trofeo competes against itself, so they need different development. The Huracán GT3 is the closest in relation to the street car it’s based on in terms of dimension and wheelbase, because we started with a car born to be already similar to a race car.”
The lineage is clear through all three, but each result is surprisingly different.
• Price £360,000
• Engine 5.2-litre V10
• Power 450bhp*
• Torque 439lb ft @6500rpm*
• Top speed 150mph
• Weight 1230kg*
• Transmission 6-speed sequential (Hör) with racing clutch and lightweight flywheel, two-wheel drive
• Suspension Double wishbones with uniball all round, four-way adjustable Öhlins dampers; three-way adjustable anti-roll bars front and rear
• Brakes Steel discs 380x34mm front, 355x32mm rear; Brembo six-pot calipers front, four-pot rear; 12-position racing ABS system
*Changeable according to BoP grading
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