History of the Bull: Lamborghini’s Racing Heritage

Lamborghini will enter WEC in 2024 and it sees a significant milestone in the legendary Italian marque’s motorsport history. Here we look predominantly at its Le Mans story so far………

The Italian marque has a diverse and rich heritage in the sport that has embraced several disciplines including appearances at Le Mans and in several motorsport series.

The car manufacturing company itself was formed in 1963 from the Societa Autostar organisation that built engines and worked with Ferruccio Lamborghini who got a taste for competition in 1948 when he entered a car in the famed Mille Miglia, only to end his adventure when he crashed in to a restaurant!

Lamborghini was based in Modena close to the Ferrari factory where Lamborghini himself once acted as a consultant.

The first named Lamborghini design was conducted by a young Gian Paulo Dallara who went on to pen the Miuri and Espada models before establishing the now dominant motorsport industry chassis and technology supplying Dallara Automobiles and Motorsport company.

From a racing context, Lamborghini was a relative late starter, with a race prepped Miura entered but ultimately not raced by the Belgian duo, Jacques Thenaers and William Scheeren in the 1970 Spa-Francorchamps 1000kms.

The following year a Miura Spyder was competed in at various European events by French driver, Thierry Gore.

But it wasn’t until 1975 that Lamborghini set its sights on Le Mans when Paul Rilly and Roger Le Veve entered a Lamborghini 400GT but ultimately were unable to start after a practice incident.

Between that stuttering start in racing to 2006, when Lamborghini next went to La Sarthe, there were several motorsport programmes both nationally and internationally. Perhaps the most well-known are the companies exploits in Formula One with a 3.5-litre V12 engine performing well with the Gerard Larousse owned F1 team in 1989 and 1990.

The sonorous engines continued with Ligier in 1991, in addition to a factory team known as Team Modena, born from the ashes of the scrapped Mexican GLAS operation.

The final season of F1 competition came in 1993 again with Larousse, but the programme ended in memorable circumstances when Ayrton Senna tested the V12 in the back of a McLaren test car in the autumn of that year.

In 2006, LM GT1 saw the Lamborghini Murciélago R-GT that raced in the FIA GT was entered at Le Mans by the Japan Lamborghini Ownership Club for Japanese F3000 and Super GT regulars, Marco Apicella, Yasutaka Hinoi and Kouji Yamanishi.

The following year, a similar plan was actioned but this time with local single-seater and occasional sportscar entrant DAMS assisting the team.

It ended in disappointment though when a large accident suffered by Apichella on the Mulsanne ensured a full rebuild before race day. There was no fairy-tale ending for the entry which completed just a lap of the race before stopping with a broken driveshaft.

2008 saw a new-look for the Bull! The Lamborghini Murciélago R-GT was entered by the German Gorbuntsov's Interprogressbank Spartak Racing team for Roman Rusinov, Mike Hezemans and Peter Kox, and run by renowned GT expert, Hans Reiter.

For the first time, Lamborghini were able to mix with the leading category bunch in qualifying, but the race was beset by technical problems and the car, although running at the end, was not classified.

The JLOC squad returned to Le Mans in 2009 with a car assembled in Japan. Yutaka Yamagishi, Marco Apicella and Atsushi Yogou were back in action but again struggled when history repeated itself and after a tumultuous week of driveshaft issues, the car completed only a symbolic lap in the race.

A similar Murciélago, the LP670 R-SV, returned for 2010 in the LM GT1 with Atsushi Yogou, Kouji Yamanishi and Hiroyuki Iiri at the wheel. But a clutch issue in the 18th hour meant another early bath.

Lamborghini has tasted much more success away from Le Mans over the years with multiple class and overall wins in GT3 racing.

Indeed, Lamborghini recorded an historic 100th GT3 race victory courtesy of K-PAX Racing’s Jordan Pepper and Andrea Caldarelli in the third round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America series at Virginia International Raceway last year.

Photos: Jakob Ebrey, Le Mans, Racing Sportscars