Melbourne’s Trofeo Motorsport return to the Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour this year looking to add to their 2017 success, the Lamborghini team having claimed a podium finish in the hotly contested Pro-Am category. For 2018 they return with the very same car and the very same driver lineup that saw them classified an impressive tenth outright last year, but whilst they are reserved about making any early predictions, they are quietly confident of a strong result this year.
For Trofeo Motorsport team boss Jim Manolios, they come into the 2018 event better prepared than ever before, having spent much of the 2017 national championship focusing on developing the ideal package for the iconic once-around-the-clock classic, a recent test at Phillip Island only adding to their confidence for this year.
“Last year was fantastic, but for all of us the Huracan was a bit of an unknown package,” Manolios admitted. “By the end of the 12-Hour race, we’d claimed a podium finish, and a top ten result, so we were overjoyed, and decided that we’d spend much of the remainder of the year focusing on this year’s event.
“We’ve also been blessed with a bigger inlet restrictor, a taller and wider front tyre – which helps the understeer which plagued us a bit last year – and we have a lot of testing laps to draw on, so we’re pretty confident we can take another step forward this year.”
Joining Manolios behind the wheel of the gorgeous black #29 Trofeo Motorsport Huracan are 2018 team-mates Dean Canto, Ivan Capelli and Ryan Millier, three drivers with impressive credentials, forming one of the most competitive Pro-Am outfits in the field.
For Supercar part-timer Canto, a return to the Trofeo team provides a luxury that many ‘hired guns’ rarely face – consistency.
“It’s great to be back in the team, in a car that we know well, on a circuit I love, and with a full year of experience under our belts. We’ve done a lot of testing, with Challenge Bathurst last November, and a three-day test at Phillip Island a few weeks back, so we come into this year well ahead of the game, so now it’s just down to what the race delivers!”
Whilst Canto provides a great focal point for the fans, Trofeo is also blessed with a driver lineup that includes a former Formula One great in Italy’s Ivan Capelli. Now an integral part of Italian television’s annual Formula One coverage as an expert commentator, he still likes to spend time behind the wheel, although he admits that his TV commitments affected a lot of that competitive time last year.
“A drive in a GT3 car at Monza last year was about all I could fit into my schedule with the heavy F1 program last year,” he lamented. “But when Jim rang and said we’d be back in the Lamborghini for Bathurst this year, what could I say!” he laughed.
“It’s nice too, to be coming back in a car that I know. Four years ago I did my first race at Bathurst in the Trofeo Corvette. The following year it was the 458 Ferrari, and last year the Huracan, so to be back with the same team, the same car and at a circuit I love, I couldn’t be happier!”
For Friday’s four practice sessions at Bathurst, all four drivers spent time dialing themselves in, with Canto charged with going after a benchmark time late in the final session of the day, a session which was ultimately plagued by a session-ending red flag intervention.
Despite that, all four drivers pronounced themselves happy with the day’s performance, with a solid baseline setup from which to attack Saturday’s final practice and qualifying sessions.
What the drivers had to say;
“We’re much better prepared this year, the car is in a much better position with all our recent testing. There has been an homologation change which has given us a bigger 39mm restrictor and with the new tyre it’s a better car. We have the same team together so I think we’re on again to emulate what we did in 2017!”
“The new wider front tyre is helping, but we’ve had a few other improvements including setup changes from overseas on the car including damping, so when we went to Challenge Bathurst the car showed a big improvement over the 12 Hour last year which was encouraging considering the track conditions probably weren’t as good.
“The recent test at Phillip Island went very well, we have the same team as we had here last year and the same driver lineup, so we’re pretty positive. Obviously the competition is tougher than it was last year, but this is Bathurst, anything can happen.
“There’s a lot going on at the start of the race, so I’ll probably start given my experience at Bathurst, then from there we’ll play it by ear depending on when the Safety Car falls – and that was pretty early last year.”
“I just love Bathurst, there was no way I was going to miss it this year, and I particularly enjoy being a part of the team with Jim, Dean and Ryan. We start this year with a big step forward with the testing the team have done recently, because we actually spent a lot of last year looking for a baseline setup for the car. Last year we finished third in our category, so I think that we at least have to be on the podium again, so why not second position, that has to be the first goal!”
“The car has improved a lot since last year, we’ve spent a lot of time tuning it through 2017 and especially during our Phillip Island test. Challenge Bathurst was a good chance to see how much the new changes worked with the car, and from my perspective, within a handful of laps I was able to break into the 2:06s so I think we’re in for a good run.”
Source. Motorsport Media