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Preparing for the toughest challenges: Daytona 24 Hours

21 Janvier 2021

Over the past three seasons, Lamborghini Squadra Corse has made a name for itself in the toughest GT endurance events across the globe. Between 2018 and 2020, it won three consecutive 24 Hours of Daytona races, securing a one-two in the hands of Paul Miller Racing and Magnus Racing by GRT.

The Sant’Agata Bolognese firm has also tasted success at the legendary Sebring 12 Hours where it completed the 36 Hours of Florida in 2019 courtesy of Grasser Racing’s #63 Lamborghini Huracán (the unofficial name for the Daytona and Sebring back-to-back victory).

But what makes Lamborghini the powerhouse it has become? And how does the team prepare for the most gruelling of endurance races? 
Leonardo Galente is the technical lead for Lamborghini Squadra, the customer racing division of Automobili Lamborghini. He lives and breathes endurance racing and wants nothing more than a Lamborghini on top at the end of the 24 Hours.

Which is why he and his team puts everything into getting the most out of the weeks leading up to a race weekend.
“In a 24-hour race, strategy is more important than performance: if you have a very fast car but the strategy doesn’t fit the evolution of the race, it becomes very difficult to fight for victory,” explains Galente.
“Endurance racing, you have a lot of time on your hands and, being a race with many variables, you have the chance to recover from mistakes whether that’s technical or sporting.
“My role is to make the project from scratch, setting up the car, following the technical rules, defining the main characteristics of the car such as weight, power, aerodynamics, combining all the elements in order to create a competitive car.”

A 24-hour race hardly ever goes exactly to plan or form. In 2019, Lamborghini was staring down the barrel early on at Daytona but managed to make its way back into victory contention by the time the race was red flagged in the small hours due to heavy rain. Then last year, superb strategic calls from the pitwall allowed both Paul Miller Racing and Magnus cars to move up from low starting positions to seal an historic one-two finish.

Daytona, it seems, has a special place in the hearts of Lamborghini drivers. But what’s the secret to all the success?
“Over the years we have tried to develop a car that is reliable and predictable, so that the driver can adapt his or her driving style,” Galente says.
“Daytona is compatible for us because we have a car shape that is physiologically advantageous and allows us to have the highest aerodynamic efficiency. 
“Our car is aerodynamically efficient, and we can generate a lot of load with little resistance. 
Of course, just having a car which is suited to the characteristics of the track is not enough to guarantee success. And recent triumphs don’t mean victory is a given either. 

At Squadra Corse, the planning starts months in advance and is, as you would expect, minute to the finest details in order to ensure the maximum performance.

Galente says: “It sounds trite, but before you're in the lead you need to think about being in a position to get to the finish line.
“[Preparing for] Daytona always begins by analysing the history of the previous edition, evaluating what went well and what needs to be improved. 
“From a technical point of view, if there were breakdowns last year, these have already been resolved with evolutions that arrived in the weeks following the race. 
“At the level of strategy, you evaluate the choices made and understand if different decisions could have been made. We start preparing the Daytona in October because it's a long process. The car is totally dismantled, and this takes about a month. Using our simulators, with the model of the car, we analyse the configurations used and test different set-ups to see what works best.” 

Once out of the car, drivers immediately go for a rest and physiotherapy to ease the muscles and prepare them for their next stint in the car. Sleep is preferred but any driver will tell you that adrenaline often takes over. 

Then, the race draws to a close. And if the cards have been played well, Lamborghini is in the mix for victory and strategy is even more crucial.

“Towards the last four hours you start to force the strategy, perhaps pushing the stints to the limit, and also the driver becomes more aggressive in his driving,” says Galente. 
“It's a very nice job because sometimes the strategies are not clear, and you make bets on what the competitors are doing and it's also a battle of nerves. Daytona and all the 24-hour races are very physical competitions.”