At the 2022 Hankook 24H PORTIMAO, the “most high-performance version” of Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo – the EVO2 – made its competitive debut in the 24H SERIES. CREVENTIC caught up with RD Signs – Siauliai racing team boss Audrius Butkevicius to discuss what the upgraded Raging Bull has up its new, more aerodynamic sleeves.
Words – James Gent
Images - Petr Frýba
One could be forgiven for thinking that RD Signs – Siauliai racing team was an official retirement less than 200 metres into the 2022 Hankook 24H BARCELONA.
Mere seconds after the red lights go out on the start-finish gantry, signifying the start of Catalunya’s annual ‘Trofeu Fermí Vélez, RD Signs and GTX championship rival Leipert Motorsport manage to trip over one another while jostling in the mid-pack, the Lithuanian Lamborghini pirouetting across the nose of its German adversary and finding the wall hard with its right-rear wheel. Adding insult to impact, the grass strip in front of the main grandstand also rips off the Lambo’s front splitter as it comes to a smoking rest.
The Leipert Lamborghini comes close to following RD Signs into the wall in sympathy, but Gerhard Watzinger somehow manages to keep the #710 Huracán on-track, albeit with bodywork and suspected suspension damage. A ratchet strap is industriously used during a pit stop one lap later to crane crumpled rear bodywork off the exhaust.
Behind them, accelerating hard on the racing line, Red Ant Racing’s Kobe de Breucker is also collected, the whack exploding the Porsche’s front bumper and rupturing its radiator (an hour is lost in the garage as the Belgian team repairs the #904). Further ahead, Michael Doppelmayr is no doubt counting his lucky stars: the collision has come perilously close to wiping out GT3 European champion-elect Phoenix Racing as well, and the #18 Audi R8 LMS has the scuff marks on its rear diffuser to prove it.
Back in the pits, Audrius Butkevicius is out of the RD Signs Lamborghini, and thankfully unharmed. But with the rear-right suspension arms hanging by a thread and the impact having possibly damaged the gearbox, he’s unsure if the #720 will go any further.
“I didn’t really see, but I felt a bump at the back and then… [mimes spinning and hitting the wall],” the RD Signs team boss explains to radiolemans.com’s Diana Binks. “We have very big damage at the back and small damage at the front, and I don’t know how bad it is. We have parts being pulled off the spare car, so I hope we will be back in the race. But I’m not sure.”
Though still in championship contention, it’s another stumbling block in what’s been a character-building season for RD Signs.
Having signed off their part-campaign in 2021 with a win in Hungary, RD Signs’ 2022 maiden full-time 24H SERIES program in 2022 gets off to a fruitful, if slightly disappointing start, with 2nd in-class in Mugello, a gearbox issue impeding a potential win.
Nevertheless, it’s a solid start to 2022 for the team’s still relatively new Lamborghini Hurácan Super Trofeo. First raced at the Aurum 1006 km at Palanga in mid-2020, RD Signs’ first ‘evolution’ Raging Bull stepped into the berth previously held by the Lithuanian team’s BMW Z4 GT3, and immediately proved its worth with two, top five category finishes at the Hankook 12H MUGELLO in 2020 and 2021, and a GTO podium at the team’s Aurum home event in 2021.
Not that many were overly surprised by this, of course. Since its introduction in 2014, the Hurácan, Lamborghini’s factory-backed successor to the Gallardo, had already secured close to 100 wins on the international stage – to say nothing of the brand’s myriad one-make series worldwide – in both GT3 and ‘Super Trofeo’ guise in its first six years of competition, including three consecutive wins at the Daytona 24 Hours. In the 24H SERIES alone, the Hurácan was a 15-time winner heading into the 2022 season, and had already bagged multiple SPX / GTX titles as well as the Overall GT Teams’ ‘Continents’ championship. That RD Signs’ #720 would prove a force to be reckoned with in the 24H SERIES seemed a foregone conclusion.
