Racing the Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo
We lay down everything in Lamborghini's factory race car, groin be damned.
“Let me know when it hurts.”
The man in the black Lamborghini polo wants to be sure. He’s clamping my groin to the bottom of a race car, cinching the last belt to a heavy five-point buckle pressing on my gut. Pinned like this, in a fire suit and a full-face helmet, I’m about as helpless as a baby in a car seat.
I cry uncle, and he gives a final tug before hooking a net to the plastic window, sealing me inside. I can’t take a full breath. By my feet on the bare aluminum floor is a fire extinguisher -- as if I could bend down -- and near my knee is a toggle switch marked “ignition.” On my left is Kevin Conway, a former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver who, in five short minutes, will centrifuge my internal organs with a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Super Trofeo.
Conway isn’t just quick, he’s the fastest driver in Super Trofeo, a factory-backed series new to the U.S. that invites anyone with $35,000 to race a Lamborghini all weekend. That does mean anyone -- actor Dax Shepard, Kardashian stepdad Bruce Jenner, pro racers like Conway, and peach-fuzzed rookies like 19-year-old Andrew Palmer share the field. The fee includes qualifying and practice sessions, two 50-minute races, and plenty of booze and catered food to stuff an entire weekend.
And, of course, the $300,000 Super Trofeo race car. This winged Gallardo uses the same 570-horsepower V10 engine, all-wheel drive and 6-speed automated manual as the stock Squadra Corse, only its enormous rear diffuser looks like it could mow a field. The suspension is fully adjustable. A modified ABS controller is the only safety aid. Stability control, airbags and Lamborghini’s decadent leather interior have all been stripped.
Conway flicks the ignition switch. I thought I knew "loud" a few days earlier, when I started a Gallardo Spyder in my garage and shot off into the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. But the Super Trofeo, sans mufflers or insulation, is loud in size 144-point type. As we exit the pits at Virginia International Raceway, where Conway ran a day earlier during an exceptionally hot October afternoon, I sip my last breath before he punches the throttle.
Now, I’m very comfortable riding shotgun with pro drivers. It’s their job -- Conway won dozens of motocross and karting races before his 15th birthday -- so trust comes naturally. It’s also a rare moment to appreciate their talent, to watch them massage the controls and move limbs with ballet precision. But the Super Trofeo is wearing slicks, and that changes everything I know about cars on tracks.
We are rocketing around VIR’s S-curves. There is no body roll, no tire squeal, just twisting, violent speed and the sweet stench of gasoline and hot brakes. A minute later, the Super Trofeo surges to nearly 170 mph on the uphill straightaway, and when we leap over the blind crest, Conway slams the brakes so hard it plows the car’s nose into the tarmac, scraping its carbon-fiber chin. I'm hurled two inches forward, at most.
His brutal, neck-snapping pace? For my comfort, Conway tells me he dialed it down to seven-tenths. (A few weeks later, he won the Super Trofeo series by 62 points.)
Now, it’s Conway’s turn to get whipped. I’ve never lapped VIR, I don’t have any cones to indicate braking zones or apexes, and I’ve never driven a race car -- let alone a mid-engine Lamborghini -- on slick tires. I go easy for the first two laps as Conway directs my speed and turns with his index finger. Then I open her up. There is so much reserve grip, and the all-wheel-drive system is phenomenally transparent. The fear I expected isn’t there. The rear-wheel-drive Gallardo LP550-2 I drove here requires a steadier hand -- it will bite and snap backwards if you’re not watching -- but the Super Trofeo begs to be thrown around.
On the fifth lap, with the V10 howling, I realize my life is really awesome. When you're flooring a race team's Lamborghini and feel the suede-wrapped wheel rattling in your hands -- and it's not connected to an Xbox -- "awesome" is the only adjective my brain can process at 150 mph. Awesome, because when I get out of this Lamborghini, I’ll get into another Lamborghini for the ride home. In this blur, can anything else matter?
At 160 mph, the next turn is here. Conway waves his hand to brake, and I shake the glaze from my eyes. Concentrate on this last part. Hit the apexes. Power home. I pit and kill the engine. Maybe I’m three-tenths on his pace. Three and a half? No matter. I didn’t have the balls to brake late like Conway, and that may be why, freed from the Super Trofeo’s vice grip, I walked off a little funnier than I came in. It's one mark of a damn fine weekend.
Clifford Atiyeh has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own. Based in Baltimore, he is the senior news editor for MSN Autos, and contributes to Car and Driver, Road & Track and other publications.
Photos by Jamey Price/Lamborghini.
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