Lamborghini has set its sights on beating Porsche, BMW, and Cadillac, among other teams, in the top tier of endurance racing. The company has unveiled a race car named SC63 that was designed to compete in the LMDh category, and Autoblog sat down with CEO Stephan Winkelmann to get additional details about the upcoming model and its significance.
Lamborghini has run a one-make racing series for over a decade, and its Huracán has competed in the GT3 category for several years, but the Italian brand has never been present on the highest echelon of the endurance racing world. Winkelmann explained why that changed.
“This is a race series that’s giving us a lot of visibility. We’re not only racing in IMSA or in the WEC; we’re racing in both. This is good for North America, it’s good for Europe, and it’s good for the Asia-Pacific region. It’s a race series where the major OEMs are participating, so I think that also here there is an opportunity,” Winkelmann told us. “We’re a super-sportscar manufacturer; it’s important.”
Power for the SC63 comes from a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain built around a new, 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 developed in-house specifically for the racing program. The system’s total output checks in at about 670 horsepower, which is the maximum allowed by racing regulations, and the gearbox, the battery, as well as the motor-generator unit are standard components that other teams are using as well.
That’s not to say the SC63 is identical to, say, the BMW M Hybrid and the Porsche 963. Lamborghini explains that racing regulations give its engineering team the freedom to customize the gear ratios and the slip of the mechanical differential, among several other parameters.
Lamborghini asked a French firm named Ligier to develop and build the SC63’s monocoque, though its engineers played a big role in dialing in the car’s specifications. They notably requested a push rod-type front suspension system, ensured it has the ideal weight distribution, and made sure that critical parts are easy to access and service; every second count during a pit stop, even when you’re competing in a 24-hour-long race. Lamborghini and Ligier also paid special attention to the brakes to find the right middle ground between weight and durability.
Honing the SC63’s aerodynamic profile was easier said than done, because LMDh regulations allow teams to use only one body kit per season, and the scope of the changes that can be made between races is limited. It’s not quite a one-size-fits-all approach, but it’s close; the SC63 needs to look pretty much the same whether it’s racing at Le Mans in the summer heat or giving it all at Sebring in heavy spring rain. To that end, the company relied on computer simulations to find a setup that offers “the widest operating window” possible. This process also shaped the cooling profile; the various intakes, vents, and ducts all serve a purpose as the SC63 is equipped with eight different radiators.
Centro Stile, the in-house studio that designs Lamborghini’s street-legal cars, was in charge of drawing the SC63. Winkelmann told me his team was “very motivated” to design a car for the LMDh series, especially considering the SC63 helps celebrate Lamborghini’s 60th birthday.
“From the beginning, my personal briefing to the design team was that the car needs to be highly functional, but we wanted to create a car that is immediately recognizable as a Lamborghini,” said design boss Mitja Borkert in a statement. Styling cues like Y-shaped lights on both ends and a pointed front end create a visual link between the SC63 and the supercars like the Revuelto, and the Verde Mantis Green paint (a color borrowed from Lamborghini’s standard color palette) will further help racing fans tell the SC63 apart from its rivals when it’s racing.
Lamborghini will start testing the SC63 in the coming weeks, and the car will make its competition debut during the 2024 season of the FIA World Endurance Championship in the Hypercar category, meaning it will compete in big-name events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 6 Hours of Imola. Looking ahead, a second SC63 will race in the GTP class of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship Endurance Cup, which includes events in the United States such as the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Italian team Iron Lynx will run the cars internationally, and Lamborghini signed a roster of well-known pilots (including Romain Grosjean) to drive in the 2024 season.
Racing isn’t merely about glory. At this level, it’s also about the technical solutions that can make the leap from the pits to the showroom.
“The experience that we’re getting out of this is the most important,” Winkelmann told me, referring to the company’s on-going shift from purely piston-powered cars to gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrains. He added that some of the aerodynamic lessons that the team will learn while campaigning the SC63 in races around the world might be applicable to upcoming production cars, though it’s still too early to tell.
As for that new twin-turbocharged V8, well… we’ll need to be patient to find out what — if anything — the future holds for it.
And, while LMDh won’t replace Lamborghini’s existing racing programs, it’s not a gateway to a massive, multi-series motorsport effort. “On top of LMDh, we have not planned anything else. I don’t see for the years to come something on top of LMDh,” Winkelmann said.