I’m standing in the brand new Silverstone paddock complex, which has been christened ‘The Wing’ because of the new pit buildings’ likeness to an aeroplane appendage. The paint is barely dry on the facility, but my attention isn’t focused on the shiny modern architecture, it’s fixated on the Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo in front of me. This will be my ride for the weekend.
The nice folks at Lamborghini have invited me to the UK to compete as a guest driver in the Silverstone round of the Blancpain Lamborghini Super Trofeo championship and hey, it would be rude not to accept, right? Billed as the world’s fastest one-make racing championship, the Super Trofeo runs a Pro-Am format, pairing a wealthy amateur with a professional driver for three 40-minute races, each with a mandatory pit-stop. The list of pro-drivers includes big names such as GT1 driver Peter Kox, ALMS front-runner Marino Franchitti and FIA GT drivers Fabio Babini and Jarek Janis. I was meant to be sharing the White No. 2 Gallardo with Lamborghini’s test driver Mario Fasanetto, but at the last minute I find out I’ll be competing solo as one of the paying drivers is short of a pro for the weekend.
Upon arrival at Silverstone (home of the British Grand Prix and one of the most well known tracks in the world), I’m taken to the back of a transporter and kitted out in slick Lamborghini branded race-gear. I am then introduced to the flock of Italian engineers and mechanics that will be looking after me this weekend. Pleasantries over and after a quick look around the car, I impatiently clamber through the scaffolding that is the Gallardo’s roll-cage and drop gracelessly into the carbon race seat.
God, it’s tight! The seat is more suited to a malnourished Milan catwalk model than to my full-figured frame. I wince in pain as I squeeze in, the hard edges of the seat digging into my hips. I look at my engineer Andrea for reassurance that he has a solution, but he just shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly and tells me there is no time to change the seat prior to the first practice session. I will just have to deal with the discomfort for now; not ideal on a track with as many high-speed corners as Silverstone.
There’s no quiet way to start any Lamborghini, let alone one that doesn’t have to adhere to road noise regulations. I flick the ignition toggle, prod the starter button and the V10 bursts into life with a flare of revs loud enough to wake the dead. The glorious note ricochets off the hard, bare surfaces of the stripped-out interior, further amplifying what was already a raucous noise in the road-going Gallardo.
After completing a radio-check and making some final adjustments to my belts, I filter out for my first exploratory laps in the Super Trofeo. The Pirellis get up to temperature, and I start to pick up my pace. The straight-line acceleration is pretty vivid as you would expect from a Lamborghini race-car with 570bhp, but I’m surprised at how reluctant it is to turn in. The front end pushes wide with chronic understeer pretty much everywhere, but it’s especially pronounced in quicker corners. Mid-way through the session I get called into the pits to check tyre pressures but I’m unable to get going again as the starter motor has decided to call it a day and I miss the rest of the session.
While I’ve lost out on valuable practice time, it’s probably for the best as I’m in severe pain from the tight seat. Although I never felt I was exploring the limits during my half-dozen laps, I’m nevertheless shocked to find myself a whole six seconds off the pace. Data from the telemetry suggests I’m braking way too early everywhere, and as I’ve never driven a four-wheel drive racing car before, it’s taking me time to adjust to the concept of just mashing the throttle and allowing the clever system to do all the work, rather than gradually feeding on the power as you would do in a big- power rear-wheel drive car. Lots to think about for tomorrow.