LAMBORGHINI SUPER TROFEO RACE AT ROAD AMERICA
LAMBORGHINI SUPER TROFEO RACE AT ROAD AMERICA
A Mid-Summer Racing Junket Hosted by Alcantara
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
The smell of spent racing fuel and the sound of racing engines at full scream greeted us as we crested the knoll inside the historic Road America racetrack where we had an overview of the pits and the surrounding glacial hills of Central Wisconsin. How nostalgic. In my younger days I had the thrill of hanging out at this track acting as gopher for my brother’s SCCA and later Can Am teams in the 1970s. Back then it was all about beer, brats and sweet corn as much as adrenalin. And, there was plenty of all those.
I don’t typically cover racing and I’d not heard of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo racing series before being invited to attend this IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) race weekend by our friends at Alcantara. The weekend includes a variety of races in addition to the Super Trofeo.
Alcantara is the producer of a high-end material used in fashion, furniture, automobile interiors and many other applications. Versatile Alcantara materials take a variety of forms, mostly soft-touch and textured with a hint of nap. We don’t really know what it’s made of since that is a closely held secret, but we’re assured its biologically sourced, sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Alcantara is one of the sponsors of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo spec-race series - perhaps stemming from the companies proximity in Northern Italy - hosting the hospitality tent that follows the series from track to track serving the racing teams and hangers-on like us journos. Alcantara provides interior materials for seats and trim on road-going Lambos as well as many other luxury and sports cars around the world. I’ve most recently experienced it in the new Cadillac CT6.
The Super Trofeo series runs in Europe, Asia and the U.S and with professional and amateur drivers, though they must all be highly skilled and competent to race these cars. Here in the States we we have five, 2-race rounds plus a final race, the championship, held in Imola, Italy at the end of the season. Here at Road America in early August we’re witnessing the third pair of U.S. races, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.
Road America is arguably one of the best road courses in the country. Winding though the verdant hills around Elkhart Lake this 4.1-mile track with substantial elevation changes, 14 turns – sweepers, sleepers, twisties - hosts dozens of races every season. Average speeds around the track for the faster classes will approach 120 mph with speeds on the straights reaching 160 or more. The Lambo Super Trofeo cars are among those fastest.
For those unfamiliar with racing let me explain what we mean by spec-racers and how the Lambo series fits into the scheme of things.
Typically, spec racers are identical race cars from one manufacturer that compete against one another in a series of races at different tracks. On the more affordable end (and that term is relative) is the Mazda Miata series and on the other end are Porsche and Ferrari versions. Customers buy complete race cars and then it becomes more a competition about driver skills and car setup than other series where engines, chassis and other elements vary. There are enough adjustments one can make – tires, suspension settings, etc. that serious competition can happen.
We spent some quality time with Chris Ward, senior manager of motorsport for Lamborghini America, who described in detail the specifications. In this case, we have identical, purpose-built race cars (as opposed to street cars converted for racing) from Lamborghini featuring a monocoque chassis and V10 engine mostly unchanged from the production Huracán super car. The engine makes around 600 horsepower and is hooked to a British Xtrac 6-speed sequential transmission actuated by paddles. Aspiring racers, he tells us, can purchase a complete car for just $325,000 and it takes at least another 300 grand or so to fund a season of racing. As my brother the Can Am racer used to say, “racing is a bottomless pit into which you throw money.”
Four classes defined by level of driver experience separate competitors within the Super Trofeo field although they run together in the 50-minute races. Most of the teams are connected with Lamborghini dealers around the country. A pit stop is required and many teams have two drivers who swap at the stop. A driver change may require a seat insert to accommodate size and structure differences in the drivers. And that’s how the story gets back to Alcantara. They provide the racing seat material. They also provide luxury seating in the hospitality area that we found mighty comfortable.
So, back to Alcantara:
We’re still trying to figure out exactly what it is and the company’s marketing materials are not much help. Secrecy and propriety prevail. The content and process are closely guarded secrets. We know that the process is certified carbon neutral and we know it looks and feels mighty luxurious. I guess we need not know anything else – though our journalistic instincts beg for more. We’ve reviewed a number of cars with this material in the interiors and covering steering wheels and it has a unique, lightly textured soft feel.
Now, back to the races:
The race weekend for the Super Trofeo includes practice, qualifying and two 50-minute full-on races. Some mighty dark clouds and a few sprinkles in the area all weekend threatened but no one had to don rain tires for either race. Comfortable temperatures in the 70s - unusual for a mid-summer race weekend in my experience - brought throngs of spectators. I had forgotten how exciting a major race event could be.
The Saturday race began with a scramble as eventual class winner Yuki Harata jumped four spots during the chaos of the first few turns. Ashley Freiberg kept the pressure on the other racers throughout to claim a scant second place lead of just .272 seconds ahead of her closest rival. The overall winning team, start to finish, was Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini with their second consecutive win (they won last week’s second race at Watkins Glen) in their No. 1 Prestige Performance car from New Jersey after jumping out to a substantial lead and never giving any ground.
Hindman and Agostini dominated the Sunday race as well putting them in the season points lead with two race weekends (four races) remaining before the season ending championship in Italy. The win wasn’t quite as decisive as the Saturday race but certainly more entertaining since they gave up the lead early but gained it back after the mandatory pit stop for driver change. Hindman drove the second leg at a blistering pace passing the eventual second place car of Richard Antinucci.
The Road America race will be broadcast later this month. For details on the Lamborghini Super Trofeo races in the U.S. visit: https://squadracorse.lamborghini.com/super-trofeo/north-america
If you’re curious about the Alcantara materials check out: http://www.alcantara.com/en/automotive/9/index.do
© Words and Photos by Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved