Its arrival in 2015 marked the first time that Lamborghini had ever developed a GT3 program fully in-house, and the Huracán GT3 has since paid back the Raging Bull in-kind with endurance wins at Daytona and Sebring as well as multiple championship crowns all over the globe. Could the 24H SERIES be next? We ask Gottfried Grasser, team principal of the Grasser Racing Team that oversaw development of the Huracán from day one.
Given that it’s one of, if not the, most charismatic Italian carmakers of them all, it’s borderline baffling that Lamborghini’s motorsport history to-date is… storied, yes, but not exactly illustrious.
So against a factory-entered motorsport program was company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini that chief designer Gian Paolo Dallara, chief engineer Paolo Stanzani, and chief test driver Bob Wallace actually developed a lightweight and altogether more sporting version of the company’s first supercar – the Miura – in secret in 1970. Though he was impressed with the ‘SV Jota’, a full racing program was never realistically on the table, Snr. Lamborghini insisting that mainstream production for the still burgeoning roadcar company remained the priority given the overnight success of the Miura. A decision that even Wallace agreed, years later, was the correct choice.
Fast forward to 1976 and an agreement was reached with BMW Motorsport head Jochen Neerpasch for Lamborghini to produce a rear-engined super sports car – the Italian marque’s bread and butter by this point – that was also eligible for Group 4 racing. The project would again fall flat though when financial issues and a doomed attempt to build its first off-road vehicle for the US military meant Sant'Agata Bolognese was unable to meet its 400-strong homologation deadline in 1977. To add insult to further fiscal injury, BMW, now running the project solo, went on to produce the seismic M1, while AM General, beneficiaries of the US military contract, is still producing armoured ‘Humvees’ to this day.
After a failed attempt to get a Spice Engineering-built Group C off the ground – a lack of finances once again meant the bespoke Countach ‘Quattrovalvole’ made just one start at the 1986 500km of Kyalami – Lamborghini, now under the watchful eye of Chrysler, was invited by former Ferrari designer Mauro Forghieri to produce a 3.5-litre V12 for F1 newcomer, Larrousse, in 1989. Though big and unwieldy, the increased power nevertheless encouraged Ligier (’91), Modena (for whom Lamborghini also built the chassis in ‘91), Minardi (’92) and even Lotus (’90) to incorporate the V12 into their respective builds. But after five full seasons, the cumbersome and oftentimes unreliable V12 had just 20 points and one podium finish to its name. Even a potential lifeline with McLaren was severed when Woking opted for Peugeot engines for 1994 instead.
Indeed, it wasn’t until 2015, by which point the short-lived Diablo Supertrophy and a few outings with a race-spec Murciélago R-GT in the FIA GT Championship had done little to improve Lamborghini’s reputation in the GT ranks either, that the Raging Bull’s on-track chops would finally be taken seriously. On 21 January, the silks were pulled from Lamborghini’s brand new Huracán GT3, a race homologation of its road-going Huracán LP 610-4 and an animal specifically designed to “more than hold its own in international GT3 competitions”.
After 52 years, Lamborghini had finally rolled up its sleeves and joined the motorsport ranks with its first, fully in-house developed racecar.
“The Huracán was a really significant model for Lamborghini Squadra Corse,” explains Grasser Racing Team principal Gottfried Grasser. “You could even argue it’s the most important racecar yet for Lamborghini, and it’s still one of the most effective GT3 cars on the whole market. The running costs are really low, it’s a car that’s easy to handle and easy to maintain, and it’s quick. Really, really, quick! These are important points for any teams.”
Of course, he probably would say this. Gottfried’s eponymous outfit – founded in 2011 after the Austrian’s own racing aspirations came to a halt – is a former Blancpain title winner in both the GT Series and Endurance Cup, a 13-time race winner in the series as of March 2021, and has competed in everything from ADAC GT Masters to IMSA to the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook with a raging bull proudly adorning its nose for close to a decade.
