Wayne Taylor Racing and Prestige Performance team manager Travis Houge says lessons learned in the 2016 Lamborghini World Final had his team prepared for a championship performance this year in Imola.
Houge, however, admitted it was a “surprise” to walk away with the World Final crown, while up against a stacked field of European teams on home soil.
The result was a near-perfect trip to Italy with drivers Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini scoring three wins, a Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Pro class championship, and icing the cake with the coveted overall World Final crown.
After struggling relative to their European competition last year in Valencia, where the team’s best result was a ninth-place finish for Shinya Michimi in Race 2, Prestige made closing that gap a priority throughout this year’s campaign.
From the start of the North American season at Circuit of the Americas, Houge said the focus was on turning up in Imola with a chance to win it all.
“One of the things we learned last year is we seemed to be a little bit off on driver experience on the race tracks and we seemed to be a little bit off on car setup,” Houge told Sportscar365.
“At the start of this year, we tried to work our setup towards a European-style track.
“Our engineers and two drivers, we talked to other teams that were in Europe and we integrated some of those setups into the tracks that we could in the States so when we came here we were ready to go racing.”
Despite the emphasis placed on the World Final all season, Houge said he was somewhat surprised at how competitive Hindman and Agostini proved to be right out of the box.
“We came here hoping to be within a few tenths of where the European cars were last year,” he said.
“Coming in and winning the North American rounds was a great start to the weekend, and then winning the pole, which we didn’t expect, made us think we had a chance at this.
“Ricky [Agostini] and Trent drove fantastic in the first race and that put us in position, but it really was a surprise to us to be able to come away with a world championship.
“[In Race 2] there were a lot of different scenarios. We wanted to pay attention to where everyone else was and not risk the car.
“It wasn’t worth going for a race win when we wanted to get the race championship. We told them where to drive, we told them where to stay safely, and that’s what we did. We just ran our race.”
Momentium Building for IMSA GTD Effort
While Houge couldn’t comment specifically on the future of the program or its planned Lamborghini GT Daytona effort for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year, he conceded that the result in Imola helps to grease the wheels with any future projects.
“Things like this can’t hurt the program, right?” he said. “It helps with Lamborghini, it helps with our drivers.
“I can’t say much about what we’re doing next year yet, but hopefully soon I’ll be able to.”