Lamborghini’s Super Trofeo series gives car enthusiasts a chance to race around the country and against the world.
On a Sunday morning last November at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, Ryan Ockey fired up his Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 with the intent of winning a world championship. The 53-year-old homebuilder and land developer from western Canada was one of 17 drivers competing in the amateur class of the 2015 Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo World Final. Five other competitors had a good chance at the title, and when the green flag waved, those drivers, Ockey, and the rest took off from the starting line in a pack of howling Huracáns and Gallardos, leaving a billowing cloud of smoke.
“The rain was letting off, but the track was still really wet,” said Ockey (pronounced OH-kee) after the race. “Everybody was sliding around. We were trading positions.”
Ockey started the race in second place and trod with care, dropping to third, then fourth. He had captured the Super Trofeo North America series amateur title with his performances in two races Saturday on the 3.74-mile, 17-turn course, becoming a favorite to win the world title. In addition to drivers from the North America series, Sunday’s field included competitors from the Super Trofeo Europe and Asia series. In the first race, a 50-minute stint with a required 90-second pit stop, Ockey won by 16.5 seconds.
A few laps into the second race, a driver crashed hard. “Hey, part of the game,” said Maurizio Reggiani as a flatbed wrecker towed away the mangled car. Reggiani, Lamborghini’s chief of research and design, was among the company executives who had traveled from Italy to watch the event and hold court in the hospitality area, where Lamborghini hosted some 800 guests.
“It’s really close—they’re fighting for a Blancpain!” one of those guests joked as the race restarted in a hurly-burly scene that crumpled some cars’ composite body panels.
Ockey soon regained second place despite, as he described it, “people going off the track and craziness.” By the time he reached the penultimate lap, number 15, the surface had dried, allowing him to record his fastest time of the race, a 2:17.8. It was 12.3 seconds slower than the best lap time he posted on Saturday, but it was fast enough for him to remain in second, sandwiched between two Europe series drivers. Second place gave him enough points to secure the world championship.
In the pits, Ockey’s crew hoisted him high while he flung both clenched fists into the air. His prizes included trophies from Lamborghini and Pirelli (the series’ official tire supplier), a scale-model Super Trofeo car, and a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watch. “Really nice swag for the win,” he said. In addition to that haul, he earned bragging rights over his younger brother, Damon, who also competed in the series’ amateur class and designed their cars’ snazzy camouflage liveries—green and black for Ryan’s, orange and black for his own.
Launched in 2009 in Europe and later in Asia before coming to North America in 2013, the Super Trofeo is Lamborghini’s single-model series of professional, pro-am, and amateur racing. (The Gallardo division, upon which the event was founded, has been eliminated for 2016.) It comprises two 50-minute races on each of six dates. Competitors in the North America series purchase Huracán LP 620-2 Super Trofeo cars from Lamborghini dealers; in the United States, the car costs about $325,000. The price of a racing season—including test days, entry fees, and insurance—can be as much as $500,000, but sponsors may cover a large portion of the cost.
In the North America series, the races take place on weekends when the venues also are hosting International Motor Sports Association events. This year, for the first time, a race weekend will be held in conjunction with an IndyCar event, the inaugural Grand Prix of Boston on September 2 through 4.
This season’s series begins April 29 through May 1 at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. In addition to the Boston event, other races will take place June 29 through July 1 at Watkins Glen International in New York, August 5 through 7 at Road America in Wisconsin, and September 14 through 16 at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. The season concludes December 3 and 4 at the Circuito de la Comunidad Valenciana Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, where the World Final races will follow the season-ending races in the North America, Europe, and Asia series.
“The 620-2 Super Trofeo is the fastest GT car in the world at the moment for its class,” said Kevin Conway as he walked through his team’s paddock between races. Conway, a former NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor, won the Super Trofeo pro world championship in 2014. He’s now a member of the Prestige Performance Race Team, where his bailiwick includes driver development. “It’s got a tremendous amount of power,” he said, “but the downforce and the braking—those things make the car a lot of fun to drive and very, very fast.”
While the Super Trofeo car shares some features with the Huracán LP 610-4 and new Huracán LP 580-2—the carbon-fiber-and-aluminum chassis, for example—it is built specifically for racing. The interior is equipped with a roll cage that meets Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile specifications, and the steering wheel incorporates controls to adjust the antilock brakes and traction control, compensating for tire wear during the race. Other buttons on the wheel and dashboard panel control the transmission setting (neutral and reverse), radio communication, flashing of the headlights, the windshield wipers, and the pit-lane limiter.
The engine is the production-model 5.2-liter V-10 with, Conway said, “some adjustments.” It produces 620 hp, which goes to the rear wheels through a paddle-operated 6-speed sequential gearbox. (The Huracán road models are equipped with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.) The car weighs only 2,800 pounds, and on Sebring’s 3,142-foot-long Ullmann Straight, it traveled faster than 170 mph.
Conway had spent time the previous year grooming John DiFiore, a 53-year-old pediatric surgeon from North Carolina who hadn’t been a car enthusiast until he bought a used Gallardo in 2011. After a day at the track in his car, DiFiore went to a racing school and then acquired a 2014 Gallardo LP 570-4 Squadra Corse, which he modified by adding a roll cage, race seats, and harnesses. The purchase, from Lamborghini Carolinas in Greensboro, N.C., included a day of Conway’s coaching at Virginia International Raceway.
Within a year, DiFiore completed Lamborghini’s Esperienza, a two-day driving school, and in February of 2015 he attended the Accademia, a two-day driving program at Aspen, Colo. “I think I preferred the winter conditions,” he said, “because we really learned how to slide the car around, control a drift, and keep the car in control while out of control.”
Three months later, after much time in his home simulator and at the gym, he slid into a Super Trofeo car at Laguna Seca, at the North America series season opener. In the weekend’s second amateur-class race, he finished third, earning a spot on the podium. “We got to spray Champagne,” he said. “It was incredible.
“I would do it again in a second. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not only to drive a legitimate world-class racecar, but also the amazing part of the experience is just being in the paddock with all these drivers from Italy, Brazil, all over the world. You really feel like you’re a racecar driver.”
Motor-racing glory was far outside Ockey’s purview in the 1970s and ’80s, when he was working for his father’s business, helping it build three or four houses a year in Calgary, Alberta. Later he took over the business, growing it into the Cardel Group of Companies, which builds homes and develops real estate in Canada and the United States. Then the racing bug bit.
Ockey started out by hustling a Subaru WRX around “a little cowpoke track” near home. After buying his first exotic car, a Ferrari F430, he went to racing school, and that led to six seasons of competing in the Ferrari Challenge, a racing series similar to Lamborghini’s. He began racing in the Super Trofeo in 2014 and participated in the full season last year while continuing to compete in the Ferrari Challenge. “I’m in the demographic that Lamborghini’s looking for,” he said.
Ockey likes the on-track thrills, but he also enjoys the social experiences that come with the Super Trofeo. Last season, for example, he and a group of drivers attended a University of Texas football game during the mid-September weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. “You’re not only racing,” he said, “you’re getting to hang out with really fun people from all over the world.”
Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America, squadracorse.lamborghini.com