The final race in the 2018 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North American championship had more twists and turns than the 15-turn, 2.538-mile Vallelunga circuit it was contested on.
At the end of the two, hard-fought, 50-minute races on a beautiful fall afternoon outside of Rome, Madison Snow walked away from the racetrack with a little piece of IMSA history.
Snow and Corey Lewis entered the final round starting from the third position only needing to finish the race to secure the Pro class championship for the No. 129 Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte team after winning Race 1 (Round 11) earlier in the day. Despite an adventurous outing in Race 2 that included a drive through penalty for a restart procedure violation, the pair would hoist the championship cup following the waving of the checkered flag.
By doing so, Snow became only the second driver in IMSA history to win two championships in the same year. Last month, he secured the title in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Daytona (GTD) class along with Bryan Sellers in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. The only other driver to accomplish this feat is Tommy Kendall who won theCamel GTU and Firestone Firehawk GS championships in 1986.
"I wasn’t planning on doing the championship until I got some calls and texts from (teammate) Corey (Lewis) and Chris Ward (Series Director) inviting me to come and race with Corey for the year," Snow said. "We had a good first race of the year and it just kept getting better from there and now we’ve won the championship."
"We started off the year focusing on Mid-Ohio and see how that would go and the intention was to run the full season," said Lewis. "To come here to Vallelunga and win the Pro championship for Change Racing and Lamborghini Charlotte makes it a big year. Congrats to Madison as it was a big year for him since he also won the GTD championship."
At the drop of the green flag in the 12th and final round of the season, pole sitter Taylor Proto charged to the point in the No. 150 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini Beverly Hills with Jonathan Cecotto challenging in his No. 101 Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Paramus and Snow settling into a distant third.
Unlike Race 1, the final event would be impacted immediately by hard racing as Brian Thienes (No. 117 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini Beverly Hills) would receive a drive through penalty after contact that resulted in a spin for fellow Am class competitor Cameron Cassels (No. 133 Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Paramus) and remove Thienes from podium contention on Lap 3.
Two laps later, Shea Holbrook would spin her No. 167 PPM, Lamborghini Beverly Hills machine in an attempt to avoid contact with Brett Meredith and would be stuck on the curb, bringing out the Safety Car and eliminating the 1.5-second lead Proto had established over the field.
The restart came with 37 minutes to go, and this time Cecotto stayed right with Proto while Snow fell back and began to face pressure from the field behind.
A drive through penalty for not respecting the restart procedure would be issued to Snow and his Change Racing team following the restart that would eliminate any chance of sweeping the weekend’s events.
With 30 minutes remaining in the 2018 season, the pit window opened and Cecotto was first to take advantage, handing the car over to co-driver Trent Hindman. Taylor Proto would give up the lead on the following lap with Edoardo Piscopo taking the wheel and returning to the track only three tenths of a second ahead of Hindman as the minutes and laps clicked down.
However, Piscopo was informed that his US RaceTronics team was one of several cars penalized for incorrect time spent on pit road, which included Am class points leader Ryan Hardwick (No. 102 Dream Racing, Lamborghini Atlanta) and Am class challenger Damon Ockey in the No. 109 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini Calgary. However, the .372 penalty for Piscopo would prove to be the only one that would impact the outcome.
The battle for the overall victory came down to the final corner of final lap as Piscopo was slowed entering the final turn by another competitor, allowing Hindman to pull to the inside, momentarily three wide, for a drag race to the finish.
As the checkered flag fell, the pit stop penalty for Piscopo would loom large as Hindman finished only .213 of a second behind at the line giving the overall victory to Hindman and the Wayne Taylor Racing team.
"That’s not necessarily the way we pictured getting it done, but for the most part a really good race," Hindman said. "These two rounds today were really effective for us because now we know exactly what we need to do to have a car to compete in the World Finals tomorrow and Sunday. Jonathan had a great stint. He has been teaching me quite a lot about this track since I am the foreigner here! We are just thankful for the Wayne Taylor Racing crew and the Prestige Performance crew for everything and it has been a great day."
