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Lamborghini’s chief technical officer details new LMDh progress for 2024 in IMSA, WEC

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Chief technical officer Rouven Mohr (Lamborghini Squadra Corse)

With one eye on unfettered entertainment and another on incontrovertible data, Rouven Mohr has watched the LMDh prototype era unfold from two distinct perspectives.

“I’m a huge motorsports fan since I was a child, fan, so I really appreciate that this year’s Le Mans was really one of the best that I can remember,” Mohr told NBC Sports. “We have so many different manufacturers and so many different concepts competing on several racetracks. From the fan perspective, I love it.”

But from a business perspective, the chief technical officer for Lamborghini keenly is observing the competition’s lap times and high-tech metrics.

Squadra Corse, the motorsports arm of Lamborghini, will be competing next season against some of the world’s largest and most successful manufacturers –Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Ferrari and Toyota in the World Endurance Championship.

“We are ready for our biggest step into the future of motorsports, measuring ourselves against the best manufacturers in the world,” Lamborghini Chairman and CEO Stephan Winkelmann said Thursday in an unveiling of the first prototype race car in its 60-year history.

Lamborghini will enter the top category of sports cars next season at least a year behind its rivals in a highly competitive field. All four automakers already had won through the first five races of Grand Touring Prototype, IMSA’s top class that was rebranded for the debut of its hybrid prototype.

But Lambo’s head of R&D and his staff of engineers are studying the failures of the competition rather than being intimidated than their varied successes in 2023.

“You learn a lot because you can see some problems of the others, and then you can cross-check it for our situation,” Mohr said. “From my point of view, it’s not a disadvantage that we come in the second year and not the first year. Because for sure the others are learning a lot, but at the beginning, it’s always tough if you are one of the first guys. For sure you make mistakes because someone has to do the things the first time.”

After introducing its SC63 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England, Mohr said Lamborghini will begin rigorous testing of the car in August at several circuits in Europe (“every week, another race track”).

A parallel test program in the United States will start in early fall at several tracks that Mohr declined to identify (“I don’t want to highlight too much on the details because I don’t want the audience to be too big”), but the sessions will be both exclusive and joint with other manufacturers. It’s expected that the Italian automaker will test at Daytona International Speedway before the end of the year (IMSA typically holds an open test in mid-December ahead of the Rolex 24 at Daytona).

December also is when Squadra Corse expects to complete its LMDh homologation approval process with IMSA.

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The new SC63 LMDh prototype (Lamborghini Squadra Corse)


“They are quite transparent and on a professional level,” Mohr said of IMS. “We have liked the cooperation with IMSA on the GT3. We always had a good cooperation. At the moment, everything is expected, and so far, the milestones of the project have been reached.”

Partnering with the Iron Lynx team to help manage its program, Lamborghini will race two cars in 2024. One will race the Michelin Endurance Cup races in IMSA (Lamborghini head of motorsport Giorgio Sanna said in an introductory video that the Rolex 24 at Daytona would be the car’s first race, but Mohr indicated the debut could be at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March), and another will compete full time in WEC. The driver lineups for testing and next year’s races will include Lamborghini factory driver Romain Grosjean (who also drives for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar) and F1 veteran Daniil Kvyat.

The monocoque will be built by Ligier, which builds the chassis for some LMP3 teams in IMSA but will be working on its first project in LMDh (which has featured manufacturers working with Dallara, Multimatic and ORECA).

Lamborghini’s production lineup is moving to full hybridization by the end of 2024, and it’s anticipated that there could be technology spinoffs from LMDh for its street cars. But Mohr said the development currently is moving in the other direction into the V8 twin-turbo hybrid engine that was designed and engineered for the SC63.

“It was one of the reasons why we entered (LMDh),” Mohr said. “From the company point of view, we decided to have a full electrification of the portfolio with the first step of hybridization. Therefore we were also looking for a motorsports series where we can compete with hybrids. For the hybrid system itself in the LMDh, category, we have more or less standardized parts with the gearbox, battery, e-moto and also the engine control system, a common-use part, but the differentiation can be done with a combustion engine and also with the strategy behind it.

“We’ve collected some experience with the development of our street cars. Even if the architecture is completely different, some of the basic ideas like driveability and the interaction between the combustion and the electric boost and also the mapping of the engine, you have some experience you can use. Usually it’s from the race car to the street car as a kind of technology transfer. In this case, it was the opposite way around. In this case, we started with the experience of the street car. For us, it’s a very interesting field and mix to see it much more attractive even.”

Though Squadra Corse has a dedicated engineering staff, it falls under the general R&D umbrella for Lamborghini. Mohr said having engineers who work on Lamborghini street cars also providing their expertise on the race cars was an example of how Lamborghini believes it can compete in prototypes despite having a much smaller staff than the big-budget automakers.

“I’m pretty sure we are the smallest one competing in this range,” Mohr said. “But this is also a strength because we have short distances regarding communication and taking positions. We are very flexible and very motivated and focused on the point. So yes, it’s part of our philosophy in general that there is a strong influence between the street development guys and the race car development guys.”

He also sees avenues in which the race car will help the street models, noting that tire development on the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 found its way to the production model’s performance.

