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AGHAKHANI: Even Greater Anticipation Heading to VIR

Steven Aghakhani checks into Sportscar365 after earning his first overall Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America win…

Photo: Jamey Price

While we had to wait nearly 130 days for the start of the 2020 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season, the 13-day wait before our next race at Virginia International Raceway this weekend is almost just as hard!

The original season-opening race at Barber Motorsports Park in April was cancelled in support of the worldwide fight against COVID-19.

For a long time, we didn’t even know when our racing season was going to start. When Road America was announced a couple of months ago as the early August opener, everyone in the series settled in for a long wait and the highly anticipated start of the Super Trofeo season.

We all had to play the same waiting game. Everybody wanted to get back to the track as soon as it was safe. The goal was start racing again as soon as possible, but when we all showed up in Wisconsin for the opening doubleheader two weeks ago, you could quickly tell who used the break to test and improve and who handled the long wait as, well, just a long wait.

Happily – and not surprisingly – our No. 6 SADA Systems US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo team was among those who clearly took advantage of the unscheduled down time. All the meetings, testing and strategy sessions the last four months paid off at Road America.

In my debut race with new-for-2020 co-driver Jacob Eidson, we finished second from second on the grid in Friday’s first Road America race and then broke through for the overall win from the pole in Saturday’s finale.

Photo: Jamey Price

The victory was extra special for me and is the reason I am counting the minutes – not days – to VIR.

While Jake, Shane Seneviratne, Peter Jacobs and most of the US RaceTronics team have won races and championships at professional levels before, when I took the checkered flag Saturday at Road America in our Lamborghini, it marked my first overall win in professional auto racing competition.

The fact that we were even competing in the Pro division after entering the race in Pro-Am would take another full column of its own to try to explain!

We were moved to the Pro class just before qualifying on Friday and I am proud of everybody for embracing the challenge and staying focused.

All I can say – at the age of just 17 – is that I have already learned in my first couple of seasons of sports car racing that you should expect anything and everything when it comes to driver rankings/classifications and Balance of Performance (BoP)! It is not a matter of if they are going to change but when.

So, I just focus on driving to the best of my ability and staying fit, focused, and ready for anything. That mindset played another key part in our success at Road America where racing luck – both bad and good – came into play.

I qualified second fastest overall for Friday’s race and led three laps, but Jake won the pole for Saturday’s race and showed he was the man from the drop of the green flag. He drove the absolute best he ever has in his opening stint, led every lap, and built a huge gap.

Photo: Jamey Price

We were looking good, I was ready to get in and continue the charge, and that’s when our bad luck came into play. We had a little bit of a problem with the seat belts and harnesses, trying to get them buckled and connected, but we didn’t want to leave with only one or two tied down.

After Jake built a seven-second lead in the race’s first half, the pit stop issue put me back in the race in second place and more than 10 seconds behind the leader. I just put my head down, sort of even closed my eyes, and started to rip off laps.

However, we were told the leader I was working so hard to catch was facing a five-second post-race penalty for not maintaining proper position in line at the race start.

My mission was clear – cross the line less than five seconds behind the leader to seal the victory – and it introduced a kind of cool but unfamiliar element to winning a race.

For the first time while racing for a win or podium, I didn’t have to catch and pass the car ahead. Instead, I was racing the clock. I simply had to get close enough to have the clock work in our favor.

I steadily reeled in the leader, built the cushion we needed in the closing minutes, and took the checkered flag just 3.313 seconds back after making up more than seven seconds in the final charge to the finish.

I never led a lap in my stint, but we were awarded a win we all deserved with a 1.687 second margin of victory.

Photo: Jamey Price

It’s an amazing feeling, winning that way and now joining the ranks of race-winning Pro drivers around the world this early in my career.

Jake and I average 21 in age, for sure the youngest Pro pairing in Super Trofeo, and I am told I am the youngest double-duty driver in the world on the GT3 front.

I made my Pro GT3 racing debut last month at Mugello with Vincenzo Sospiri Racing to start a four-race campaign of endurance races in the Italian GT Championship.

It’s great experience, incredible competition and I am racing against some of best international Pro GT drivers in the world driving a VSR Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

I felt right at home in Italy, and more than comfortable racing against anybody in the field, but it will still be kind of cool to show up for the next round at Imola at the end of this month as a Pro race winner. Feels good to have that box checked and now I want more.

As always, I want to thank Lamborghini and Giorgio Sanna for giving me the opportunity to race in Italy and for backing our Super Trofeo series here in North America.

Of course, I also can’t thank enough my father Armik enough for giving me the opportunity and the chance to really do everything. I am also incredibly grateful for the support of SADA Systems, Carney Shegerian and all our other partners that support us day in and day out.

The Road America win was for all of them. Now we are going to do everything we can to get two more this Saturday and Sunday in Virginia!

Photo: Jamey Price

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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