"The day didn’t start the way we wanted it to, but it ended up quite good," Cecotto said. "It is not easy to overtake on this track so were lucky that the guys in front us had the penalty and we arrived inside of that time."
After the dust settled, the Am class championship would belong to Ryan Hardwick by virtue of his third-place podium finish, beating Am class race winner Damon Ockey by a mere four points, 150 to 146.
"It was an unbelievable year for me racing against Damon Ockey and Brian Thienes," Hardwick said. "The three of us were battling all year long and it literally came down to these last two races here at Vallelunga. It is a year that I will not forget."
Brett Meredith in his No. 166 P1 Motorsports, Lamborghini Newport Beach would sweep the LB Cup class for the weekend with his 13-second victory over Justin Price in the No. 121 Dream Racing, Lamborghini Atlanta.
Race 1 Recap
At the drop of the green flag, Trent Hindman in the No. 101 Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Paramus pulled out to an early lead by over a second, leaving Pro class championship points leader Corey Lewis in the No. 129 Change Racing, Lamborghini Charlotte to battle for second with championship contender Edoardo Piscopo in the No. No. 150 US RaceTronics Lamborghini Beverly Hills.
Hindman led a blistering pace through the first half of the event, catching the rear of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asian Championship field that was running concurrently, but started separately. However, the complexion of the race changed as the mandatory pit window opened with 30 minutes remaining in the 50-minute race.
Despite the sizeable lead Hindman had created, a slow pit stop would return his co-driver, Jonathan Cecotto, to the track in third behind Taylor Proto, who took over the No. 150 from co-driver Edoardo Piscopo, and Madison Snow, who was now behind the wheel of the No. 129.
The Pro class championship points leader Snow returned to the track less than half a second behind Proto and began his relentless pursuit that would culminate with the race-winning pass in the final 10 minutes and pulled away to win.
The victory – the Change Racing duo’s first since the opening rounds of the North American Championship at Mid-Ohio SportsCar course – increased their championship advantage to 10 points over Proto and Piscopo with one race remaining. That lead all but secured the class championship, as all they would need in the second race of the day was to finish in order to earn another 10 points.
Ryan Hardwick (No. 102 Dream Racing, Lamborghini Atlanta) entered the race only six points ahead of Race 1 polesitter Damon Ockey in the No. 109 US RaceTronics, Lamborghini Calgary in the Am class championship. The two drivers battled for the top step of the podium throughout the race, but Hardwick would prevail after a final lap pass over Ockey to take the win and increase the championship lead to eight points
The Pro-Am class podium was settled early for winners Alex Popow and William Hubble in the No. 169 Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Paramus as both class competitors suffered issues during the race. Loris Spinelli (No. 171 P1 Motorsports Lamborghini Broward), started from the pit lane and despite setting the fastest lap of the race, was forced to drop out after a few laps.
Randy Sellari found trouble just before the 30-minute mark when he spun his No. 110 Wayne Taylor Racing, Lamborghini Paramus machine and made rear-end contact with the tire barrier. Sellari managed to return the car to the pits under its own power, but did not return to the race.
Brett Meredith in the No. 166 P1 Motorsports, Lamborghini Newport Beach would take the LB Cup class victory as Race 1 polesitter Justin Price in the No. 121 Dream Racing, Lamborghini Atlanta spun on track coming to the checkered flag.
The remainder of the weekend at Vallelunga will see the World Finals contested over the iconic circuit.
The AM and LB Cup drivers from North America, Europe and Asia will take the green flag for the first round of the World Finals at 7:30 a.m. ET, while the Pro and Pro-Am entrants start their race at 9:10 a.m. ET.
Sunday’s schedule for the two final rounds has the AM/LB Cup race starting at 4 a.m. ET and the Pro/Pro-Am race at 8:25 a.m. ET.
All four of these races can be seen live on the Lamborghini Squadra Corse website: squadracorse.lamborghini.com/live-streaming and on the Lamborghini Squadra Corse Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LamborghiniSquadraCorse