Before making his GT racing debut at the start of the 2023 season, Lamborghini GT3 Junior driver Artem Petrov had been on the path to the top of the single seater ladder.
His career followed the well-trodden path of national Formula 4 and FIA Formula 3 close to home, Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand during the traditional European off-season and then the highly competitive Indy Pro 2000 Series in the United States.
A year away from racing then gave Petrov the chance to add a new string to his bow as he discovered the world of GT racing for the first time, teaming up with renowned outfit, VS Racing in the Italian GT Sprint Cup Championship.
“I made the switch because I wanted to test myself in the GT world,” explains Petrov.
“And, for now, I see my career going in this direction, but of course, I am always open to trying lots of other options as well.
“I feel like I still have this dream to try an IndyCar one day, but for the moment I am focused on a GT career, and with Lamborghini.”
Petrov is a member of Lamborghini’s GT3 Junior Driver programme and, despite his relative inexperience in the discipline, has impressed during his maiden campaign with VSR which included a breakthrough first victory at Monza.
The 23-year-old, who turns 24 in January, was also drafted into VSR’s line-up in the one-make Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe championship in September, replacing Loris Spinelli in the #16 Pro-Am entry shared with Andrzej Lewandowski.
Although similar in appearance, Petrov found plenty of differences between the Huracán GT3 EVO2 with which he contested the Italian GT Championship and the Super Trofeo EVO2 equivalent he got his hands on in Spain.
Indeed, getting up to speed was not as easy as many would have predicted.
“It’s my first year in GT racing, so I have been trying to build up my confidence and get as much track time as possible because I am still learning,” says Petrov.
“I am completely new to this world and switching between Super Trofeo and GT3 is also quite tricky. But I feel that I have the ability to change and adapt as quickly as possible between the two cars.
“At Vallelunga [for the season-ending World Finals event], I had finished the Italian GT Championship season and had won one race, at my favourite track Monza, which was very special. We finished that season at Imola and then just a week later, I had to switch to the Super Trofeo, which requires a different driving style, different braking technique. And that took some time to adapt, so I spent the first two practice sessions trying to build up the confidence with the Super Trofeo, which was good because I finished in the top 10 in qualifying twice.
“Of course, the main difference between the two cars is the downforce and the speed you are bringing into the entry of the corners, it’s completely different. And in the Super Trofeo, you are driving more carefully in the corners, whereas in the GT3 you can go in almost as fast as you like and gain some time by doing that.
“Then the second biggest challenge is the braking; in GT3 it just works a bit better than the Super Trofeo.”
Petrov is a single seater racer at heart, and much like his monocoque contemporaries also competing in GTs, he quickly adapted to his new surroundings. An issue in second qualifying on debut at Valencia meant he and Lewandowski had to start from the back of the grid.
But a strong start and equally impressive opening stint ensured the #16 made up a staggering 27 places to finish inside the top 15 at the end of the race, backing up a fine second place achieved in the first race.
Petrov then returned for the final round of the season at Vallelunga, but this time as a solo driver, rather than with a team-mate.
Having spent the majority of his career as a solo driver, you might have been forgiven for thinking Petrov felt right at home in Italy. Ironically, the opposite was true.
“It felt like back in the day, when I used to drive by myself, but I think I prefer to share the car with someone else,” admitted Petrov.
“I really enjoyed sharing the car in GT racing because you can improve the car together and find solutions with your team-mate, which in my opinion, is better if it is two heads rather than one. For me, it doesn’t make such a big difference. Before, I used to always enjoy sharing the car and doing the driver change as well.
“I also feel that if you are driving alone, you are also working better with the tyres, how they are performing, how you can preserve them. When you are driving with a team-mate, you don’t always think about the tyres and what they have to deal with!”
Vallelunga was another step forward as Petrov got to grips with the Super Trofeo EVO2, recording a 12th and fifth place finish in the pair of round six races, before bouncing back from a tough opener to finish fourth in the second race of the World Finals.
The encouraging results brought to an end Petrov’s first campaign with VS Racing. Alongside team-mate Riccardo Cazzaniga, Petrov finished third in the Italian GT Championship Sprint Cup standings, with a further two podiums [second at Misano and third at Imola] to his tally.
“The feeling with VSR is really nice, they feel like a family to me which is amazing,” says Petrov.
“We can speak about everything, and they listen to me, and I listen to them, because at the end of the day I am still learning. Vincenzo has a lot of experience in racing, so I always pay attention to what he says to me. It’s really a family feeling within the team.”
Quite what the future holds for Petrov remains unclear but what is evident is that the youngster has certainly caught the GT racing bug. And judging by his impressive inaugural season, a long-term career could be on the cards in the coming years.