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CONWAY: Monterey Debrief

Kevin Conway files his first Sportscar365 column following Monterey…

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

Photo: Jamey Price/Lamborghini

Racing Lamborghinis around the world is something that sounds quite elusive and elite. For me, it was only a dream.

When Lamborghini first introduced the Blancpain Super Trofeo series in Europe, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is a very cool series. Too bad they don’t have that in North America.”

At that point in my career, I was still fully focused on NASCAR and racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Fast-forward three years, and here we are today, racing Lamborghinis around the world, including North America. I have been very fortunate to be a part of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America championship since its launch in 2013.

Last week marked the beginning of another era for the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America as we raced the all-new Huracán LP 620-2 Super Trofeo at Laguna Seca.

This is one of the most amazing race cars I have driven. It has great power and a lot of downforce. I could go on and on about all of the great things about the car, but I feel that if you have the chance to see one in person or – even better – drive one, it certainly speaks for itself.  

For me, the season opener at Laguna Seca brought many firsts: the first race with a new race car, the first race with a new team and a new co-driver, and the first race representing the Prestige family of dealerships and Lamborghini Paramus.  

After winning the North America series Drivers Championship in 2013 and 2014, and the Pro-Am World Final last year in Sepang with my co-driver Lawson Ashcenbach, the familiarity of the Gallardo LP 570-4 Super Trofeo car, the team and my co-driver was gone.

We knew we had a steep learning curve, working with not only a new team and new co-driver but also an entirely new car. We had a promoter test day on Thursday, which allowed the Super Trofeo teams to turn their first laps.

My teammate, John DiFiore, who is competing in the Amateur classification, logged a lot of laps and gained valuable seat time in the Huracán. Unfortunately for myself and co-driver Enrique Bernoldi, we had an engine issue which prevented us from logging any laps, putting us a day behind our competition.  

The Prestige Performance team and the Lamborghini engineering team were able to diagnose and resolve the problem, but now we were down to two, 40-minute free practices to sort out our new Huracán. We made significant gains throughout the free practices, but we knew that we still had work to do.  

The next day was an early morning with our qualifying session starting at 8 a.m. and the first race just an hour later.  

As we went into qualifying, Enrique drove in the first qualifying session and put in a solid lap to place the Prestige Lamborghini in P3 for race one.

In the second, 15-minute qualifying session, we were in heavy traffic. With time running out, we were not able find a clear lap to contend for the front row.  

But we had little time to think about it with Race 1 right around the corner. As I climbed into the car to start the race, I had confidence in my team and the adjustments they made to the car.  

At the drop of the green flag, we raced into the fourth position and maintained our pace as we realized we still had work to do on the balance of our car. We were fighting significant oversteer.

Just before the pit window opened, there was a full-course yellow for an incident out of Turn 3. This would allow the field to bunch back up as everyone prepared for the mandatory pit stop, and for me to hand off the Prestige Lamborghini to Enrique.  

Earlier in the morning, at the drivers’ briefing, the race director went over race procedure changes, one of which was not being allowed to enter the pits under a full-course yellow.

As we neared the pit entrance, the top three peeled off and entered the pit lane while we remained on the racetrack. Amid the confusion, some teams knew not to pit under full yellow conditions and seemingly others did not. Those that did pit gained a significant advantage in track position without receiving a penalty.

By the time we completed our pit stop, we were shuffled back deep in the field of 21 cars. Enrique pushed hard for the remaining 20 minutes of the event to finish in the eighth position. Certainly not result that anyone had an anticipated.  

The next morning, IMSA issued a bulletin to clarify the pit procedure and rule that you are not permitted to enter the pit lane under full-course yellow conditions.

I applaud IMSA for taking the necessary steps to clarify any confusion and for working with the teams with the new regulations.

While we did not have an acceptable result, we learned a great deal, and our engineering team was able to collect important data to make improvements to the balance of the car. 

The next morning we arrived at the racetrack knowing we had to start from the seventh position. I started the race and quickly moved into the fifth position on the opening lap, conserving tires for the second half of the race.

As the pit window opened, I brought the Prestige Lamborghini down pit road to once again hand off driving duties to Enrique. We had a solid driver change, and Enrique was quickly back on track.

By end of the pit cycle, Enrique had moved into the second position with a great battle for third and fourth behind him.

With less than 10 minutes remaining in the 50-minute sprint race, the third-place car charged hard into Turn 2 and made contact with our car, sending Enrique sideways and nearly off the track.  

After a brilliant save, Enrique charged hard to maintain a spot on the podium. At the checkered flag, we finished P3 and took our spot on the podium.

While it was a much better result, we know that we still have to keep pushing to get to the top step, where we know we can be.  

I couldn’t be more proud of the Prestige Performance team and to put Paramus Lamborghini on the podium at Laguna Seca.

I also want to mention my teammate John DiFiore. He did an amazing job in his Super Trofeo series debut, racing for the first very first time and putting his Prestige Lamborghini on the podium in the Amateur classification.

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