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HURACÁN ALA “BOB”

Famed as one of the great Lamborghini engineers of the early era, Bob Wallace left an indelible mark on the sports car brand. His legacy is alive today in many Lamborghini cars, but especially so in the Huracán LP640-4 Performante, as FERDI DE VOS recently discovered.

Dear Bob,

Just a quick update to let you know that since the 50-year anniversary, things at Sant’ Agata are still going, well, bullish. And so it should, as it seems that in 55 years not much has changed.

They’re still doing the same things you did back then, in the founding years of Automobili Lamborghini – with the difference that nowadays, thanks to Audi, they have much more development money available.

Recently, the chaps released a spectacular new Huracán; following the blueprint you set with the P400 in 1970. That’s right; they’ve developed a bespoke lightweight performance version – much like your Miura-based Jota back then. A clever name that, with the syllable ‘J’ pronounced as Yota in Italian. We still wonder whether its specifications – conforming to Appendix J in the International Auto Racing rulebook of the time – were coincidental, or not…

However, they had it easy. Unlike you and your mates Giampaolo (Dallara) and Paolo (Stanzani) who had to develop the Miura and Jota in your spare time, as old man Ferruccio had no intention to become involved in motorsport, this latest Huracán was designed with the full backing of the board.

Luckily you persevered, showing off the Lamborghini cars’ great competition potential, as attested to by that stiffened, lightened and powerful Jarama (everyone still calls it the Jarama ‘Bob’) and your 230 kW Urraco ‘Bob’ Rallye that pioneered the way forward for today’s Lamborghini race cars.

Anyway, there apparently were some heated discussions before the ‘Performante’ moniker (first used in 2011 for the Spyder version of the Gallardo) was chosen for this Huracán.

While I understand why – it deviates from the traditional S, SV, and Superleggera nomenclature – I do think the badge is entirely appropriate. Also, it seems the boys in Bologna are quite serious about it, as the name has been officially registered, with an Aventador Performante version seemingly on the cards as well.

WINGING IT

The Huracán Performante sports a big rear wing – much like the one on your radical Urraco. However, with all the trick tech available now, it is an active aero device, part of a system aptly called ALA (Aerodinamica Lamborghini Attiva). Yes, I can hear you chuckle, as you well know, ala means wing in Italian.

They say this system is 80% lighter than regular sports car hydraulic systems and provides up to 750% more downforce than the regular Huracán. And, you’ll love this: it has helped the Performante to become the fastest production car around the Green Hell.

Okay, its lap time of 6:52.0 has since been bettered by the much more powerful twin-turbo Porsche 911 GT2 RS, but in my view, this doesn’t detract from the normally-aspirated Lamborghini’s exceptional performance – achieved on test driver Marco Mapelli’s first attempt around the Nordschleife.

Big wing aside, extensive bodywork changes include revised carbon fibre front and rear bumpers and bumper skirts (those stained carbon fibre panels don’t work for me as it makes the car look like it needs a wash, some might say that it creates an Italian marble effect). The splitter and diffuser also have active individual aerodynamic elements.

It is 40 kg lighter than the regular LP640-4, thanks to the forged aluminium and forged carbon fibre body (as used in the Sesto Elemento) with hollow parts, and the position of the revised exhaust system has also been moved, to just above the rear diffuser.

I’m not sure whether you ever saw the jumble of hexagonal shapes and toggle switches making up the Huracán interior, but at least the Performante’s new seat design is sporty and comfortable. And the Audi-derived TFT virtual cockpit display with MMI interface is far removed from the analogue Jaeger instruments in the Miura, but it’s very intuitive and user-friendly.

FIRE IN THE HEART

New springs, roll bars, as well as radial- and axial arm bushings have stiffened the chassis by another 10%, and its updated 5.2-litre V10 with new intake ducts now pushes out 471 kW at 8,000 r/min and 601 Nm of torque at 6,500 r/min – compared to the Jota’s 328 kW at 8,800 r/min. This is enough for a theoretical top speed of 351 km/h, although it is limited to 325 km/h.

Firing up the V10, I was surprised at how subdued it sounded at idling speed, and with the seven-speed LDF (Lamborghini Doppia Frizione) transmission in Strada mode, the car was docile and relaxed in town traffic.

They’ve done wonders with the reworked magnetorheological shocks and suspension, as it has a remarkably good ride at low speed. However, it is so low that you need to remind yourself to lift the hydraulic suspension for virtually any big bump in the road.

Selecting Sport using the red button on the flat-rimmed steering wheel changed the car’s whole demeanour. The V10’s engine note became vibrant and visceral, the gear throws shorter and sharper and the damping quicker – everything urging you to go faster.

You would have thoroughly enjoyed it on your infamous Autostrada development runs; the V10 screaming in your ear, the transmission seamlessly flipping through the gears and the spoilers snapping into their lowest-drag setting as you see off the challengers from Ferrari and Maserati.

It was even better taking on winding mountain roads, as the smart aero, the recalibrated, more direct steering, and the well-sorted suspension kept the car firmly planted and resolutely on course while scything through the corners.

It is so finely balanced and sure-footed, with the Haldex all-wheel-drive system and fat 20” tyres providing copious amounts of grip, yet so easy to drive that it makes any driver look (and feel) great.

Admittedly, I never really got it to perform on the limit, having run out of bravado and talent long before the car did. Nevertheless, you would have loved making it dance at the extreme edge of adhesion.

LAST WORD

So, Bob, your beloved brand is in good hands, and judging by this car Maurizio (Reggiani) and his boys are doing a sterling job. Like your special Jota and Jarama, the Performante is a race car for the road, although it lacks a roll cage.

In reality, the Performante can be seen as a tribute to you and your madcap road racers of yonder, and may just as well have been named Huracán “Bob”.

Fact is it is a superb piece of automotive engineering, a car of which you would have been extremely proud.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © RYAN ABBOTT (TCB MEDIA)

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