Ironically, Gottfried can attribute much of GRT’s illustrious tenure to a shaky start with a Dodge Viper Competition Coupe in 2011…
“My heart has always been in motorsport,” Gottfried continues. “I started karting, did Formula 3, I drove the FIA GT Series in 2000 with a Porsche 993 GT2, and I did some testing with the Minardi F3000 junior team” – Gottfried was even close to signing a deal to become Minardi’s Formula 1 test driver for 2003. – “But the sponsorship wasn’t there, so instead I went home in 2003 to take over my father’s car showroom of my father. I still loved the technical side of motorsport, so I started to buy old racecars, rebuild them, and bring them back to the track. That’s how I started with the Dodge.
“Don’t get me wrong, all manufacturer builds good cars. The problem we had with the Viper was that Dodge doesn’t support GT racing like Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, etc. So we were always having mechanical problems: we only entered two races [in ADAC GT Masters] with the Dodge in 2011, and didn’t start either of them! Still, 10 years later, it’s nice to have them as a neighbor!” – By sheer coincidence, as CREVENTIC chats with Gottfried in the GRT garage at the 2021 Hankook 24H DUBAI, Team Zakspeed is working on its Dodge SRT Viper GT3-R in the bay next door – “So for 2012, we bought a Lamborghini Gallardo. That honestly was the best step for us because it was the cheapest car on the market. It was the only thing we could afford!
“But god bless that car because it was so much easier to set up and run, and we actually managed to start some races with it. It was a good car for less money. And in the end, the Gallardo helped us become a factory team. Sometimes in life, you need to be at the right place at the right time making the right decisions: if we’d chosen any other car or brand, we probably would not be here and we probably would not have had this success.”
In 2013, GRT, now with a Gallardo LP560-4 parked in the garage, secured its maiden class win in the FIA GT Series at Zandvoort, and finished just three agonising points short of overall victory in the Pro-Am Cup standings. With momentum, pace and solid reliability on its side, GRT added four more victories, as well as the team’s first two outright pole positions, to its FIA GT Series tally in 2014. Coupled with similar triumph for the team’s Gallardos in the DMV Touring Car Challenge and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, GRT had racked up 22 podiums (12 of them victories) come season’s end, more than any other Lamborghini customer.
Not long after that came the call from Sant’Agata that would change Gottfried’s life forever…
“2014 was a fantastic season for us with the Gallardo: across 14 races, we beat the factory team in 11 or 12 of them! Then I had the luck of getting a call from Italy: ‘Gottfried, come and see us, we want to talk to you!” I couldn’t believe it. I came from a farmer’s village, we had 600 citizens somewhere in Austria in the mountains, and I’d been invited to the Lamborghini to talk about a development program! I was told, “we want you to do the factory cars next year, so we need a budget from you.’ Obviously you say yes to that even though I had no clue how we were going to manage it. On the way home, I bought a book, ‘Budget for Dummies’!”
Granted, this project was no trifling matter for Lamborghini either. Just 10 months earlier at the Geneva Motor Show, company CEO Stephan Winkelmann had introduced the motoring world to the Huracán LP 610-4, the faster and more technologically advanced successor to the Italian brand’s mid-sized Gallardo. That 14,022 examples of the latter had been produced in its 10-year lifecycle – HALF of Lamborghini’s total sales! – left some dauntingly huge race boots to fill, and the Huracán dutifully came out swinging.
At its base – beneath the “sharply defined”, altogether more mental bodywork – lay a new hybrid chassis built from aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) that topped the scales at just 200kg. This not only ensured a sub-1,500kg dry weight for the mid-sized newboy, but also, with the aid of stiffer springs and revised anti-roll bars, meant torsional rigidity of the Huracán increased by a whopping 50 percent over the outgoing Gallardo. So effective was this platform, Lamborghini’s sister brand Audi designed the second generation R8 around it two years later.
