24h Le Mans
The 24 Hours of Le Mans and Lamborghini (Part 1)
A look back at Lamborghini's presence at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first appearance of which dates back to the 2010 edition.
When one thinks of a creation from the company in Sant'Agata Bolognese, the era of farm machinery seems like a lifetime ago. Begun in 1963, the history of Lamborghini automobiles is all about the dream car. But unlike its transalpine adversaries such as Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Lancia, the marque's competitive efforts are quite recent. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, things started in 2006 as the manufacturer was celebrating its 55th anniversary. There was however one previous foray.
At the 1975 edition in La Sarthe, Paul Rilly entered a 400 GT "Islero" with a V12 engine for Roger Le Veve and himself. Entered in the GTX class, the 2+2 coupe would not make it to the starting grid after an incident at the practice in the hands of an unknown Formula 2 driver. Yet, the unexpected withdrawal of Luigi Chinetti's NART troops could have allowed the No. 34 Islero to be rescued. Means of communication being what they were at the time, the information made it too late to a shocked Paul Rilly. It would take 31 years for another Lambo to hit the asphalt in Le Mans again.
In 2006, LM GT1 was the head class for Grand Touring cars. Up against the Aston Martin DBR9s, Corvette C6.Rs, Saleen S7-Rs and Ferrari 550 GTSs, a Lamborghini Murciélago R-GT began the shared history between the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the prestigious manufacturer, now in the hands of the Volkswagen Group. This auto, of imposing countenance, was designed and developed in the Reiter Engineering workshops in Bavaria.
Since its debut in racing on October 19, 2003 in Monza, the Murciélago R-GT amassed experience in the FIA GT and the American Le Mans Series in an official capacity with the Reiter Engineering outfit as well as with private outfits like Krohn Barbour Racing, DAMS, B-Racing RS Line Team and Japan Lamborghini Ownership Club. In Le Mans, the No. 52 was entered by LOC for Marco Apicella, Yasutaka Hinoi and Kouji Yamanishi. The pace of the practice was inconclusive as the race was marred by several technical issues, the Italian-Japanese driver line-up was unable to complete the last lap of the race and was unranked at the finish of that 74th edition.
The following year, a similar entry was recorded with the logistical support of the local team, DAMS. The team, the car and two of the three drivers remained. Only Yasutaka Hinoi was replaced by his fellow countryman Atsushi Yogou. In theory, better performing and more reliable after a first learning experience, the black Murcielago R-GT would hardly garner greater success. Worse even. As of the first practice on Wednesday, Marco Apicella had a violent accident at the Mulsanne chicane, destroyed the car and had to forfeit participating in the race. Despite impressive work on the part of the mechanics, who did manage to repair the car, the adventure would last only one single lap: broken gearbox!
Pierre-Yves Riom / ACO - Translation by Nikki Ehrhardt / ACO