The Italian Job
Rarely has such a new car attracted so much interest in the FIA GT Championship
paddock as the Lamborghini Murcielago when it turned up in Monza. The car was
scheduled to race at Estoril but its debut was delayed. When it did arrive it was not
fast enough and had a fundamental problem that cost 30km/h top speed in a
straight line - fatal around Monza.
The drivers said that it was dangerous for them to continue, having to take
enormous risks in the corners to get any kind of lap time out of the car, and they
were relieved when the decision was taken after first qualifying not to race the car.
Some say it was an electrical problem that caused the lack of speed. The team
didn't say. Doesn't sound like much of a project, does it? Not on the basis of what
happened at Monza, but it is what happens the next time the championship goes
to the Italian circuit next March that will justify the interest.
Dr. Ulrich, I presume…………..
The project is being overseen by Audi Sport, which has lent technical and material
support in the form of the use of a wind tunnel, the rear suspension and gearbox
mechanism of the Audi R8. The suspension needed the approval of all the teams
in the pit lane to agree to allow the car to run in Monza, but the team says that it will
change it over the winter to conform to regulations.
Lamborghini is funding the development of the car and will offer spare parts
assistance at each race, saving teams money. The car is planned to go on sale
for less than 500,000 Euro, two-thirds of the cost of a Ferrari and a similar price to
the Pagani Zonda that is being developed by Toine Hezemans and Horatio
FIA, FI, FO, FUM
The team had just seven weeks, from the green light for the project, to Monza,
during which time they built three chassis. "The FIA had a problem with our [first]
chassis, not us," said Hans Reiter, who developed the car. "We showed the
chassis to the FIA, which was our interpretation of the rules, but they said that it
was too radical. Then they allowed us things that were less radical but helped us
to get what we needed, but we had to build a new car. We have built three cars,
one show car, we did one car, but we had to stop it and start again. That is why
things are a little bit tight. This is our third car."
Time was short to get the car onto the grid for Monza, and the German tuning
company cut corners. "We started the programme very late, and in order to make it
we had to look within the group and see what was available and what would fit the
Lamborghini. It could have been any Audi suspension; it was just that this fitted.
This means that we don't have to re-design the suspension. We found that we
could take it."
Trying To Keep My Customers Satisfied
The team plans to re-design the suspension and fit it to the car before it is
delivered to paying customers. "We have to start to build a car that is suitable for
customers," says Reiter. "If you take an R8 upright and put it into a customer car, it
is Formula One style. You need to look for a solution that is good for quality, for
performance and for the handling of it by a private team. The suspension needs a
redesign. We have data logging to the roof, and the customers will not have that.
This is not for customer cars."
The car's next scheduled appearance is at the Le Mans 1000kms, if the
development goes according to plan. If the team can build three chassis in seven
weeks, the three between Monza and Le Mans should be enough to cure any
number of problems and adapt the car to ACO rules before they embark on a full
test programme over the winter. "We need to be sure that everything is under
control, and most likely we will go," says Reiter. "Three weeks to Le Mans is easy,
relative to the time that we have had now!"