The CFRP base was also just the tip of a technologically advanced iceberg. The brand new ‘Lamborghini Dynamic Steering’ system allowed drivers to dial in heightened aggression to the power steering as needed, while the dual clutch seven-speed transmission, another first for Lamborghini, was a marked improvement over the single clutch example used in both the Gallardo and the range-topping Aventador. Even the Lambo’s LED headlamps were a first for the super sports car segment.
Interestingly though, like the Gallardo, the Huracán boasted a 5.2-litre ‘IDS’ V10 mounted midships, Lamborghini having forsaken turbocharging for the more rabid acceleration and bombastic soundtrack indicative of natural aspiration. Fittingly, the V10, co-developed with Audi and another core element of the second-generation Audi R8, was just as compact as its Gallardo equivalent, but now featured ‘Iniezione Diretta Stratificata’ – a mixture of direct and indirect fuel injection – to increase power and torque to 602bhp and 413lb ft (560Nm) respectively, a rise of 50bhp and 15lb ft (20Nm) over its forebear.
In its first year of production, 1,137 of the 3,300 orders taken for the new Huracán were delivered, allowing Lamborghini to break the annual sales record millstone that had hung round its neck for six years by that point.
Lamborghini though weren’t done yet. One year later, GT3 and Super Trofeo track versions of the Huracán were unveiled, both built on the same super-stiff alu-carbon chassis as the roadcar. Modifications to the subframe allowed the sequential six-speed gearbox to be mounted further back for more optimised 42/58 front-to-rear weight distribution, and the additional space allowed a high-performance radiator to be fitted. More aero-efficient bodywork was developed in collaboration with motorsport powerhouse Dallara, and the massive adjustable rear wing gave the Huracán GT3 the downforce of a small orbiting moon.
Among the most notable differences though was the race-tuned V10, which now sent all of its power to the rear wheels. A more “authentic racing experience” Lamborghini would lionise 10 months later when it unveiled the rear-wheel drive LP 580-2 roadcar.
Understandably, as Lamborghini’s new development partner and with an official in-house designed GT3 car at its disposal, the pressure on GRT Grasser Racing Team to get results was enormous. Not that Gottfried and his team let this show of course, as evidenced by the fact that, on the Huracán GT3’s competitive debut at the Monza 3 Hours two months after its debut, it won!
“We had so many good people and so much support because Lamborghini trusted us to develop their car properly. That was a fantastic time, right from the first moment. Our first race was at Monza, and things were still so new, that on the Thursday, we did not have all of our toolboxes because the sponsors were late supplying them. But everything just worked perfectly and on Sunday, we won the race. Since then it’s been the best relationship with a manufacturer you could imagine.
“What I’m doing here, I do it with all my heart. When you’re doing something you love, you don’t feel have pressure.”
Though Grasser couldn’t repeat that fairy-tale win in 2015, the GRT Huracán nevertheless claimed pole position three times across five events in its maiden Blancpain Endurance Series season, and even won the only ADAC GT Masters round it entered that year at the Red Bull Ring. In 2017, GRT romped home to Blancpain title wins in both the GT Series and the Endurance Cup, and, but for ABS failure at three-quarter distance, could well have won the Spa 24 Hours as well. In 2018, GRT secured the first ever 24-hour race win for a Lamborghini when the team’s Huracán GT3 took GTD-class victory at the Daytona 24 Hours. An accomplishment the Austrian team promptly repeated the following year. Two months later, GRT was a Sebring 12 Hours class winner as well.
Across in the 24H SERIES, the new Lambo’s pace allowed Leipert Motorsport to take back-to-back class wins with the Huracán Super Trofeo on its first two outings in 2015. Within four years, the German team had secured the SPX-class championship in 2018 as well as the Overall GT Teams’ ‘Continental’ championship in 2019. Its GT3 alter-ego meanwhile made an impressive start to its 24H SERIES campaign in 2016, GRT securing 3rd overall on only its second outing at the Hankook 12H MUGELLO and a class win in 2017, fittingly, at the Red Bull Ring.
