As in life, racing often throws up challenges which force a driver to slow down, reassess and re-focus. A chicane if you will. It has its ups just as it has its downs. Sometimes it comes down to luck, or lack of rather. The right place at the wrong time can be the difference between making it or not. But racing, as with life, can offer redemption, a second chance and it’s those who grab it who reap the rewards.
Leonardo Pulcini had been one of the most promising Italian single seater drivers in recent years, having raced up the ladder to Formula 1 with fellow Lamborghini GT driver Luca Ghiotto. With the hopes of a nation resting more heavily on his young shoulders. Unfortunately, after a few years cutting his teeth in Formula 3 and one in Italian GT with the eponymous Vincenco Sospiri Racing Team, that chicane reared its head again at the end of the 2020 season.
“After the season in GT3, I had big budget problems and couldn’t find a seat for 2021,” says Pulcini. “In March, I decided to stop racing and work in construction with my father. That chicane started to look more like a hairpin bend now and threatened to take away the passion he’d had since childhood. But then things began to change.
“A few days later, Jerry Canevisio of Oregon Team called me [and said] they were looking for a driver to join Kevin Gilardoni in Super Trofeo Europe. I didn’t even have to think twice about it,” Pulcini explains.
“It was a step back in my career in a certain sense, but it was a matter of taking the pace I had to go back and become an even faster driver.”
The Oregon Team went into the 2021 season with aims of their own redemption, having narrowly missed out on the title at the end of a thoroughly impressive maiden campaign in the one-make series just months prior.
“During the first couple of races, I struggled,” admits Pulcini. “I was still thinking a little only about myself, as I had done in single seaters. Over time, together with Kevin and the whole team, we managed to create an excellent atmosphere, in which we all pushed each other to improve. I immediately got on well with Kevin and the team [and] I will never stop thanking Jerry and Piergiorgio Testa for the opportunity they gave me.”
Along with Gilardoni, Pulcini showcased his champion credentials with four victories throughout the season, including a double triumph at Paul Ricard, and entered the Lamborghini Young Driver Program. Pulcini capped off a sensational “comeback” season by not only winning the Young Driver shootout, but the Super Trofeo title aboard the #11 Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo.
“It was a great achievement, especially at the end of the season. We won the title in the final race at Misano, just before the Grand Finals but we had the possibility to close it out earlier, had things gone our way more.”
Super Trofeo ultimately proved to be the right move for Pulcini in 2021, proving that the one-make championship is one of the best in developing GT talent for the future. For Pulcini, winning the Super Trofeo title has allowed him to move back into GT3 for this season, remaining with Oregon Team for a crack at the International GT Open championship.
“The Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo is a great preparatory car [and] I would recommend it to any young driver who wants to get their first experience in GT racing. This car teaches a lot, is powerful and has little downforce compared to the GT3 version so it allows you to better learn how to manage the greatest mechanical grip.”
A Lamborghini GT3 Junior now, the next step for Pulcini is to become a Lamborghini Factory Driver. He’s following the same path as those before, and who knows how many more chicane he will still have to negotiate. But what is sure, is that Pulcini has found a way to bounce back and is fully focused on launching himself towards the finish line.