WORDS BY STEPHEN BRUNSDON | IMAGES BY LAMBORGHINI SUPER TROFEO
Speak to anyone on the street and they’ll tell you the same thing. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. Anything else, is second best.
As far as the challenge, the prestige and the machinery are concerned, that’s probably a fair assumption. But in the world of driving costs and tightening budgets, only the very few are able to make a living out of the sport they love.
Pay drivers, whether young aspiring F1 hotshots or gentleman/amateur drivers looking for a bit of fun, are ultimately what makes motorsport what it is today. And it’s always been this way.
This facet of the sport is perhaps best demonstrated in sportscars and GT racing, where older gentlemen drivers turn their passion into action on the track, for a small sum of course.
One-make championships are particularly appealing for gentlemen drivers, as the competition is on a more level-playing field than multi-brand series and they often have a personal affinity with the brand of choice.
Like real estate professional, Gerard van der Horst, who races in the amateur-only Lamborghini Cup of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe championship.
“In 2014, a friend of mine asked me to join him at a BMW Club Sport meeting in Belgium and I told him ‘yes, I will join you but please make sure you get someone else to join you when I cannot be there’. I started the first race and from that moment onwards, I was enthusiastic, and I was always there!
“So, a few months after my first race meeting in the BMW, I bought a Ferrari Challenge. I drove it at Spa-Francorchamps a few times in 2015 at a Curbstone Trackday and I was getting overtaken by all of these Lamborghinis. And I thought: ‘what is going on?’ so I bought a Lamborghini Huracán because I didn’t want to constantly be overtaken by a Lamborghini when I was driving a Ferrari.
“And from that moment, I was sold. I spoke with [head of motorsport at Lamborghini Sqaudra Corse] Giorgio [Sanna], bought a Huracán Super Trofeo and took it to a track in 2015 and the year after I joined the full Super Trofeo championship.”
Since his first forays into the one-make championship, van der Horst has achieved success that he could only have dreamed of 10 years ago. An entrepreneur by trade, the Dutchman spends much of the time working when not racing. But that’s the setup that works for him. It’s racing on his terms.
“I am an entrepreneur, I work with and own real estate so as you can imagine, I am very busy when I am not racing a car. To me, my hobby is racing. I started my business when I was 22 years old, I’m an investor in residential real estate, mainly in Germany and also Holland.
“So, it became quite a big company and I employ more or less 100 people. For sure, when I started the company, I did not have the time or the money to go racing so thankfully I enjoyed a little success in business which has allowed me to race now.”
“Racing in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo championship feels like a family, like being part of the big Lamborghini club and it’s great. I have learned so much in the short time I have been racing. I did not start at a young age like [former team-mate] Loris Spinelli, so I had to learn fast.”
And learn fast, he did. Van der Horst is a triple class champion in the Lamborghini Cup and, although progression up the classes (Am, Pro-Am and Pro) is possible, he’s quite happy where he is.
Super Trofeo is not just about the older drivers either: as other GT series have proven, the budding young career driver can also find a place when the traditional single seater path comes to an end.
Drivers like Dorian Boccolacci used the one-make series to move into tin-tops, via GTWC and now Porsche Supercup.
It’s a way to pursue the career goal of becoming a professional driver, without the excessive constant breaking of the bank that single seater racing demands.
“For sure, when you look at GT racing, there is a lot of manufacturer involvement across many teams, and Lamborghini is one of them which has a lot of opportunity to progress,” Boccolacci said during his solitary season in Super Trofeo, in which he finished second to ex-Formula 2 champion Dean Stoneman. “And with the Super Trofeo, it is all Lamborghinis, so you know that they are watching everyone. Lamborghini is known to have a good system and the chance for young drivers like me to build a career in motorsport.”
One of those young drivers aiming to forge a career this season is another Dutchman, Max Weering who, like countryman van der Horst, is feeling the force of Lamborghini specialist Spinelli.
The pair teamed up in the middle of last season, after Weering spent 2020 as a solo entry for Johan Kraan Motorsports. It nearly paid off handsomely, as Spinelli – a Lamborghini veteran in Super Trofeo machinery – helped Weering take two wins from two at the Nürburgring and within a handful of points of the overall championship title.
This season, the title seemed nothing more than a formality, with Spinelli and Weering breaking a seven-year record for the most successive victories in the Pro class following their sixth success in a row at Misano last weekend.
Weering’s progress has been crystal clear – having run in both the European and North American championships for the past two seasons – but he is keen to stress the importance of Spinelli in influencing his improvement inside the car.
“It’s been such a strong start to the season, and we want to continue in the same way,” said Weering post-Misano.
“My driving has really improved since I joined Loris and he has helped me so much to be faster in the car, so I really have to thank him for that.
“The last two years I have driven by myself and, although I have had a lot more time in the car, my level was always staying the same. Now I can learn a lot from Loris, who has so much experience, it has been so good for my career.”
Not that you’ll not get any boasting or credit taking from the man himself. Spinelli is a quietly spoken Italian who goes about his business in an equally humble way. He contests both Super Trofeo North America and GT World Challenge America in a Mercedes alongside another Super Trofeo young graduate Steven Aghakhani – and is playing the role of mentor and career chaser to a tee on both sides of the Pond.
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