It’s not every day that you are invited to Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit to go racing, let alone in a set of Lamborghini Aventadors. The invitation appeared in my inbox and was accepted before I even had a chance to look at the date, time or details, that’s how excited I was.
Lamborghini’s esperienza is part of the Squadra Corse group, which is Lamborghini’s in house racing division. Split into three main categories — Esperienza and Academy, Super Trofeo and GT3, Lamborghini aims to cater for the needs of all potential and future customers.
For ordinary folk like you and I, Lamborghini operates the Lamborghini Esperienza and Lamborghini Academy. Esperienza aims to give non-and current Lamborghini owners the chance to drive cars like the Aventador and Huracan on racetracks in non-competitive events. It gives drivers a feel for what the cars can really do in a safe and predictable environment.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was terrified hopping in to the Blue Hera coloured Aventador Roadster at Phillip Island. I’ve driven plenty of fast cars, but the idea of handling a $795,000, 515kW, 6.5-litre V12 Lamborghini around one of the world’s best racetracks was both humbling and scary.
My first lap out on the track was about getting to know the car. With the roof off and wind thrashing about through the cabin, I felt a real sense of speed and excitement.
Driving in the gearbox’s middle drive mode Sport (flanked by Strade and Corsa), I was shifting gears manually using the paddle shifters. The steering felt absolutely spot on and required a heap of work to drive fast. At the velocity I was moving, even power steering didn’t feel like enough to move the car through some of Phillip Island’s sweeping big-radius bends.
My first decent stab at the brakes was into turn 10 (MG corner), which comes down from a high elevation into a sharp right hander. I pummelled the brakes and then fed in lock before easing on to full throttle through turns 11 and 12, which lead on to the straight.
The brakes are carbon-ceramic and endured an absolute battering around the track. The advantage of composite brake rotors like these is next to no brake fade with a high tolerance to heat and constant abuse.
Just as I thought the front straight would be speed limited for safety, I hear lead driver Marco Apicella (former F1 debutee and Lamborghini Squadra Corse instructor) start yelling over the radio in an Italian accent, “Okay, fantastic, we can go…let’s go!”. I follow Marco’s lead and start rowing through gears with my right foot buried to the floor. I didn’t even dare to look down at the speedometer, but I’m told that we were reaching just shy of 270km/h at the end of Gardner Straight!
The pace was completely insane and further intensified by the fact I was driving sans-roof. Even more insane was the noise…the huge V12 was working overtime to ensure our speed didn’t falter during the epic drag race.
My second time around the track was in the firmer, more rigid Aventador Coupe. While it uses the same engine, it weighs less and the fixed roof helps improve cornering and braking. Where the Roadster felt a bit jittery under brakes at the end of Gardner Straight, the Coupe kept a straight line and remained planted.
Both Roadster and Coupe performed exceptionally around the track. Steering feedback, brake pedal feel and balance through corners couldn’t be faulted. While you could argue this is expected in such an expensive car, it’s not an easy feat to pull off and it’s clear a lot of research and development has poured into this package.
Even after a full day of listening to Aventadors on the skidpan and then the racetrack, I can confidently say the exhaust note never gets old. An almost uncanny mechanical throb begins from idle and then changes to a hypo-F1-esque style scream as the tachometer races around to the 8,500rpm redline.
Words simply can’t describe how humbling the Squadra Corse experience has been. It’s not humbling because of the location or even the speeds, it’s because cars like the Aventador are not seen on racetracks nearly enough. Their fury is bottled up as owners potter along the streets of trendy suburbs.
The Aventador was built for Phillip Island and I’m chuffed that I was there to witness and experience one of the world’s loudest, craziest and most aggressive sports cars at the limits (well, my limits anyway).