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HINDMAN: Taming a Raging Bull

Trent Hindman files his latest Sportscar365 column following Lamborghini World Final in Vallelunga…

Photo: Lamborghini

In my third year of running the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final, I think it’s safe to admit that the event as a whole has become one of my favorites to compete in.

Each one of my three experiences at this race have been wildly different; receiving a healthy ass-whooping in 2016, winning overall with Riccardo Agostini in 2017, and scrapping for a top five result this year.

There is one thing in common among all three and that’s the constant beckoning of a return the following season.

Once again I find myself in a position where all I want to do is go back and have another run at it. Although this event doesn’t get the love it deserves, I feel it is certainly on it’s way to being one of the more prestigious events in sports car racing.

The Pro category, for example, is full of absolute killers behind the wheel and I think it’s the challenge of competing against ultra-quick, highly underrated drivers that makes me want to keep coming back for more.

Following the success of 2017 both domestically and overseas at the World Final in Imola, this year’s edition of both Lamborghini Super Trofeo competition in North America as well as our annual European trip, this time to Vallelunga, definitely was not a cinderella story.

In a season marred by incredibly poor luck, Jonathan Cecotto, the Prestige/WTR team, and I were more or less out of the North American title hunt from the start.

However, it was not necessarily a tough pill to swallow, as running the World Final presents a second opportunity to win a championship in sort of a winner take all fashion, so our year was spent in preparation for this event.

Both our final North American rounds, which took place on Friday prior to the World Final, were some of the more successful outings of the year for us.

Pole in Race 1 and good pace through the opening stint gave the impression that it was going to be a straightforward race for us, but alas, lady luck decided that wouldn’t be the case.

A slow pit stop to make a repair to the left rear saw Jonathan leave pit lane in P3, which is ultimately where we ended up. Some of that luck finally fell our direction for once in Race 2, where a pit lane infraction incurred onto the race leader required me to finish no further than three tenths of a second behind if I could not make the pass on track.

We finished just over a tenth of a second behind and got the win… too close for my liking.

Throughout testing and official practice, it was clear that more had to be found in order to compete with the top Pro and Pro Am cars from Europe. That gap was closing heading into our World Final qualifying rounds.

Expectations were reasonable but as soon as we saw some of the times being thrown down in qualifying, we knew it was going to be difficult to recreate last year’s success.

We knew we had a great car over a full race distance, but observing prior races throughout the weekend proved that running in traffic and passing around Vallelunga is difficult to say the least.

World Final Race 1 was one of those “what if” races that we’ve experienced far too often this year.

Receiving a drive-through penalty after being too far under the minimum pit stop time took Jonathan and me out of the running for a podium finish and ultimately the World Final victory as well.

After some investigating post-race, we were not the only team to have received this type of penalty. Cars and teams that were equal to or even stronger than us had also received drive-throughs. These are teams who have been on point all year long and now, the most important event of the year, they miss the pit lane delta by so much? It made very little sense.

Either way, without the drive-through we believe we could have finished inside the top-five purely through attrition and mistakes made by other drivers ahead of us.

Race 2 was once again the redeeming round of the weekend as our strong pace over the course of a stint proved to be most effective here and the car really came alive in the final 20 minutes.

Right on the final lap I had caught P3, made the pass, but after a good fight, we ended up P4.

By our calculations, a P4 result in Race 1 and P3 in Race 2 would’ve made Wayne Taylor Racing back-to-back champions. It’s easy to envision a winning result but that’s not the way it went down. Finishing inside the top five overall despite a turbulent season is certainly nothing for us to be ashamed of.

That beckoning to return to the World Final is heavily influenced by the people who I’m so fortunate to share garage space with.

All three times I’ve run the Super Trofeo World Final has been with a largely unchanged crew at Prestige Performance/Wayne Taylor Racing. It’s a mutually supportive environment, of course, but I say that since we’ve all become much closer teammates and friends alike through the highs and lows this event has thrown at us each year.

The education for myself as a driver at this race is on a pretty steep curve every year; having to learn a new circuit, new set-up philosophy with the car (quite a bit different from the way we normally run the cars in North America), and ultimately learning new and ever improving levels of competition.

Seeing the team grow as much as I have over the last three years leaves me with a great sense of pride in our efforts as a whole.

I owe a huge thank you to our entire team at Wayne Taylor Racing, Prestige Performance, Trim-Tex, and Lamborghini Paramus for their constant effort. I’m grateful to once again have been a member of this team and I look forward to what the future has in store for all of us. See you in Daytona.

Trent Hindman (@TrentHindman) is the 2014 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS class champion, driving for VOLT Racing in Continental Tire Challenge and Michael Shank Racing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races.

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