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AGHAKHANI: Racing’s Ups and Downs

Steven Aghakhani files his latest column ahead of Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America season finale…

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

I suppose it is only fitting that my first major lesson in the ups and downs of major league professional sports car racing came at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend.

Speaking strictly from a geography and elevation standpoint, Laguna Seca is always a lesson in racing’s ups and downs every time I go there.

It all is defined, of course, by the iconic Corkscrew, the ultimate twisty turn in motorsports that plunges from 59 feet – the equivalent of a 5 1/2 story drop – in just 450 feet.

The descent quickly continues from there, with another drop just over 10 stories, or 109 feet, as you hustle down into Turn 9.

To come down from all that elevation, however, you first have to climb up, and that comes in the form of Laguna Seca’s Bobby Rahal Straight. This challenging section elevates from the exit of Turn 6, up the hill and through the Turn 7 kink for the final ascent to the entrance of the Corkscrew.

Basically, success at Laguna Seca means getting the most out of the ups and down, or highs and lows if you will, on one of the best road courses in the country.

Getting through the recent Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America championship weekend at Laguna Seca required the same kind of focus.

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

Although I was born in and live in Los Angeles, I consider Laguna Seca my home track and will race and test there whenever I have chance.

We came into this highly anticipated weekend with the full support of SADA Systems, Carney Shegerian and all our sponsors, family and friends.

We were looking for a turnaround and getting back into the Super Trofeo Pro-class championship chase after a particularly frustrating race at Road Atlanta on Labor Day weekend.

It was a long wait, nearly two months, but my co-driver Jacob Eidson and I knew the mission, and our US RaceTronics team came in with our No. 6 SADA Systems Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo well prepared.

The competition is always tough in Super Trofeo, however, and we were also met by the largest starting field of the season at Laguna Seca.

That’s always good news, but also always raises the stakes too in our competitive series.

We were looking for quick start in Friday practice, but unfortunately had to shake off some early mechanical issues and struggled to hit the right setup for the always low-grip Laguna Seca racing surface.

Unseasonably warm weather didn’t help, but we just stayed positive as we went into Saturday’s twin rounds of qualifying not exactly where we wanted to be with the car.

I qualified sixth overall and fifth in Pro for Saturday’s race while Jake improved a little in qualifying for Sunday’s race with fifth in Pro and overall.

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

For a team and pair of drivers that have combined for four poles this season up to that point, it was definitely a downer.

With Saturday’s race just hours after qualifying, however, there was not much left to do but focus on strategy and execution for the 50-minute sprint.

I took the green flag and was up to fifth early on when the leader had to pit due to a fuel miscalculation. By Lap 6, I was in fourth, running in the lead pack, and it seemed our Lamborghini raced much better than we practiced or qualified.

From there, great strategy by our team and my father, Armik Aghakhani, took over.

I was called into the pits to hand off to Jacob before any of our competitors, and the US RaceTronics crew pulled off an absolutely fantastic stop.

Jake returned to the race in second, and suddenly the lows of the previous 24 hours were gone.

We were in this race, the car was hooked up, and Jacob was pressuring to the end. He crossed the finish line just 0.488 seconds behind the winner and one position ahead of our championship rival Madison Snow.

Our weekend was back on the rails, and the runner-up placing let us shave two points off Madison’s lead.

With just Sunday’s Laguna Seca race, and the season-ending doubleheader at Sebring in mid-November remaining, we tightened the title race and trailed Madison by just nine points after the P2 finish.

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

We kept the momentum up straight into Sunday’s Laguna Seca finale, which Jake started before I got in for the run to the finish.

Jacob raced in the top five throughout his opening stint and then brought our Lamborghini in for the driver change pit stop, just ahead of most of the competition and a caution period a lap later.

I joined the race still under caution and just behind Madison and in what would be the thick of the lead battle as our competitors cycled through pit stops. It was clear I needed to get by Madison to gain more points and the best opportunity was going to be on the restart.

I entered the restart zone, tucked up as close as I could to Madison and punched the gas when I heard “green green!”

The timing and move worked, and I was able to slip by not only Madison but another competitor.

Just like Jake on Saturday, we were suddenly in second, and I held the position to the finish.

We appeared to have gained even more ground on Madison in the championship chase but soon talk of an improper restart and possible penalty came in from IMSA.

We went from the high of earning a great finish for the second day in a row, and moving to within five points of the championship lead, to the extreme downer of realizing a penalty would not only take away our podium but push us farther back in the points race than before the Laguna Seca weekend.

I was truly heartbroken after the race, but frankly its not for me to say. I know everyone on our team did their best to state our case, but the IMSA officials placed us in fifth and we lost a podium finish.

Tough times, but we are going to keep our head up and keep on pushing. Our plan is to go to Sebring this week and sweep both races.

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

I also need to stay strong in support of the people of my family’s homeland of Armenia.

While 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone around the world, our sisters and brothers in Armenia are also courageously enduring the hardships of their nation’s war with Azerbaijan.

We had the Armenian flag on top of the car at Laguna Seca (pictured above) and will proudly carry it again at Sebring.

It gives us a little more spirit to come out here and fight, and that’s what we are going to do again in Florida. Please visit to learn more and see what you can do to help.

Thank you for reading, appreciate Sportscar365 kindly providing this space and I will check in again after Sebring.

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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