The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship welcomes a new manufacturer to its new premier league as Lamborghini Squadra Corse announced plans to join the GTP class in the 2024 season via the LMDh prototype on Tuesday.
It is a significant leap forward for Lamborghini, which has performed exclusively in the GT divisions since its return to motorsport and sports cars almost a decade ago.
The automaker won the GTD class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona for three consecutive years from 2018-20, but will now compete against major budget makers Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche while building its first prototype.
“It’s definitely a double step,” Lamborghini motorsport chief Giorgio Sanna told NBC Sports in a recent interview. “But it’s something that we’ve digested and prepared for these kinds of jumps. It’s not something we do, we just do it bravely.
“We believe that we are ready to enter this field, given the experience we have gained. The results we have achieved, but much more importantly with the structure we are putting together to meet these kinds of challenges. So we are absolutely excited about this opportunity, but above all motivated and convinced that we have everything in-house to do everything the right way.”
Lamborghini will also enter the top Hypercar tier of the FIA World Endurance Championship with the move, which will see the company compete in all of the biggest endurance races in the world such as Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring and Spa as the top divisions in IMSA and WEC. may level off from 2023.
“This move to the top echelon of sports car racing marks an important milestone for our company,” said Lamborghini Chairman and CEO Stephan Winkelmann in a press release. “We will measure ourselves against the very best, in the most demanding test areas. On the one hand, this will give our successful motorsport program even more visibility, but it will also allow us to test future technologies: our LMDh prototypes will become our most advanced open laboratory on four wheels.”
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In addition to the brand’s appeal and impact on production sales, Sanna said Lamborghini is intrigued by LMDh Racing’s technology spin-offs and its hybrid powerplant. By the end of 2024, all Lamborghini road cars will be hybridized.
“Motorsport is step by step becoming a real asset from the marketing perspective for the company,” said Sanna. “It is still a very good benchmark to develop technologies and a technical future that can be transferred to legal road cars, as we have already done in recent years. Motorsport is an opportunity to develop technology, and the LMDh is also a good opportunity to combine the experience and technology of hybridisation, which will form the basis of the entire product portfolio of our road cars.”
Lamborghini has used a customer approach for its GT program, which has sold more than 500 race cars over the past seven years. Sanna said the company won’t have a “pure factory team” like future LMDh manufacturers like Acura and Cadillac currently use in DPi.
But Lamborghini plans to have a “reference customer team” that will help manage the program.
“Right now it’s quite early to talk about how many cars or teams we can handle, for the simple reason that LMDh is not a GT3,” said Sanna. “It is a car that is technically much more complicated. The costs are higher, but more than that, we have to consider the capacity we have to support more than one to two teams and two to six cars. So it will be evaluated at the appropriate time in the future.”
After completing engineering through the remainder of 2022, Lamborghini plans to begin track testing by March 2023. The goal is to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours of 2024 at the latest, but the LMDh car could potentially be ready by Daytona or Sebring in ’24.
Lamborghini continues to run its GT customer programs, including the IMSA-approved Super Trofeo North America series whose deal was extended to 2026 in January in another example of Lamborghini’s growth in sports cars.
Super Trofeo started in 2013 with less than 10 cars and had a record field of over 30 cars for its recent Laguna Seca round. Sanna expects to have 40 cars by the end of the season.
“We started from ground zero, especially in America, and had to build credibility, and that’s something you can’t buy in the supermarket one day,” Sanna said. “It’s something you have to achieve day to day. The confidence of the fans, the drivers, the teams, the partners all together.
“The feedback we see is that they like our sense of family. We like to manage the business and racing activities with the same passion as our customers. We share the same passion for the super sports cars. This is something that people can easily recognize with us. This kind of passion, vision and attitude is certainly appreciated.”
“IMSA has a long-standing partnership with Lamborghini dating back to the introduction of Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America ten years ago and continuing in a successful GTD program,” said IMSA President John Doonan in a press release. “We are proud that Lamborghini confirms plans to expand its IMSA footprint even further by 2024 to GTP and the top category of prototype sports car racing. The fact that another manufacturer of this caliber is making the commitment to race in GTP reinforces the LMDh technical platform we have developed with our partners at the ACO, and we can’t wait to see these new Lamborghini prototypes debut. in the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”
The convergence of the top platforms in IMSA and the ACO (WEC sanctioning body) will allow the series to cross over at Daytona and Le Mans for the first time in decades, harking back to the era of “Ford v. Ferrari” and helping cement Lamborghini’s LMDh- decision.
“Absolutely, because it is the first time that we have a real collaboration between IMSA and ACO to have at least two LMDh cars on a global platform where you can use these kind of cars around the world,” he said. “This is fundamental to us because we see ourselves as global players. It is fundamental to invest money in something that you can use and capitalize on worldwide.”
With Porsche entering the IMSA GTP category with Team Penske next season, the arrival of Lamborghini will mark two brands under the Volkswagen Auto Group umbrella. Sanna said Lamborghini will operate independently of Porsche.
“It’s fundamental within the group,” he said. “Everyone is under the same umbrella to share the strategy and needs of every company and brand, and we have the freedom to make our decision to be shared within the group, but we are independent, and for this reason we are decided to develop a standalone project. Because we don’t just want to engage in motorsport to give the car a badge, but really to learn, experience and grow, bringing technical know-how and competence in-house. That is the most important factor in motorsport.”