AUSTIN, Texas – Welcome back, Richard Antinucci.
The 2019 Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America Pro class champion made a successful return Saturday evening, driving away to the overall win in the season opener.
Driving the No. 27 Dream Racing Motorsport, Lamborghini Las Vegas Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO, Antinucci jumped from third to first on the opening lap and pulled away to win by 3.989 seconds at Circuit of The Americas. It is Antinucci’s ninth career Pro class win – two of them also came at COTA when he swept the 2017 race weekend – to go along with three victories in the ProAm division.
“Perfect day, perfect start to the season,” the 40-year-old said. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to race for such a great team and group of guys like Dream Racing, and to race the Lamborghini Super Trofeo cars that are such excellent beasts to drive. I have experience in the series but I was off for a year, so I wasn’t sure what level I could come back to. And with just one day testing, this incredible team got us to the top. I’m really, really happy to be here and start this way.”
Antinucci overtook Madison Snow and pole sitter Nico Jamin on the first lap in the 50-minute race. He wasn’t seriously challenged thereafter.
“I went for it in turnone – there’s a very big opening into (turn) one,” Antinucci said. “First race of the year, wanted to be cautious, but I saw the gap and my instinct took me there. I went a bit wide but at least I could get Snow. Once I could seal that, then I went for (Jamin), put pressure on him in the two big braking zones, and by the second one, I got him.”
Antinucci had gapped a six-second lead when the race’s lone full-course caution came out with just less than 29 minutes to go – the result of a collision between Mark Issa and John Hennessy that left Issa stranded on the 3.4-mile circuit.
Once racing restarted with 16 minutes to go, Antinucci built another cushion, knowing his upcoming mandatory pit stop as a solo driver had to be three seconds longer than teams using two drivers. No problem. When the pit cycle was complete, the No. 27 was still 3.5 seconds ahead of Stevan McAleer in the No. 16 and he kept it steady from there. The No. 6 O’Gara Motorsport/USRT, Lamborghini Beverly Hills Huracán shared by Steven Aghakhani and Jacob Eidson took third.
In the ProAm division, Bryan Ortiz and Brandon Gdovic won in the No. 46 Precision Performance Motorsports, Lamborghini Palm Beach Huracán. Gdovic held off Victor Gomez IV by 0.484 seconds in a spirited battle to the checkered flag.
“I’d never been in this car so it was a really fun race,” Ortiz said. “I did a lot of laps on iRacing just to make sure I knew what to do here. The team did an amazing job putting the car together and making sure we had something good for today’s race.”
Gdovic credited his co-driver for handing over the No. 46 in such good position.
“Bryan kind of did all the work there at the beginning of the race,” said Gdovic. “I just hopped in in the lead because he did such a nice job. We had a good battle with the (No.) 29 there at the end. I realized I hadn’t been here in a long time because I was pretty rusty out there. Awesome to come home with a win the first race of the season.”
Giano Taurino, making the series debut for himself and his family-owned team, was the Am class winner in the No. 88 Taurino Racing, Lamborghini Palm Beach Huracán by 11 seconds over 17-year-old Luke Berkeley. A potential battle between Taurino and Alan Metni didn’t materialize after Metni was assessed a drive-through penalty for his mandatory pit stop not meeting the minimum time.
“It feels good. I was pushing for a better overall (finish), but the fact that I’m here is already enough of an award,” Taurino said. “I’m happy. I think my race went OK. I started pushing on the last lap and I got my fastest time, so I think I can maybe find some more time the next time.”
Matt Dicken notched his second career win in LB Cup, crossing the finish line 7.739 seconds ahead of newcomer Bill Peluchiwski. Dicken came from the fourth starting spot in LB Cup to collect the victory.
“Change Racing gave us a great car,” Dicken said. “I just can’t thank the team enough. It’s a great way to start the season. I think I definitely have more confidence and am doing a little better job on the starts than what I’ve done in the past. It’s been a lot of hard work so it’s nice to get a reward for the team.”