Connect with us


AGHAKHANI: Making the Most of the Extended Off-Season

Steven Aghakhani files his first Sportscar365 column amid the delayed start to Lamborghini Super Trofeo NA season…

Photo: Daniel Schenkelberg Photography

The “start” of the season has taken quite a turn due to recent events for everyone. Even though the off-season has gotten an extension, personally I haven’t
changed my program.

My name is Steven Aghakhani and I want to thank Sportscar365 for the chance to be this year’s columnist for the IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series.

I am home schooled, live in Los Angeles and turned 17 just this past April 12, but 2020 marks my second season in Super Trofeo and my debut in the Italian GT Championship.

I drive the No. 6 US RaceTronics Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo and look forward to competing with Vincenzo Sospiri Racing later this year in Italy.

I can’t wait to build on last year’s season that ended with winning the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Championship in Jerez and being named global rookie-of-the-year in the overall Squadra Corse championships.

The off-season being extended has been an opportunity to work on myself, doing extra physical conditioning, resting, online learning and meditating. I feel particularly grateful that being quarantined and having to wait to race has been my only struggle during this time.

For people that have had to deal with financial issues, mental health issues and family loss, my prayers go out to them. We will stay strong, survive and recover and be back to our busy schedules soon enough.

I am staying busy maintaining physical and mental fitness. Staying fit is something that is extremely important for the off-season, especially since it can give that extra edge during the racing year.

Physically keeping fit for me comes from working out daily, whether it’s going for a run or using free weights.

Photo: Daniel Schenkelberg Photography

My trainer is Jason Sarceda, the owner and founder of Strut Fitness Studio in La Canada, Calif., has stayed committed to physically conditioning me through the off-season and this pandemic.

We do Zoom sessions and cardio work – always at least six-feet apart – and anything goes in order to stay physically healthy. At our house we have a small gym, so I am able to get in workout routines at home that Jason designs for me, conditioning my reflexes and stamina.

Staying fit also includes dieting. Trust me, I love pizza as much as the next guy but some things you need to hold off for that extra tenth of a second.

The only tough part about keeping my physical fitness 10/10ths is that I have to completely change my diet for racing.

It isn’t the most fun thing, giving up french fries and other types of food like that, but when I can physically stay active towards the end of my stint/race, you realize how much of an impact it has, which is something that I am used to.

Mental health is very important too. If I go into a race thinking I don’t have a chance, the chances of making mistakes are much higher compared to when I would go into a race with a positive mentality.

Keeping a positive mentality keeps me focused on the task at hand instead of daydreaming while at my races. Before every race, I’ll sit in the car about 15 minutes earlier and close my eyes and just let my mind focus on the task at hand, which is always winning.

I’ve been doing that technique for years and it’s never failed me.

Photo: Daniel Schenkelberg Photography

Sim racing is a tool that a lot of drivers use, while I typically practice racing on track, my coach and I have been utilizing sim practices during this time.

Kevin Madsen and I have been working together since 2018. Kevin coached me last year to my world championship with Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

As we continue to battle COVID-19, Kevin pushes me on the sim to replicate training that I would receive on track and mentally prepares me for when we are back into season.

Of course, here and there an online race will pop up. It keeps you mentally focused, and while not the same level of intensity, it still has that stress level of real racing once you get locked in the zone.

It is still an “online game,” but I take it very seriously as it’s still used as training.

Even though iRacing and Assetto Corsa are at the top of the list for driving sims, in some off times I’ll hop on Forza and even drive on there. Anything counts as training if you focus hard enough. My goal is to keep my skills sharp and stay on the same page as my teammate.

Photo: Daniel Schenkelberg Photography

Mr. Jacob Eidson is the man of the hour and my IMSA teammate in the Pro class this year. Jacob and I have been getting to know each other for quite some time now.

Our chemistry as teammates could never have been better. We are both super compatible and very understanding when it comes to strategy no matter the situation.

The best part about having Jacob as my teammate is that we don’t fight for lap times or trying to surpass each other, we both understand that being on a team means helping the other.

Being on the same team doesn’t mean take out the other driver, it’s to support them. And we intend on keeping this chemistry all the way until the season starts and past the end of it.

Having a great team goes beyond just drivers as it’s the entire crew behind the scenes too.

I am lucky to have an amazing crew powered by US RaceTronics and team founder Shane Seneviratne and fueled by the best team principal, my father, Armik Aghakhani.

Photo: Daniel Schenkelberg Photography

Throughout this Pandemic and shut down, Armik has kept the team going. We do weekly team phone conferences, dissecting strategies, travel, team moral and anything in between.

My dad always says, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” If you have met my dad, you know that failure isn’t even in his vocabulary.

Our team is staying in strategy mode, and I am sure if he had it his way, the crew would be doing virtual pit stops! The season may be on its off time but Armik Aghakhani’s engines are still firing.

He often comes to me and asks questions about various tracks like, “hey, what gear do you think you will be in going into turn 4 at Watkins Glen, how about Turn 6?”

In closing, I want to say an important thing to focus on is that this “pause” is only temporary. I look forward to making what is left of this year’s race season
greatly successful and my biggest focus is winning for my sponsors SADA, Magic Laundry Services, Carney Shegerian, Insignia Mortgage, TKX Staffing.

Until next time, please stay safe and I hope to see you at a track very soon.

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.

Click to comment

More in Commentary