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What it's like racing Lamborghinis on weekends

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  January 4, 2014 01:16 PM

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(All photos: Jamey Price/Lamborghini)

“Let me know when your balls hurt.”

The man in the black Lamborghini polo wants to be sure. He’s clamping my groin to the bottom of a race car, cinching the last belt to a heavy five-point buckle pressing on my gut. Pinned like this, in a fire suit and a full-face helmet, I’m about as helpless as a baby in a car seat.

I cry uncle, and he gives a final tug before hooking a net to the plastic window, sealing me inside. I can’t take a full breath. By my feet on the bare aluminum floor is a fire extinguisher – as if I could bend down – and near my knee is a toggle switch marked “Ignition.” On my left is Kevin Conway, a former NASCAR Sprint Cup driver who, in five short minutes, will centrifuge my internal organs with a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Super Trofeo.


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Conway isn’t just quick, he’s the fastest driver in Super Trofeo, a factory-backed series new to the U.S. that invites anyone with $35,000 to race a Lamborghini all weekend. That does mean anyone – actor Dax Shepard, Kardashian stepdad Bruce Jenner, pro racers like Conway and peach-fuzzed rookies like 19-year-old Andrew Palmer share the field. The fee includes qualifying and practice sessions, two 50-minute races, and plenty of booze and catered food to stuff an entire weekend.

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And, of course, the $300,000 Super Trofeo race car. This winged Gallardo uses the same 570-hp V10, all-wheel-drive and 6-speed automated manual as the stock Squadra Corse, only its enormous rear diffuser looks like it could mow a field. The suspension is fully adjustable. A modified ABS controller is the only safety aid. Stability control, airbags and Lamborghini’s decadent leather interior have all been stripped.

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Conway flicks the ignition switch. I thought I knew loud a few days earlier, when I started a Gallardo Spyder in my garage and shot off into the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. But the Super Trofeo, sans mufflers or insulation, is loud in size 144-pt type. As we exit the pits at Virginia International Raceway, where Conway ran a day earlier during an exceptionally hot October afternoon, I sip my last breath before he punches the throttle.

Now, I’m very comfortable riding shotgun with pro drivers. It’s their job – Conway won dozens of motocross and karting races before his 15th birthday – so trust comes naturally. It’s also a rare moment to appreciate their talent, to watch them massage the controls and move limbs with ballet precision. But the Super Trofeo is wearing slicks, and that changes everything I know about cars on tracks.

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We are rocketing around VIR’s S-curves. There is no body roll, no tire squeal, just twisting, violent speed and the sweet stench of gasoline and hot brakes. A minute later, the Super Trofeo surges to nearly 170 mph on the uphill straightaway, and when we leap over the blind crest, Conway slams the brakes so hard it plows the car’s nose into the tarmac, scraping its carbon fiber chin. I'm hurled two inches forward, at most.

His brutal, neck-snapping pace? For my comfort, Conway tells me he dialed it down to seven-tenths. (A few weeks later, he won the Super Trofeo series by 62 points.)

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Conway, at right, shows the author the Super Trofeo's venturi ducts that suck the car to the ground.

Now, it’s Conway’s turn to get whipped. I’ve never lapped VIR, I don’t have any cones to indicate braking zones or apexes, and I’ve never driven a race car, let alone a midengine Lamborghini, on slick tires. I go easy for the first two laps as Conway directs my speed and turns with his index finger. Then I open her up. There is so much reserve grip, and the all-wheel-drive system is phenomenally transparent. The fear I expected isn’t there. The rear-wheel-drive Gallardo LP550-2 I drove here requires a steadier hand – it will bite and snap backwards if you’re not watching – but the Super Trofeo begs to be thrown around.

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On the fifth lap, with the V10 howling, I realize my life is really awesome. When you're flooring a race team's Lamborghini and feel the suede-wrapped wheel rattling in your hands -- and it's not connected to an Xbox -- awesome is the only adjective my brain can process at 150 mph. Awesome, because when I get out of this Lamborghini, I’ll get into another Lamborghini for the ride home. In this blur, can anything else matter?

At 160 mph, the next turn is here. Conway waves his hand to brake, and I shake the glaze from my eyes. Concentrate on this last part. Hit the apexes. Power home. I pit and kill the engine. Maybe I’m three-tenths on his pace. Three and a half? No matter. I didn’t have the balls to brake late like Conway, and that may be why, freed from the Super Trofeo’s vice grip, I walked off a little funnier than I came in. It's one mark of a damn fine weekend.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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