New Orlean’s traditional heat, rain, and humidity were on full display during the second weekend of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans. Tire issues and some bad luck in the pits kept the team from duplicating their impressive Laguna Seca debut, although the team did have two podium finishes and one class win by the end of the weekend.
“It was 91 but felt like at least 100,” said No. 33 car driver John Hennessy about the practice rounds. By race day morning the mercury had dropped a few degrees, but heavy rain showers, strong winds and potential lightning strikes forced a two-hour delay for Race 1. Once the rain subsided the race began with all cars running rain tires. Drivers were allotted two observation laps to scope out the driest path.
In the pro class, Patrick Kujala in No. 50 car began in No. 3 position on the grid and was leading the pack by the eighth lap. During a pit stop to change back to slicks, a gun malfunction robbed co-driver Edoardo Piscopo of a full minute. Nevertheless, he came up from behind and by lap 19 was back holding firm in third place.
“On the No. 50 car we struggled getting the right setup for the weekend,” says US Racetronics Team Owner Shane Seneviratne. “Without the perfect car, we didn’t have the pace to garner a win, but they did a good job getting on the podium.”
A drive through penalty cost No. 8 car driver Patrick Liddy what might have been another podium. As it was, he and co-driver Damon Ockey made fourth place. John Hennessy in Car No. 33 lost five positions on a lap 7 spinout, and struggled to regain them, having put in limited time driving his Lamborghini in the rain.
Some drivers switched from rain tires to slicks, risking the setback of a second pit stop in order to boost their lap times. This was not always a wise choice. “In hindsight, if we’d left on rain tires for entire race, we’d have gotten a better result,” says Seneviratne. “Normally teams are not set up for pit stops, and the ones that chose not to take the gamble benefited at the end. It turns out that the rain tires were capable of finishing the race.”
That was not an option for the No. 50 car, however, as severely worn rain tires were costing the car about 15 seconds in lap time. Despite treacherous conditions, the yellow flag stayed away until a spinout forced one in the last three laps of the race.
Sunday gave the teams an unexpected break from rain, but wind, heat and humidity were still piling on challenges. Two laps in, after a clean start, Patrick Liddy’s Car No. 8 was hit from behind, forcing a yellow flag and taking him out of the race.
Ofir Levy in Car No. 13 managed to pull ahead of the rest of the LB Cup drivers by lap 17 and hold his place, gaining his first class race win ever. Patrick Kujala pulled a surprise finish, edging past Giano Taurino and Bryan Ortiz on the last lap to gain his second podium of the weekend.
The Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series resumes June 23-26 at Watkins Glen International.
Shane Seneviratne, US Racetronics Team Owner: “It was a pretty tough weekend, and overall the team didn’t perform as we’d hoped. However, we walked away with two podium finishes, and we’re very happy for the win in the No. 13 car driven by Ofir Levy and Jon Hirschberg. I want to thank the drivers and crew for their hard work. We’re going to regroup and come back much stronger at Watkins Glen.”
Edoardo Piscopo – Co-driver of No. 50 Arrow Electronics / O'Gara Motorsport / Change Racing / US RaceTronics Lamborghini of Beverly Hills: “We struggled with pace all weekend, and our limited testing this season may have been a factor too. Despite our issues, we brought home two 3rd place trophies. Moreover, during Race 2 we started in 11th position and worked our way through an extremely competitive field, passing two cars on the final lap to secure our podium finish.”
Ofir Levy - Co-driver of No. 13 MexiWood / Dakine / O’Gara Motorsport / Change Racing / USRT Lamborghini of Rancho Mirage: “I got a good start and tucked it inside at turn 1 and kept pushing the car to maximize the grip level. At turn 3 I was able to dive in and pass the leader, and then gain another three positions overall. From there I just focused on managing the gap, hitting my marks and controlling the grip level through my traction control settings. This was my first-ever full stint race, and the hot and humid conditions definitely tested my mettle. Getting this first place finish is a culmination of all the hard work the USRT team, my teammate Jon Hirshberg and I have put in to making me one happy guy!”
Photos Courtesy of Jamey Price