“For sure it’s still a huge difference,” Mohr said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit marketing to say it’s a race car for the street. But sometimes all the methodology that you learn from the racetrack gives you data analysis, performance analysis and how you improve the performance and driveability of the car. These are things you learn on the racetrack and then you can apply on the street car, and our outcome is then a better street car. It’s not that you take the tire or brake from the race car and put it on the street. This is not possible anymore in the homologation environment today. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was possible. But today with all these regulations and emissions, sound emissions, safety regulations, you can forget it.

“But one of our core technologies of the company is aerodynamics, and in this field, we have really some strong influence from the race car to the street.”

Here are some other highlights from an interview with NBC Sports last week in which Mohr discussed Lamborghini’s progress with its first prototype, the challenges of entering the top category of sports cars and its strategies for a successful first year (this interview has been condensed and slightly edited for clarity):

Q: With no prototype experience, is this a good time to enter the top category when everyone essentially is starting with a new car this year?

Mohr: “For sure, collecting experience is an advantage. Because even if the regulations are different, the methodology in a specific race environment is always an advantage if you already collected that experience. But you can be sure that for sure we are aware about this, and we were scouting and sourcing competence on this field. We picked up really some experienced guys in the prototype area because otherwise you need too long to learn. Not because people are bad or not good enough, but you need to collect experience, and experience takes time.

“And we have an advantage that we are part of the Volkswagen Group, and in the Volkswagen Group, we have a lot of experts that were dealing with LMP1 cars -- so with high-level motorsport prototypes. So we could rely also on that expertise a little bit. But it’s a challenge. We are definitely the newcomers and also the smallest ones. Therefore, I fully respect the core level of competition. Our ambition is to be competitive from the beginning on. It’s a high ambition, and we are working hard to be this. At the end of the day, I don’t have a crystal ball, so I cannot say if this is enough. We are working hard for it. In GT3, we have already proven that even with a small team but with this additional passion, flexibility and also good competent people, you can have a huge success. And I’m pretty optimistic that also in LMDh, we can be the under the radar guys who have success.”

Q: With Porsche being part of the Volkswagen Group, too, is there any transfer of information from Porsche Penske Motorsport from its first year in IMSA and WEC?

Mohr: “ In general, we have a very good relationship and exchange with Porsche. In this specific case, for sure, it’s a little bit of a different story because we are competitors in the same championship. So for sure on this, we were more focused on the experience of our Audi colleagues that were doing the 24 Hours of Le Mans for years and have the second-most victories in Le Mans. So there is a huge experience. With Porsche in general, there is an exchange. But for sure regarding the competitiveness, it’s different and a good philosophy of the Volkswagen Group. First of all, they allow two or even more brands to compete on the same championship. And this means that two brands or more are allowed to win, so it’s a real competition. It’s clear for the moment with Porsche, the exchange regarding (LMDh) is reduced. It’s clear.”

Q: You will be racing the LMDh against the LMH cars in the World Endurance Championship. In the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it seemed the WEC Hypercars had an edge on the LMDh cars from IMSA. How confident are you competing against those WEC teams with a vehicle platform that’s tailored for GTP in IMSA?

Mohr: “We hope for sure based on the Balance of Performance. I know at the moment there’s probably some room for improvements, but we still are optimistic that there will be a way to balance both cars that they are competing on a similar performance level. Because at the end of the day, it was one of the main reasons for the decision. There were two reasons why we chose LMDh and not LMH. First of all our sales distribution is more or less one third in each region of the world, and the strongest single market is the U.S.

“For us, it was clear we want definitely to commit to the IMSA championship, therefore the LMDh was the choice. But for sure, it was also based on the fact that the clear target of the organizers is to balance both cars that they are competitive. I see some room for improvement for sure if I look at Le Mans this year. But also, we have to be fair from my point of view because it’s also not so easy to balance these cars in the proper way on different tracks. So I hope and am convinced that during this year, we’ll see ups and downs. But hopefully starting from next year, we’ll have a more robust and stable balance of performance sheet. I’m convinced because they promised that the cars are competitive.

“So let’s see. Also to be honest, looking from the engineering perspective, sometimes you never have happy people with the balance of performance strategy in general. It’s always people that are complaining. It’s part of the concept. So balance of performance automatically means complaining. But if you are fair from the engineering perspective, it’s also a tough job because there’s always this kind of speculation. I’m not judging these soft factors. In reality even if I consider only the hard factors, the engineering stuff, it’s not so easy. You need a little bit of time to understand the real potential of the cars and also the potential of the cars in different conditions – new and used tires, empty fuel tanks, a specific temperature window. For sure the first year, it was clear that to balance these cars will be difficult. I hope based on all the experience -- because IMSA have the best guys on this topic -- I hope they will find a stable, common base, but let’s see. It’s a little bit of a crystal ball, but this would be my wish.”

Q: Can you win in your first season of prototype racing?

Mohr: “For sure, we are targeting to at least fight for the victories. If you win at the end of the day in motorsports, it’s influenced by several factors. You need luck, to be honest. You can have the best master plan, the most money on the planet. the best team in the world, the best driver, and then if you’re unlucky, you don’t win. I want to be realistic and stay with both feet on the ground. It’s clear our ambition is to be ready from the first race to be competitive. If then at the end of the day, we fight for the win, it’s our ambition. If it will become reality, let’s see.”