Lamborghini CEO Winkelmann on IMSA GTs and the future LMDh

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — In a second-floor suite at Daytona International Speedway, Automobili Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann smiled broadly as five his company-branded GT3s buzzed the road course below.

Winkelmann had waved the green flag on the 60and Rolex 24 at Daytona two hours earlier. But the spectacle of watching the endurance race unfold in a stadium-style environment was appealing to a self-proclaimed racing fan accustomed to watching 24-hour races around Europe on natural courses such as Spa or Le Mans.

“It’s just as important, but it’s a very different atmosphere,” Winkelmann told NBC Sports during a Saturday afternoon interview at Daytona. “Here you have a closed track with an infield and where from the central stand you can see the whole race. This is in my opinion an incredible advantage. And that you can live in the center of the infield is something incredible to me.

Automobili Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann, whose brand runs GTD Pro and GTD in IMSA but has been linked to LMDh, waved the green flag at the start of the 60th Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“The track is quite short so there is a lot of traffic and there is always something going on. Usually the other tracks, you have a spot, and if you don’t (watch) the video, you see a car, a car, a car and you never have a clue what’s really going on. Here it is spectacular.

Although the Rolex 24 results weren’t quite what he wanted (the #61 Huracan GT3 was the highest-ranked Lamborghini in 34and overall), the Rolex 24 could still be considered a success given the ability to compete on and off the track against the same sports cars that Winkelmann is trying to beat in the showroom.

Besides the hospitality of the suite, Lamborghini also had signage, tents and a marketing presence throughout Daytona while bringing customers and dealers to the Rolex 24.

“We are all competitive and being in a brand like this you have to be competitive,” Winkelmann said. “For the brand, for the United States, this is a very important event. That’s what it’s all about. To show that you are the best among fierce competition. That’s what we like. »

Automobili Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann, whose company has been linked to LMDh, stands on the Rolex 24 grid with the #63 Huracan GT3 TR3 Racing (Automobili Lamborghini).

With Winkelmann’s backing, Lamborghini was more aggressive in supporting its American efforts in motorsport, especially sports cars. The company recently signed an extension to 2026 of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series. The IMSA-sanctioned circuit will open its 10and season this spring at Laguna Seca Raceway, which Winkelmann sees as a key to Lamborghini’s charge into sports car racing in America.

“I was, more than ten years ago, one of the biggest pushers to re-enter the world of motorsport,” he said. “First with the Super Trofeo, then with the GT, then worldwide with all these activities. I think success and visibility are quite important for us and work quite well.

It was also reported that Lamborghini is entering a new LMDh car in the first overall category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series (which is being renamed GTP for 2023.

Although Lamborghini CEO Stefan Winkelmann wasn’t ready to confirm the LMDh news, he spoke about it among many topics during the interview with NBC Sports:

Q: You obviously spent a lot on marketing activation at Daytona. How do you measure whether racing is worthy of the investment Lamborghini is making?

Winkelman“We are very careful, being a small brand, with investments, so we take this very seriously. So we think more than twice before starting something. We want to have a long-term commitment to the things we do. We are always cautious about the beginnings because we never expect too much. But we want to grow from year to year and that’s very important to us because we can’t afford to be such a small brand just to participate or just to be there or just to pay a lot of money and not have anything. To do. It is a very important commitment.

“It’s very difficult to say, ‘Run on Sunday, sell on Monday.’ It would be nice if it would be that easy. But I get a lot of feedback. I see this immense passion of our customers coming to see it also at our dealerships. This is a clear sign that it is working.

Q: Why isn’t he talking so much about “Run on Sunday, sell on Monday” anymore?

Winkelman“It’s harder to measure because we have consistent sales growth, so it goes hand-in-hand with brand image, brand awareness, the activities you do. Among the potpourri of activities, motorsport is a very important pillar. It’s like bringing people to the factory Getting a sense of what Lamborghini is like in the factory, the museum and the atmosphere. Make events. Drive a car. It all boils down.

“These are different pillars that are equally important to selling a car because when you buy a Lamborghini we say you are buying into a world where the car is the ticket. You get something money can’t buy. You hang out with like-minded, like-minded people. This is something that is increasingly important in the future. You buy in a club.

Q: There have been rumors that Lamborghini will be racing an LMDh prototype in the future. Any updates on that front?

Winkelman“As I said, we tend to think a lot about the things we want to do next. Of course, LMDh is an interesting project.

Q: What are you interested in?

Winkelman“We’ll see. We’ll see. We’re working on the ideas.

Q: Is there a deadline for making a decision?

Winkelman: “Soon.”

Q: IMSA already has LMDh commitments from Porsche and Audi, which are also under the same Volkswagen umbrella as Lamborghini. Does this impact you?

Winkelman: “No no. It’s for us. We look at the world of motorsport as a whole and then we decide if things work for us, if it’s good enough or if it’s too expensive. But we are autonomous to decide.

Q: When you look at hybridization and electrification, how do you think that stimulates manufacturers’ interest in motorsport?

Winkelman“Electrification is one thing. Hybridization is something different. Because Formula E has long been very demanding and now it’s a little less. So we tend to say we have to do things the right way with the right partners, and hybridization is a good starting point for motorsport.

“When we talk about full electrification, we are also talking about Lamborghini, but we are not talking about motorsport. This is something that we are looking at with the first model, which is coming at the end of this decade. never thought of Formula E. We’ve always gone into a type of racing where you can recognize the car and transfer that image to the road. So GT cars are the cars you see on the road every day. is therefore important to us.”

Q: So it’s very important that the cars you drive are similar to the ones you sell?

Winkelman“That’s one of the key decision points that we have. Because we have a lot of gentlemen drivers (who) are fans of our brand, which helps the idea of ​​what we do. That’s here that LMDh is different.(laughs) But we will decide very soon.

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