Plus…well, everyone loves a Lamborghini, right?
“In our country, we have a lot of Porsches,” Audrius explains to CREVENTIC in the Barcelona paddock. “So, to be different, you buy a Lamborghini. And everyone loves a Lamborghini!”
Ironically, RD Signs - Siauliai racing team – named incidentally for its main sponsor, and the fourth largest town in Lithuania, site of the team’s headquarters – followed up its two best weekends in the 24H SERIES with its worst at Spa-Francorchamps in May 2022. Having qualified 2nd in-class (12th overall), the #720 Huracan was already up to an excellent 6th overall – the Lamborghini’s 5.2-litre V10 proving mighty down the Kemmel Straight in particular – when, unsettled through the ferocious Eau Rouge, the Lambo speared backwards at high speed into the barriers. Paulius Paskevicius received an all-clear from the circuit’s medical centre, but the team’s weekend was done after just 16 laps.
Three weeks later, the frustration continued when the #720 Super Trofeo, with only the final hour left to run at the Hockenheimring rolled onto pitroad and into retirement from an almost certain GTX win. One ‘consolation’ for RD Signs was that Leipert Motorsport, its closest rival in the title chase, had also been denied victory with race-long overheating problems. Ironically, the frustration in Germany had its genesis in Belgium, two months earlier…
“In Hockenheim, we had a problem with the gearbox,” Audrius continues. “This may have been a team mistake, maybe a manufacturer mistake. But, before we went to Spa, we’d put a new gearbox on the car. And then we crashed! After Spa, we re-checked the gearbox, and everything seemed to be okay, but it’s possible there was still a problem.”
The Hankook 24H PORTIMAO though would surely prove a game-changer for RD Signs as the Lithuanian team unboxed its new challenger, the Lamborghini Hurácan Super Trofeo Evo2.
Well… ‘new’ in the loosest sense anyway. The aluminium-carbon hybrid chassis of the original LP 620-2 remained intact and largely unaltered, ditto the double wishbone suspension, the naturally-aspirated V10 – still kicking out 620hp – and the Xtrac six-speed sequential gearbox. Focus instead was on the bodywork, the Raging Bull’s in-house motorsport program – Lamborghini Squadra Corse – emphasizing the EV02’s new “uncompromising design” from Centro Stile and its “radical aerodynamic refinements” upon its launch in May 2021.
Gone for instance was the air-intake-festooned front bumper, which made its debut on the first EVO upgrade of the Hurácan in 2017, on which changed Lamborghini modified pretty much everything bar the flat floor, the front splitter, and the rear diffuser. In its place on the EVO2 slotted a new, hexagonal-shaped ‘Omega’ lip – inspired by the Hurácan STO roadcar – which, alongside new carbon fibre fins, helped to optimize airflow. The new ‘face’ of Lamborghini’s motorsport division was also repurposed with slimmer LED headlamps.
The first EVO’s rear fin also made the jump, though the new Countach-inspired taillamps grabbed most of the headlines at the back, previewing as they did the mid-life, facelifted Hurácan roadcar. Indeed, Lamborghini itself confirmed that the EVO2 “partially anticipates the design elements of the next range of road cars,” meaning attention was on the Italian brand’s newest GT weapon pretty much from the get-go.
Redesigned diffuser fins beneath the arched carbon-fibre rear bumper helped ‘push’ the EVO2 yet further into the ground, and behind the 18-inch front rims, new 390mm steel brake calipers replaced the smaller, 380mm examples to accommodate pads with a larger surface area. Something that couldn’t come quickly enough for Audrius and RD Signs…
“With the old brakes, if you pushed the pedal hard enough, the car would start [motions the steering wheel juddering in his hands]. With this car, with its bigger brakes, you can start braking from the same point, but it’s more stable. More comfortable.
