Over the Labour Day long weekend, I attended a private track event at The Ridge Motorsports Park hosted by The Speed Syndicate and Revscene which is a season closer of sorts. This year I had the chance to take out both my Fiesta ST and my father’s new Lamborghini LP580-2. While the sign-up was pretty full, I would hazard a guess that only about 2/3 of the registrants showed up. This may have been due to the wet Pacific-Northwest Fall weather that was predicted by several weather reporting sites. While this was a turn-off for some, I was actually looking forward to the wet weather, as prior to this event I had yet to do a wet event at The Ridge and I knew that the rain would be a good learning experience and would improve my car control. The Ridge has definitely become my home track over the last 3 years and I knew it would be a great place to learn something new as I’m very familiar with the layout and there’s a fair amount of run-off if things go a little bit south.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous before getting behind the wheel of the near-600 hp supercar. Not only would this track day be my first wet Ridge experience but it would also be my first MR-layout experience ever and by-far the highest horsepower car I’ve thrown around a track. There was clearly a steep learning curve on my first lap out as the throttle felt like an on/off switch compared to low horsepower FF and FR cars I’ve driven. In my opinion the Huracan has a very short gas pedal travel and a lightweight pedal feel that exacerbates the trickiness with throttle modulation. In contrast, I found the Porsche 997 Turbo (which I drove at last year’s private track day) to have a much more beginner friendly gas pedal although that car had other challenges in the from of an unpredictable AWD system and rear-engined weight bias. The power delivery of the naturally-aspirated V10 engine was interesting to learn, at around 6000 RPM (or “giri” if you consult the Lambo’s tachometer) the power spikes up quite noticeably, and around this track the RPM’s regularly floated between 5500 and 6500 RPM mid-corner and admittedly this caught me off guard more than once.
Out of curiosity I wanted to see how the car would behave in the rain with ESC off. Big mistake.
Driving the rear wheel drive Huracan in the rain on the standard Pirelli P-Zero tires was akin to taming a bull (for lack of a better term). Mid-corner acceleration resulted in plowing/understeer and steering feel was non-existent. When it came to stopping in the rain, the massive calipers weren’t much help as the ABS would kick in if more than 25% brake pressure was applied. However, coming from FF experience in my Fiesta, I was impressed at how the LP580-2’s mid-engine balance and wide rear track kept the car very neutral under trail-braking rather than kicking out the rear. As long as the ESC was left in the sport mode and not switched fully off, the car wouldn’t necessarily try to kill you. Despite the long braking distances and inability to put down power mid-corner, I was still impressed by the car’s inherent stability and mechanical grip. I found that if your cornering speed was within a reasonable window for a turn, the car would stay neutral regardless of whether you were applying maintenance throttle, trail braking, or just letting off of the gas pedal/brakes altogether. This gave the car a sense of compliance and adjustability that I did not expect in a high powered RWD.
After lunch the rain clouds had left and the track had dried up nicely. This was great news for those of us on four wheels but even better news for those who brought their motorcycles and couldn’t run in the morning due to all the standing water on track. The car woke up nicely with the drier track and proved to be a lot of fun while sustaining a bit of slip angle with the ESC in sport mode. Some of the less-desirable characteristics from the rain still prevailed, especially the long braking distances. Again this was due to the mediocre Pirelli P-Zero’s which greased up quickly, squirmed under braking, and had the ABS going off too early and too often to set an ideal track time. For some of the harder braking corners at the Ridge (turns 6, 11, and 13), I would have to brake well before the first marker cone and still hold my foot down as far as the ABS would allow to slow down sufficiently. The lack of front grip from the “skinny” 245 tires made it difficult to trail brake on corner entry and get some good rotation going. In my opinion the tire spec from factory is chosen with a bit of understeer in mind to make the car a bit “safer” and easier to drive. There’s significantly more rear tire grip which again makes slip angle hard to initiate but helps the driver avoid getting in too much trouble should they choose to turn ESC fully off.
