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AGHAKHANI: Breaking the Ice in Texas

Steven Aghakani files his first column of 2021 after bracing the cold during winter testing at COTA…

Photo: Kevin Madsen

We have said we will do whatever it takes to win the 2021 IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America championship and I guess we proved it last week.

Or maybe we are just a crazy bunch of racers – I don’t know – but we were scheduled for three days of testing last weekend at Circuit of The Americas and not even a winter storm that might be the worst natural disaster in Texas history was going to stop us.

For starters, I must acknowledge all the people in Texas that were hit so hard by this unprecedented winter storm that left no part of the Lone Star State untouched.

We were at COTA in Austin, which wasn’t spared from the calamity, and people throughout Texas suffered massive personal and professional loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Despite the devastation and freezing temperatures, when we learned the COTA test might still be on and that conditions could improve, we packed our bags for Texas.

A couple of hours before we landed power started coming back to the city. That was good for us, but critical for the people of Texas and Austin who endured quite a bit of cold and misery the entire last week.

As soon as we began to land at the Austin airport after a long flight from California, all my driver coach Kevin Madsen and I could see was just snow everywhere.

Photo: Kevin Madsen

Just walking out of the airport, you could see a lot of snow and I immediately realized it was damn cold! I even used my racing luggage to hold me up leaving the airport.

I slipped on some ice and only my gear kept me from going down. So, thank you to Sparco for that one!

It was all crazy. We were supposed to do a full Friday, Saturday and Sunday weekend test, but on the first day the entire track was covered with snow and ice and testing was canceled. People were actually skiing down turn one! I have heard of that uphill turn called a ski ramp before and I guess it’s now official!

I have had absolutely zero experience in the snow and ice, but I used to go to DirtFish off-road rally driving up in Washington for quite a while to develop my overall race craft.

We ran on the gravel and in the rain up there, and on all kinds of terrain. In some ways, it was the same at COTA as the car was always moving about and the track was always changing when we ran for the first time on Saturday. I called on that DirtFish experience and it really paid off.

I am pretty certain it was around 35 degrees out there on Saturday, just about freezing, and no warmer than 40 degrees for the high.

The car had a hard time warming up and the tires were cold too. It took forever to get temps up, so we couldn’t go out and just go fast to put some heat in them. It was just a lot of back and forth as we slowly got the car up to temperature.

Photo: Kevin Madsen

It took a lot longer, but we set a game plan, took it safe and slow to start and gradually improved without putting any undue risk on the car.

My co-driver Jacob Eidson is from Colorado, but he didn’t offer that many cold-weather pointers. He just started complaining about the weather! When it warmed up, however, we got down to our usual business and started running through our complete test schedule with the US RaceTronics crew.

On Sunday it was just beautiful with true Texas weather and some nice heat and temperatures. It quickly brought back that Texas feeling, and we ended up getting a lot of work done.

Going into the season we are more than ready. We have done so much testing and preparation for the season.

We are getting total effort from the team, the engineers and the car preparation and coming at everything in full force. I can honestly say we are ready for the COTA opener now but will continue to work hard right up until the first green flag.

I first came to COTA several years ago and felt like I did very well then. It quickly became one of my favorite tracks. I am pumped up to get back out there.

Photo: Kevin Madsen

This off-season hasn’t been just about racing, however, as I have started taking some college courses online and working when I can at my father’s accounting and business management firm Aghakhani & Luk LLP.

My father has worked extremely hard at building this business and now I am taking the first steps in learning about it myself.

As far as the necessary skill sets, accounting is completely different than being a professional race car driver, but one similarity is in the required focus.

One small mistake on the track can end your day, and one small mistake in accounting can be just as bad. You need incredible attention to detail in both racing and accounting.

Early on when I started my driving career, I received good advice from a lot of people in motorsports, including my father, who highly recommended having a fallback profession. I am taking the first steps on doing that at Aghakhani & Luk and appreciate the opportunity to work there while also pursuing my racing career.

We have an amazing lineup of returning sponsors this year that all have stepped up again to make my racing dream possible. We are going to announce this great group of supporters next month and I will share some of that news and more in my March column.

For now, it is back to the gym, back to the office and keeping 100 percent focused on our 2021 championship goal in the IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo series.

Please stay safe, thank you to Sportscar365 for having me back as 2021’s Super Trofeo columnist, and I will check in again in March. Thanks!

Photo: Kevin Madsen

Steven Aghakhani is a 17-year-old championship-winning driver, competing in the 2020 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Pro class with US RaceTronics and Vincenzo Sospiri Racing in the Italian GT Championship.

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