“It’s also helped our mechanics because, with the old car, we needed to prepare special brake pads for our car they were just too big. With the new car, we can put on standard brake pads. We had a few problems with the old car, but on this [EVO2], the front brakes are much better. In fact, at Portimão, we didn’t need to change the rear brakes at all!”
There would, however, not be much time for RD Signs to gel with its new EVO2, the upgraded Hurácan Super Trofeo jumping straight into its competitive debut at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO after only turning its first wheel in anger during Thursday’s private test session. Even the customary orange-grey livery was temporarily sidelined for an all-black number.
“You must remember that this car was designed for short, sprint races.” – Having heard our conversation turn to Portimão, RD Signs team manager Eugenijus Andrulis kindly joins Audrius for a quick chat. – “This car is not prepared for endurance racing, so we’ve had to make some changes and put a lot of work in. That first weekend, we were fighting with this car. Not with other cars, but with our own car!”
“Honestly, test day at Portimão was our first time with the car,” Audrius continues. “Even though the braking points were the same, we had to relearn a few things. But, if you look at the laptimes, it’s much the same.” – Leipert’s fastest lap with the EVO in Portimão was a 1m 50.916s courtesy of GT World Challenge Europe contender Brendon Leitch, while RD Signs’ best lap, even while nursing a problem, 1m 52.151s for gentleman driver, Paulius Paskevicius. – “But this car has better aerodynamics and better brakes. So it’s more comfortable for the driver.”
The Lamborghini’s raw pace seemed to be there though, even despite RD Signs’ limited prep time. Indeed, the #720 EVO2 went on to qualify 2nd just six-tenths of aggregate pole position. Quite how that pace could have transitioned into the race proper though we shall never know…
Eugenijus – “In the first hour, we had problems during the first refueling, which led to a small fire.”
Audrius – “And the fire was near the generator. After that, our mechanics kept telling, ‘slow down, slow down, slow down.’ So we knew had a problem with the generator and we knew we had to take care of the car. After 10 hours, we had a few small issues, but not very big, and after 15 hours, we started thinking maybe we could finish without changing the generator.”
Eugenijus – “Then, after 23 hours, we stopped. It just shows you can have really good pace for almost all of the race. But if you stop, which is never part of the plan, and you lose three laps [shrugs shoulders], you lose.”
Audrius – “These are really tough races. Very strong competition. And that’s not easy with a new car.”
As is so often the case with endurance motorsport, that small engine bay fire meant the fairytale win failed to materialize. Still, solid points for 2nd in-class did at least mean RD Signs kept title rival – and Portimão winner – Leipert Motorsport honest heading into the European championship finale. Leipert’s EVO-spec Lamborghini headed RD Signs’ EVO2 example by just two points. It could all be won or lost heading into the first corner at Barcelona.
Two hours after the opening lap smash, RD Signs’ engineers and mechanics had the EVO2 – the black livery now clad with red detailing – back up and running. Victory, admittedly, seemed unlikely, given that Audrius and compatriots Paulius Paskevicius, Arturs Batraks and Italy’s Nicola Michelon – “We must remember to say LamborGini, not LamborJini, otherwise Nicola gets upset with us!” – were already 51 laps behind the class leader after just three hours.
A prudent run from Leipert Motorsport eventually sealed the German team its second win on the bounce and the GTX Teams’ title – plus Drivers’ honours for Jean-Francois Brunot and Kerong Li – while RD Signs’ formidable efforts were eventually rewarded with 2nd-in class, Audrius, Paulius, Arturs and Nicola even pulling its deficit back to ‘just’ 48 laps behind Leipert.
Far from the ideal way then for RD Signs to, potentially, sign off its tenure with Lamborghini, though commendable runs in both Portugal and Spain, plus the runners-up spot in the GTX Teams’ standings, show there’s plenty of juice left in the Hurácan’s tank.
* Audrius Butkevicius and Eugenijus Andrulis were speaking with David Vink at the 2022 Hankook 24H BARCELONA. You can also check out this article in our Hankook 24H BARCELONA magazine, available for digital download below