By 2018, work had also begun on a new ‘Evo’ package for the Huracán GT3, an upgrade that brings with it a new front splitter, a new carbon fibre hood that improves the cooling capacity of the radiator, and stronger aluminium suspension both at the front and rear. The Evo package aims to improve drivability, particularly for gentlemen drivers, and reduce maintenance costs for customer teams.
“We had struggled a bit in the beginning with the previous setup because the car wasn’t as strong as it could have been at the front axle. It was always quite hard on its tyres as well, so that meant it was very hard finding the compromise between putting a huge load on the rear tyres and getting good performance, or going a bit slower to protect the rear tyres. Either way, we were always on the limit, honestly, and the races we’ve had with the Evo have been much stronger. It was a fantastic upgrade.”
Ironically though, it wasn’t until British GT Champion Barwell Motorsport bested Herberth Motorsport by a preposterously slim 10.481s at the 2019 Hankook 24H BARCELONA that the Huracán GT3 took its first win outright in the 24H SERIES. A no-doubt galling result for GRT no doubt, who’d started 2019 leading the Hankook 24H DUBAI only for a puncture to drop the Lambo back to 4th at the chequered flag.
Ah yes. The Hankook 24H DUBAI. No stranger to podiums in the 24H SERIES, GRT has nevertheless had its (un)fair share of brutal bad luck at CREVENTIC’s headliner, despite the Lamborghini’s demonstrative pace. On-track collisions brought the team’s race to an early end in 2017, despite the Huracan qualifying on the front row on its maiden outing, and in 2018 and 2019, GRT became the first GT team in event history to score back-to-back pole positions, only for a rear punctures to hobble the raging bull whilst it was leading. 3rd in 2018 may be the best result to-date for a Lamborghini in Dubai, but Gottfried knows another 24-hour win is well within the team’s grasp. Another potential chapter in Lamborghini’s already storied motorsport history.
“Doing one lap clearly suits us well! Dubai is a fantastic race and we enjoy it a lot because it’s such an open field and the car is always good here. But as everyone knows, it’s not the quickest car that wins. You need a reliable car. You need the team on point. The drivers can’t make mistakes. The strategy must be solid. You think you’re good, then suddenly you’ll hit problems and you lose five/ten minutes. It’s a challenge every year, but we’re just going to keep coming back again and again and again until we win it!”
Words – James Gent
Photos – Petr Frýba, Eric Teenan, Tom Richardson and Lamborghini
Gottfried Grasser was speaking with Koen Wiesman at the 2021 Hankook 24H DUBAI. This article also appears in the 2021 Hankook 12H MUGELLO magazine, available for digital download below.
631bhp @ 8,000rpm
600Nm (443lb ft) @ 6,500rpm
Seven-speed dual clutch
Carbon ceramic, ventilated, 380 x 38mm (front), 356 x 32mm (rear)
8.5 J x 20in (front), 11 J x 20in (rear)
245/30 R20 (front), 305/30 R20 (rear)
4,520mm (L), 2,236mm (W), 1,165mm (H)
*Power and torque dependent on BoP
Six-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive
Double wishbones with uniball, front and rear
Steel Brembo, 380 x 34mm (front), 355 x 32mm (rear)
12 x 18in (front), 13 x 18in (rear)
325/680-18 (front), 325/705-18 (rear)
GRT Grasser Racing Team (GT3 Evo)
Barwell Motorsport (GT3 Evo)
Leipert Motorsport (Super Trofeo)
1st overall pole position, Hankook 24H DUBAI
GRT Grasser Racing Team (#964, Mirko Bortolotti / Christian Engelhart / Mark Ineichen / Rolf Ineichen)
1st class win, Hankook 12H RED BULL RING
GRT Grasser Racing Team (#963, Mark Ineichen / Christoph Lenz / Roberto Pampanini / Miloš Pavlović)