- Since the start of the Super Trofeo series in 2009, Lamborghini has become increasingly involved in motorsport, and will enter the top class of endurance racing next year.
- That hybrid LMDh (which stands for Le Mans Daytona hybrid) car will pair a twin-turbo V-8 with an electric powertrain, with development taking place alongside the company’s upcoming hybrid supercars down the road.
- Racing was also key for Lamborghini when tuning the handling of its lineup, helping to expand the brand’s reach and cement its reputation for polished track machines.
Among the 61 race cars that shot past the green flag to start the 2023 24 Hours of Daytona last Saturday were five Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo 2 cars. Throughout the day-long competition, six Lamborghini factory drivers sat behind the wheel, with the automaker’s Squadra Corse motorsport division providing trackside support.
Racing wasn’t always Lamborghini’s realm. When Ferruccio Lamborghini founded his namesake in 1963, he focused only on road cars. He found Ferraris of the era crude and unrefined, labeling them glorified track cars, and he vowed to build the best road-going sports cars. So while Ferrari’s journey began with motorsport—with Enzo Ferrari only developing road cars to finance his racing efforts—Lamborghini avoided the track in its pursuit of driving manners and interior quality.
In the decades that followed, Lamborghini occasionally dabbled in racing; there was a failed venture as a Formula 1 engine supplier in the early 90s and limited involvement in GT racing with the Diablo and Murciélago. But since the introduction of the one-make Super Trofeo series in 2009, Lamborghini has caught the racing bug, and next year the company will join the top class of endurance racing with an LMDh prototype designed to take on both Daytona and Le Mans conquer. 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 greater passion for motorsport and how it benefits the brand.
Plug-in hybrids are coming
“We think times have changed,” Winkelmann explained when asked about the expansion into prototype endurance racing. “For us, [LDMh] is the best opportunity to test materials, and the fact that it is a hybrid fits perfectly into our strategy.”
Lamborghini is set to unveil its first plug-in hybrid this year as a successor to the Aventador. The new supercar will retain a V-12 engine, with Mohr stating emphatically, “We’re not following the downsizing trend.” A plug-in follow-up to the Huracán and an electrified Urus are also expected in the near future. Meanwhile, the LMDh race car that will take on the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and IMSA SportsCar Championship in 2024 will pair a twin-turbo V-8 with an electric powertrain.
While the LMDh setup was designed specifically for competition, knowledge of driving the hybrid race car will eventually be transferred back to road-going Lamborghinis. “But right now it’s the other way around,” Mohr revealed. “We have already learned a lot about the energy management for the street cars; we are not starting from scratch in the LMDh.” Regardless of which direction the technology flows, the timing of the LMDh entry and Lamborghini’s push into electrification is no coincidence and demonstrates the brand’s commitment to a transition to hybrids.
Along with the development of emerging technology, racing was instrumental in adapting the suspension and steering of the road-legal supercars. “If you want to improve the handling and the behavior of the car, motorsport is the perfect field to practice,” said Mohr. He also explained that the motorsport division, Squadra Corse, and the company’s R&D department are closely linked, with employees rotating between the two branches. This influence led to more track-focused street cars, such as the Huracán STO, basically a GT3 racing car for the road, with wings and fins sprouting from its chiseled carbon fiber bodywork. More track editions will develop from the upcoming hybrids, but Winkelmann has yet to reveal any details.
Racing is about more than just boosting the performance of the Lamborghini range. As indicated by the hundreds of logos plastered over every race car on the Daytona grid, motorsport is as much about marketing as it is about competition, and Lamborghini’s motorsport push has helped shift the brand’s image over the past decade.
“We officially started in motorsport with Super Trofeo because we thought we needed to build a connection between us and our customers,” said Winkelmann. Super Trofeo, like the Ferrari Challenge series, is for so-called “gentleman drivers”—basically the ultra-rich who have extra pocket money and want to live out their racing dreams. The range allows Lamborghini owners to experience the Huracán, and before that the Gallardo, in an environment where they could push the supercar to its limits and experience the extremes of its performance capabilities.
In a way, the series serves as a way to educate the company’s customers. “We also use it as a boost to the ability of our drivers,” said Winkelmann. Teaching Lamborghini owners how to handle such powerful machines through Super Trofeo extends beyond the track. “Most of them use Lamborghini cars every day.”
Super Trofeo also raised awareness for the brand and extended Lamborghini’s reputation as the company’s historically flashy design to solidify it as a maker of highly capable corner-cutters. “We have so many followers, not only for the brand Lamborghini, but also for Squadra Corse,” said Winkelmann. The Super Trofeo program also led Lamborghini to enter GT3 racing, the FIA-homologated class that races in WEC and IMSA. The Evo 2s competing in the 2023 24 Hours of Daytona are the third generation of GT3 racing cars to share a silhouette with number-plate bearing Lamborghinis, further establishing the link between the brand’s products and track performance.
While some purists may be put off by the idea of Lamborghini switching to hybrids, Lamborghini promises that the electrified supercars – and eventually the brand’s full EVs – will still bring the emotional connection expected of a Lamborghini, the charisma encapsulated by their is. designs and engines for decades. And we have a strong feeling that the automaker’s continued passion for motorsport and its new entry into LMDh will help ensure that the soul of Lamborghini remains alive and well in the electric age.