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Team Insight: Target Racing

30 Mayo 2024

It’s mid-May, and we’ve taken the opportunity to head to Lugo in the province of Ravenna to visit one of Lamborghini Squadra Corse’s most prolific GT teams. On the other side of Motor Valley, the sun almost kisses the façade of Target Racing’s workshop, which is located in the artisan area of one of the seven sisters of Romagna.

It’s a team that lives and breathes motorsport, and you can feel it.

On the inside, it’s no different. We’re welcomed by co-founder Roberto Venieri, whose passion for motorsport is evidenced by his demeanour as well as the myriad posters on the walls and trophies in the office. Add to that the unmistakable, almost intoxicating smell given off by the cars resting in the workshop, dismantled for inspection after the efforts of the Spa round, and you start to get a sense of what racing means to his team.

As team principal, Venieri is one of the leading figures in the team, but he’s not alone. Logistics and PR manager Chiara Semeghini plays an equally important role in team functions and the pair of them allow us to immerse ourselves in the past, present and future of Target Racing.

“I competed in karts as a youngster, until I became a mechanic and ended up in Formula 1,” begins Venieri. “When I was working at Minardi, my dream was to create a team of my own. In 1994, after my personal experiences in England and the United States, in the Indy Racing League, together with a partner from Faenza. a structure was born that was the embryo of what became Target Racing.

“Target was actually born with this name in 1997. We were in the business of helping to develop drivers in Formula 3, which was always the category I wanted to work in. For 16 years we worked in the minor formulae, then we moved to GT, in the Italian Gran Turismo Championship.

“The name Target comes from the aim we have, which is to develop young drivers. From the very beginning we have tried, through our experience, to support the drivers by teaching them everything, right from the most basic things. My personal satisfaction, and that of my collaborators, is to see your drivers grow and make a career. I have had the pleasure of working in Nico Rosberg's team with Robert Kubica, for example, while recently Dennis Lind or Frederik Schandorff have come through us.”

In the competitive sphere of Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe, Target Racing has been a constant frontrunner for many years. Both Lind and Schandorff have won the Lamborghini World Finals Pro title, with the latter picking up the Pro-Am crown with team-mate Alex Au at Vallelunga last season.

Indeed, Target Racing has a long history of bringing younger drivers into GT racing, with the Swedish-Danish combination of Oliver Söderström and Largim Ali taking victory in the opening round of the 2024 season at Imola.

Across the team awning, there’s more youth with Hampus Ericsson running as a solo entry this year, while Guido Luchetti paired with Calle Bergman and, at Le Mans, Cam Aliabadi.

“Lamborghini is a brand that appeals to its drivers, both for the tracks and for the opportunities it gives, and the Young Drivers Programs match our philosophy and our target audience 100%,” says Venieri.

“Target Racing [was] born to develop young drivers. The possibility that Lamborghini gives is very important.

“We believe that the Super Trofeo is the best championship for young drivers who want to learn how to race with covered wheels. It allows them to learn the basics of GT racing, allowing them to make the transition from the formula world. Working with Lamborghini is very exciting, because there is extreme freedom in the set-up of the car.

“The car has a wide window of use and drivers can tailor the Huracán Super Trofeo EVO2 with a wide range of settings. The technical base is very large and there is freedom for the teams as well.”

The beauty of one-make racing with Lamborghini is that it not only caters to the young aspiring professional driver, but also to the gentleman competitor who maybe didn’t have the opportunity or the means to race when they were younger.

And while Venieri has often dedicated his racing team to the development of up-and-coming talent, the role of the gentleman driver is also a crucial element of keeping the business ticking over and achieving more success on-track.

“We try to give gentleman drivers everything they need to become children again, to feel those emotions that maybe they never had the chance to experience when they were younger,” says Venieri.

“It's nice to see them amazed, with their eyes out of their heads because of the emotions they feel and because what they do is their dream as children. Of course, they don't have the ambitions of young drivers, but if there was an Old Driver Programme… (he laughs).

“Most of the drivers who have come through Target have had great professional growth in GT racing and we are very pleased with that,” he adds.

“Often the drivers have the desire to come back to us because they enjoyed it, both technically and in terms of the working environment. We try to make the drivers feel like family. Often some of them come to us alone, without having their family near them. We try to welcome them as best we can and make them feel at home.”

In order to achieve the ambitious objectives, set by Venieri and his team, a well-organised structure is necessary. Amid the family feel to the team, professional and human harmony is a must between all members of the team.

“I take care of the logistics, sporting operations and public relations,” explains Semeghini, who complements Venieri’s general management of the team.

Venieri adds: “Chiara’s role is fundamental; logistics is a very delicate part of how we operate as a team. In addition to the pair of us, there is our chief engineer who manages the entire engineering sector. He has been working with us since 2008 and a solid partnership has been developed with him.

“For the mechanical side, we have two workshop foremen, who take care of the general management of the cars and the overhaul, but other mechanics can be added depending on the work we have to do on the cars.

“Basically, our structure is very streamlined, and our staff expands during competition periods. In recent years, we have managed to bring over 30 people to the track on some weekends.”

The moving pieces on race weekends means the team must be as flexible as possible while also remaining focused on the bigger picture, which is success on-track and collaboration off it.

“For us, harmony is fundamental,” continues Semeghini. “If we don’t have that, everyone suffers. It is very important to have a relaxed and collaborative atmosphere.

“When we joke, we mean it and, when we work, we do it by giving the best of what we have,” adds Venieri. “With these two ingredients, we are able to perform.”

While much of the team’s focus is on competition during a race weekend, preparation is as meticulous as you would expect. Semeghini is front-and-centre of pre-weekend activities and planning.

“First of all, everything is prepared well in advance, organising the logistical part, which is delicate,” she says.

“Often getting so many people from different parts of Italy to the circuit is a challenge within a challenge.”

Venieri continues: “In the Super Trofeo we bring four cars to the track, so we have an engineer for each car and three people for each car, including mechanics and tyre specialists. At the weekend we usually arrive at the track on Wednesday with our trucks and all the material, so we have to prepare our base camp, with the tents, and then we finish preparing the cars with the last details.

“On Thursday there is scrutineering, and briefings between drivers and engineers. In general, we try to all work together, so the first briefing is general and throughout the weekend there is maximum data sharing.

“All the drivers help each other. Usually, the Pro drivers help the Am drivers a lot with their experience, but it has happened a few times that the Am drivers make the Pro drivers do the last step, because maybe they interpreted a certain corner better than everyone else.

For me, the track walk is very important, as it allows you to understand the track conditions 100%, which references to take while driving and, above all, where to put the wheels. Then on Friday the track work begins, dictated above all by the event programme. Of course, after each session the drivers have a briefing with their engineer and try to adjust the car based on their feelings while driving.”

This level of dedication to task is evident in Target Racing’s on-track success. Söderström and Ali took a breakthrough maiden victory at Vallelunga last year and won the opening round of the 2024 season at Imola. A difficult weekend at Spa means they lost the Pro points lead but the Scandinavian pairing will be looking to bounce back in round three at the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans in June.

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