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AGHAKHANI: Driven in Italy

Steven Aghakhani files his latest column following Lamborghini World Final prep…

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At 17, I have never been old enough to rent a street car and I don’t think that is going to change much when I turn 18 on April 12.

It has never struck me as strange. Like most kids and teenagers, I don’t give it a second thought when our dads take the lead at the rental car counter when it comes time to travel.

What is a bit strange, however, is how much more aware I am of not being able to rent a car when I am traveling a pretty good distance around the world to test or compete in a mega-horsepower race car in another country.

Maybe it’s the fact that I am there only to drive a car that somehow makes me think I should be entitled to rent and drive any car.

But thinking I should be able to drive a rental car and wanting to are two different stories.

Photo: Supplied

In our recent trip to Italy to do some Lamborghini Super Trofeo testing, I wasn’t allowed – as usual – to rent or drive a car at my age and that is the best part!

Our test was to prepare for the upcoming Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final at Misano this October. The track is in Misano, Italy, as the name implies, and it is a beautiful place.

To get there, however, my coach Kevin Madsen and I actually had to fly into Rome and drive – or Kevin drove – four-and-a-half hours across all of Italy in a rental Range Rover.

I am sure we went through some beautiful parts of the world, but I don’t know because I fell asleep! It was really quite a long haul, and I am fairly certain we may have gotten a couple of speeding tickets on accident, but all in all it was a great trip.

It’s a long drive after you land, but when you get to the track everything just kind of goes away. You get to the track and you just forget about everything but driving.

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We were testing with top Italian Super Trofeo team Bonaldi Motorsport.

Team manager Marco Bielli and Bonaldi Motorsport team and pro driver Milos Pavlovic couldn’t have done a better job taking care of us.

Milos is a Super Trofeo pro driver who has worked for Bonaldi for years now and he is essentially the go-to-guy if you need help. He is always there to help you around and was great for us.

The Misano circuit is 4.2 kms long, which is just over 2.5 miles, and has 15 to 16 turns, depending on how you count.

It is very well paved, and I was just blown away by the quality. It is always a little different – usually to the good side – in Europe and the grip level is amazing. It helps that it is a MotoGP track because it is extremely flat too.

The setup on the car becomes so huge on those kinds of tracks and it is a nice challenge. It’s a great track with a lot of turns in only two-and-a-half miles, so passing is going to come down to who has more guts at the World Final.

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We shared the track with a couple other teams testing GT3 and GT4 cars and Lamborghini was even there doing some testing themselves, but I am not going to say anything more about that!

We were on track for two straight days and the first time out we compared to how it was on the simulator, which is always a good prep for the first time visit to any track.

The second session out we just kept the same tires, kept picking up various particulars and points around the track, and throughout the Bonaldi team was amazing.

It was a really nice experience going out there, especially with Bonaldi. They had data from previous years, so we were able to start working with that, and eventually started building some information of our own.

All in all, it was an absolutely amazing trip. Kevin and I always have a blast going out to the track to test or race, and going to Italy makes it even better.

Photo: Supplied

We have to thank everyone for having the opportunity to fly out there, to just have the chance to go to these amazing tracks and test and practice to try to get an edge on everyone else.

After I got home, I went right back to work at my father’s accounting and business management firm Aghakhani & Luk LLP. I have been putting in as many hours there as I can.

Even before I left for Italy, I stacked on as much work as I could so I could be home free for the test and focus just on driving.

Learning to take on a full plate while still just a teenager has been great training. It has helped me with my time management and even stress management.

I feel like I have been dealing with it amazingly, but it’s all thanks to my father. He has given me the opportunity to do all of this. The least I can do is help around the office and put in my best effort.

As usual, now it is back to the gym, putting in hours at the office and keeping our eyes on the prize, which is the 2021 IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America title. Please stay safe, thank you as always to Sportscar365, and I will check in again in April. Thanks!

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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