Lamborghinis on Yas Marina Circuit (Video)

We take the hot Gallardos for a few laps in Abu Dhabi

By Shahzad Sheikh

Earlier today I was at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, having been invited there by Lamborghini to drive the Gallardo range. In the end I only managed to get a few laps each in the Gallardo Superleggera and the Performante versions – both the hard core editions of the Gallardo – before having to rush back. But seeing as driving these cars is such a visceral experience, that’s enough to give you some impressions of these cars as track tools. And I managed to put together a little bit of video too…

The spotlight might have been taken off the Gallardo of late thanks to the arrival of the awesome and almighty Aventador, but this is still one sleek and sexy car. It’s the most successful Lamborghini ever, having sold 12,000 units since its introduction in 2003.

A lot of those go to customers right here in the Middle East of course with sales in the region up 80% in 2011 compared to 2012 – compared to a global increase of 23%.

I’ve driven the regular Gallardos at Yas Marina before, and it was one of my most favourite track cars ever, safe yet exciting, easy but exhilarating. The four-wheel drive system is amazingly stable and makes for a forgiving chassis, especially for an amateur track driver like me.

But with these hard-core editions, you never forget you’re handling a beast. To recap, the Superleggera and Performante’s 5.2-litre V10 is tuned up to 562bhp compared to the regular flavours’ 552bhp. Torque remains the same throughout, at 398lb ft, but the Superleggera loses 70kg compared to the coupe and weighs just 1340kg, whilst the Performante (essentially the roadster version of the Superleggera) loses 65kg to hit 1485kg.

0-100kph for the Superleggera is in 3.4 seconds (3.7 for coupe), hitting 200kph in 6.8seconds and reaching 325kph. Performante will do 0-100 in 3.9 and finish up at 324kph. I got the Performante up to just shy of 260kph on the long main straight.

Like the lesser Gallardos (if such a word could be used) these cars, despite their brutal looks and scary stats, remain remarkably accommodating to drive hard on a track. But the gearchanges are ferocious (as you can see in the video) and the power delivery overwhelming. You know there’s electronics in the background working hard to save your butt, but you feel them less, and instantly buy the theory that four-wheel drive is best for high-speed grip.

However launch in a low gear, or plunge the brakes hard, or power out of a corner too early, and with around 70% of the drive going to the back wheels, it feels pretty frisky, believe me. There’s a lot of movement, not enough to frighten an experienced driver, but enough to make you feel alive – something that some of this car’s modern rivals are beginning to miss.

Headroom, comfort, the confusing ergonomics and some of the buttons and interior style could all be found to getting a little behind the times, and you can nitpick if you want to, but the sight, the sound, and the sensations of this thing will win you over every time. And there’s as much reason to buy it today, as there was nearly ten years ago.

The Aventador J was not at Yas Marina today – there’s only one of those jaw-dropping roadsters, shown at Geneva, and it was sold for a whopping Euro 2.2 Million. The ‘normal’ Aventador – there ain’t nothing ‘normal’ about an Aventador, I can tell you – was on hand though.

Did I have a go? No. I drove it extensively on track at its launch on the the Vallelunga circuit just outside Rome, last year – click here to read that report. What I want to do now is drive it in real world conditions on the local roads in our region – it’s low and wide, and has massive road presence – just to see what reaction it gets would be fascinating (take note Lamborghini).

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