Tire grip is an easily addressed part of the whole track car equation, a set of Pirelli Trofeo R or Michelin Pilot Sport Cups would easily shave 2-3 seconds off the lap time from braking alone. That being said, I absolutely understand the choice to go with the P-Zero’s as a one-size fits most application; I have a feeling most Huracan(s?) won’t see any track time and the standard P-Zero’s offer sufficient straight line grip for those that just want to mash the throttle on the street/freeway. Despite it having two track days and more than 3000 kms on them, the P-Zeros still looked very new which was surprising. Where the Huracan really shines is the sheer amount of mechanical grip from the super rigid chassis and the way the magnetic suspension keeps the car planted and flat through high speed corners, perfect for maintaining good momentum throughout a track like The Ridge. Even when I chose to hop the curb at turn 13 (top of The Ridge Complex) the car remained very controllable and felt glued to the tarmac. For a car with no active-aerodynamics or even a chin/lip spoiler of any sort, I am simply blown away at how stable it felt going WOT over the uphill crest at turn 10. This is reassuring news to me and makes me believe that there is still quite a bit of untapped potential with some subtle vehicle modifications (and a lot of driver mods), sub 1:50 times should be possible.
3 laps with slightly different lines but nearly identical lap times
For reference, with my new Qstarz GPS unit, I clocked 3 consistent 1:55.6/1:55.7 laps in a row with an optimal best of 1:54.6. With a bit more seat time and the same setup I think a 1:53 is possible, the car can easily carry more speed through turns 1, 7, and 10 but the possibility of wrecking a brand new $300k exotic is always in the back of my mind so I definitely held back at turns where s**t could hit the fan. By the end of the day (video above), I found that I no longer felt afraid of the snappiness I first experienced in the morning, and willing to push the limits of the front tires on some of the higher speed corners.
The LP580-2 Huracan isn’t a perfect track car but it’s quite enjoyable nonetheless. The gearbox isn’t perfect and doesn’t always respond to shifts instantly. When the wheel is turned even slightly, the car doesn’t allow shifts to avoid upsetting the car so you sometimes find yourself in too high of a gear even though in theory a perfectly rev-matched downshift shouldn’t really upset the car. I also felt that as the car heated up, the transmission fluid got thinner and shifts weren’t quite as smooth as they could have been. In terms of instrumentation, the oil pressure and oil temperature gauges are positioned too far down and too imprecise with their markings to check quickly on track. Furthermore, I found it interesting that the speedometer is quite significantly off and would indicate 260 km/h when the GPS shows <240 km/h. And just to beat it further to death, the front tires really aren’t cut out for track use. Upon further research, I found that Corsa mode is actually the most hardcore with the fastest throttle response and suspension tightened down even more. I had only tried Corsa mode for a lap in the morning but found the throttle to be unmanageable on the damp track. Given the dry conditions, I ought to try pushing the car in Corsa to see if any time can be shaved off and if grip levels are actually higher.
(Photo Courtesy of Motor Trend)
Minor gripes aside I was still thoroughly blown away at how this car drives in fully-stock form. While not necessarily to my preference, I understand why the car is set up the way it is and I think Lamborghini struck a great balance between track aggression and street compliance with the LP580-2. This track day experience is the first time I’ve ever crossed something off my bucket list without knowing it was there to begin with. The baby Lambo has left such an impression on me and I’m legitimately hooked. As much fun as it is to drive slow cars fast and pass supercars in a cheap sport compact, the greater challenge of wrestling with 3 or 4 times the power is a more rewarding one to overcome in my opinion. The wet track made approaching the rear-wheel-drive Huracan even more intimidating but I learned so much as a result that will definitely help me in other applications as well. All I want right now is to invest in some tires and see what the car can really do, unfortunately the consumables on this car would become quite the expensive drug habit.