- Since the start of the Super Trofeo series in 2009, Lamborghini has been increasingly involved in motor sports, and next year will enter high-end endurance racing.
- That hybrid LMDh (stands for Le Mans Daytona hybrid) the car will pair a twin-turbo V-8 with an electric powertrain, with development happening concurrently with the company’s upcoming road hybrid supercar.
- Racing has also been key to Lamborghini as it fine tunes the handling of its product line, and has helped broaden the brand’s reach as well as solidify its reputation for honed track machines.
Among the 61 race cars that passed the green flag to kick off the 2023 Daytona 24 Hours last Saturday were five Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo 2 cars. During the day’s competition, six Lamborghini factory drivers were put behind the wheel, with the automaker’s Squadra Corse motorsport division providing support at track side.
Racing wasn’t always Lamborghini’s realm. When Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his namesake company in 1963, he focused solely on road cars. He had found the Ferraris of the era crude and impure, labeled them as glorified race cars, and he vowed to build the ultimate street sports car. So while Ferrari’s journey began with motorsports—with Enzo Ferrari developing only road cars to fund his racing endeavors—Lamborghini shunned those lines in pursuit of road-driving behavior and interior quality.
The following decades saw Lamborghini occasionally dabbling in racing; there was a failed venture as a supplier of Formula 1 engines in the early 90’s and limited involvement in GT racing with Diablo and Murcielago. But since launching the one-build Super Trofeo series in 2009, Lamborghini has caught the racing bug, and next year the company will join high-end endurance racing with an LMDh prototype designed to conquer Daytona and Le Mans. At a media roundtable at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona, we spoke with CEO Stephan Winkelmann and chief technical officer Rouven Mohr about Lamborghini’s growing passion for motorsports and how it benefits the brand.
Plug-In Hybrids Coming
“We think times have changed,” explained Winkelmann, when asked about the prototype endurance racing expansion. “For us, [LDMh] was the best opportunity to test the material, and the fact that it’s a hybrid fits perfectly into our strategy.”
Lamborghini is set to reveal its first plug-in hybrid this year as the successor to the Aventador. The new supercar will retain the V-12 engine, with Mohr firmly stating, “We’re not following the downsizing trend.” Plug-in follow-ups for the electrified Huracán and Urus are also expected in the near future. Meanwhile, the LMDh race car that will compete in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and IMSA SportsCar Championship in 2024 will pair a twin-turbo V-8 engine with an electric powertrain.
While the LMDh setup is specifically designed for competition, the know-how from running a hybrid race car will eventually transfer back to road Lamborghinis. “But right now, it’s the opposite,” Mohr said. “We’ve learned a lot about energy management for road cars; we didn’t start from scratch at LMDh.” Regardless of which direction the technology goes, the timing of LMDh’s entry and Lamborghini’s push towards electrification is no accident and demonstrates the brand’s commitment to the transition to hybrids.
As new technology developed, racing became critical to fine-tuning the suspension and steering of road-legal supercars. “If you want to improve the handling and behavior of the car, motorsport is the right field to train,” said Mohr. He also explained that the motorsport department, Squadra Corse, and the company’s R&D division are closely linked, with employee turnover between the two branches. This influence has resulted in more track-focused road cars, such as the Huracán STO, which is essentially a GT3 race car for the road, with wings and fins growing from sculpted carbon fiber bodywork. More track editions will be developing of the upcoming hybrid, but Winkelmann is yet to divulge any details.
Racing does more than just boost the performance of the Lamborghini lineup. As demonstrated by the hundreds of logos emblazoned on every race car on the Daytona grid, motorsport is as important as marketing and competition, and Lamborghini’s motorsports drive has helped transform the brand’s image over the last decade.
“We officially started motorsport with Super Trofeo because we thought we should build a relationship between us and our customers,” said Winkelmann. The Super Trofeo, like the Ferrari Challenge series, is for the so-called “male drivers”—basically the very wealthy who have little spare cash and want to live out their racing dreams. This series allows Lamborghini owners to experience the Huracán, and previously the Gallardo, in an environment where they can push their supercars to their limits and experience extreme performance capabilities.
On the one hand, the series serves as a way to train the company’s customers. “We use this as well as a boost for our riders,” said Winkelmann. Teaching Lamborghini owners how to handle such powerful machines through Super Trofeo goes beyond the track. “Most of them use Lamborghinis every day.”
Super Trofeo has also increased awareness of the brand, extending Lamborghini’s reputation beyond the company’s historically striking designs to establish it as a maker of highly capable angle sculptors. “Our following is huge, not only for the Lamborghini brand but also for Squadra Corse,” said Winkelmann. The Super Trofeo program also ushered Lamborghini into GT3 racing, the FIA homologation class that competes in WEC and IMSA. The Evo 2 taking part in the 2023 24 Hours of Daytona is the third generation of the GT3 race car that shares the same silhouette as Lamborghini wearing the license plate, further establishing the link between the brand’s product and track performance.
While some purists may be put off by the idea of Lamborghini turning to a hybrid, Lamborghini promises that electrified supercars—and eventually full-brand EVs—will still carry the emotional connection expected from Lamborghini, the charisma with which they have been packed. designs and machines for decades. And we have a strong feeling that the automaker’s continued passion for motorsport and its new entry into the LMDh will help ensure that Lamborghini’s soul lives and well in the electric age.