Lamborghini will enter LMDh prototype in IMSA’s new top GTP category, starting in 2024

Lamborghini Motorsport
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The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship will welcome another manufacturer to its new premier division as Lamborghini Squadra Corse announced plans Tuesday to join the GTP class via the LMDh prototype in the 2024 season.

It’s a significant leap for Lamborghini, which has competed exclusively in the GT divisions since its return to motorsports and sports cars nearly a decade ago.

The automaker won the GTD class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona for three consecutive years from 2018-20 but now will be competing against big-budget manufacturers Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche while building its first prototype.

“For sure, it’s a double step,” Lamborghini head of motorsport Giorgio Sanna told NBC Sports in a recent interview. “But it’s something we have digested and prepared ourselves for this kind of jump. It’s not something we’re doing just being brave to do it.

“We consider ourselves ready to move into this field considering the experience we’ve done. The results we’ve achieved but much more important with the structure we are putting together to face this kind of challenge. So we are absolutely excited about this opportunity but especially motivated and convinced that we have all we need to do everything in a proper way.”

Lamborghini also will be entering the top Hypercar level of the FIA World Endurance Championship with the move, which will put the company in all of the world’s biggest endurance races such as Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring and Spa as the top divisions in IMSA and WEC can square off starting in 2023.

“This step up into the highest echelon of sports car racing marks an important milestone for our company,” Lamborghini Chairman and CEO Stephan Winkelmann said in a release. “We will be measuring ourselves against the very best, on the most demanding proving grounds. On one hand, this will give our successful motorsports program even more visibility, but it will also allow us to test future technologies: our LMDh prototypes will become our most sophisticated open laboratory on four wheels.”

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In addition to the brand appeal and its impact on production sales, Sanna said Lamborghini is intrigued by the technology spinoffs of LMDh racing and its hybrid powerplant. By the end of 2024, Lamborghini’s street cars all will be hybridized.

“Motorsport is becoming step by step a real asset from the marketing perspective for the company,” Sanna said. “It’s still a very good benchmark to develop technologies and a technical future that could be transferred on street legal cars, as we have already done in the last few years. Motorsport is an opportunity to develop technology, and the LMDh is also a good opportunity to link the experience and technology of hybridization that will be the base of all the product portfolio of our street cars.”

Lamborghini has used a customer approach for its GT program, selling more than 500 race cars in the past seven years. Sanna said the company won’t have a “pure factory team” the way that future LMDh manufacturers such as Acura and Cadillac currently employ in DPi.

But Lamborghini intends to have a “reference customer team” that will help manage the program.

Lamborghini head of motorsport Giorgio Sanna (Lamborghini).

“At the moment, it’s quite early to talk about how many cars or teams we can manage for the simple reason that LMDh is not a GT3,” Sanna said. “It’s a car much more complicated on the technical side. The costs are higher, but more than that, we have to take in consideration the capability that we have to support more than one to two teams, and two to six cars. So it’ll be evaluated with the right time in the future.”

After completing engineering over the rest of 2022, Lamborghini plans to begin on-track testing by March of 2023. The goal is to be racing no later than the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the LMDh car possibly could be ready by Daytona or Sebring in ‘24.

Lamborghini will continue to operate its GT customer programs, which includes its IMSA-sanctioned Super Trofeo North America series whose deal was extended in January through 2026 in another example of Lamborghini’s growth in sports cars.

Super Trofeo started with fewer than 10 cars in 2013 and had a record field of more than 30 cars for its recent Laguna Seca round. Sanna expects to have 40 cars by the end of the season.

“We started from ground zero, especially in America, and had to build up the credibility, and that is something you cannot buy in the supermarket one day,” Sanna said. “It’s something that you have to achieve day by day. The trust from the fans, the drivers, the teams, the partners all together.

“The feedback we see is they like our family feeling we have. We like to manage the business and the racing activities with the same passion as our customers. We share the same passion for the super sports cars. This is something people can recognize easily with us. This kind of passion, vision and attitude is for sure something that is appreciated.”

“IMSA has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Lamborghini dating back to the introduction of Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America a decade ago and continuing into a successful GTD program,” IMSA President John Doonan said in a release. “We are proud that Lamborghini is confirming plans to grow its IMSA footprint even further in 2024 into GTP and the top category of prototype sports car racing. Having another manufacturer of this caliber make the commitment to race in GTP reinforces the LMDh technical platform that we developed alongside our partners at the ACO, and we cannot wait to see these new Lamborghini prototypes debut in the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”

The convergence of the top platforms in IMSA and the ACO (sanctioning body for WEC) will allow the series to cross over at Daytona and Le Mans for the first time in decades, harkening back to the “Ford v. Ferrari” era and helping cement Lamborghini’s LMDh decision.

“Absolutely, because it’s the first time that we have a real cooperation between IMSA and ACO to have at least two LMDh cars on a global platform where you can use this kind of car in the entire world,” he said. “This is fundamental for us because we consider ourselves global players. It’s fundamental to invest money in something you can use and capitalize globally.”

With Porsche entering the IMSA GTP category next season with Team Penske, Lamborghini’s arrival will mark two brands under the Volkswagen Auto Group umbrella. Sanna said Lamborghini will work independent of Porsche.

“It’s fundamental within the group,” he said. “Everyone is under the same umbrella to share the strategy and needs of each company and each brand, and we have the freedom to take our decision that has to be shared inside the group, but we are independent, and for this reason also, we decided to develop a standalone project. Because we aren’t looking to do motorsport just to put a badge on the car but really to learn, to experience and to grow, bringing technical know-how and competence in house. That’s the key factor of doing motorsport.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”