Between claiming his first class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and landing a factory seat in Lamborghini’s new works-supported Blancpain Endurance Series effort, it’s been a career-defining month for Andrew Palmer.
The 20-year-old American, a race winner in Pirelli World Challenge competition last year, was announced last week as one of three Lamborghini junior drivers that will be be part of the Italian manufacturer’s two-car program with the all-new Huracan GT3.
Palmer, who won the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Finals in 2013 at the age of 18, is excited about the next chapter in his career, which will see him take on some of the world’s best drivers in Europe’s premier GT endurance series.
“I’m super excited to be full time in Europe,” Palmer told Sportscar365. “As a kid, you dream of going overseas and racing against the best. It’s also excited and I’m very proud to be part of a factory based effort and with the first in-house Lamborghini-developed race car.”
Unveiled at the company’s Sant’Agata Bolognese headquarters in Italy, the Huracan GT3, which boasts a 500-plus horsepower direct-injected V10 engine, is a noticeable departure from the Audi R8 LMS ultra that Palmer had driven in PWC as well as selected TUDOR United SportsCar Championship rounds last year.
Palmer got to experience the Dallara-built car for the first time at Jerez in late December and has since been part of an intensive testing and development program to prepare for its debut at Monza in April.
“We’ve come up with a car that’s going to be super competitive and hopefully we’ll come away with the championship,” Palmer said.
“The car has a lot of potential. It has a lot more aero than the current GT3 cars. That’s kind of the direction the GT3 cars are going, being more and more radical. They’re going to be quick.”
One of the biggest differences between the two mid-engined sports cars, Palmer says, is its drivability.
“I’d say the main difference is that it just feels more like a purpose-built race car,” he said. “It was designed from its inception with the goal of winning races and not adapting a street car.
“It’s stiffer and better to drive and overall better performance.”
While fresh off Prototype Challenge class victory at Daytona with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, the majority of Palmer’s focus will turn to the Lamborghini effort, which will be run by 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series runner-ups Grasser Racing Team.
He’ll be one of only a handful of American drivers competing in the championship this year, which includes the Florida-based DragonSpeed outfit and owner/driver Elton Julian, and is excited for the opportunity to race overseas.
“It’s great to fly the stars and stripes in Europe,” Palmer said. “I’m proud to be over there.
“I think America sometimes get flack on the driving scale of things. So to be involved in a very prestigious program and hopefully perform really well will give people over here some credit.”
Palmer, who’s touted as one of America’s rising sports car racing stars, has kept his expectations in check, realizing the number of variables he and the factory will be faced with in the first season with the car.
“Our goals are to manage expectations through the entire season,” he said. “You don’t want to go out and light the world on fire and then get slapped with a bunch of weight and restrictions.
“It’s about playing the game and at the end of the season, the last round, come home with the win.”