Lamborghini’s hybrid race car innovates with a ‘Cold V’ turbo configuration

Just last year, Italian supercar builder Lamborghini launched its first plug-in hybrid. The Reveulto’s system combines a new V12 gas-powered engine and three electric motors for an impressive 1,001 horsepower and more than 800 pound-feet of torque, claiming the title of “most powerful plug-in hybrid on the market.”

Now the brand is taking its hybrid experience to the motorsport circuit with the SC63 hypercar, an electrified race car that harnesses the power of a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 and pairs it with a 50-kilowatt Bosch electric motor. Lamborghini is no stranger to the motorsport circuit, enjoying 15 years of success with its Huracan GT3 race car, but 2024 is the first time it is entering the FIA World Endurance Championship and International Motor Sports Association prototype categories.

Historically, founder Ferruccio Lamborghini thought racing was a waste of time and money; he believed he didn’t need motorsports to prove his cars’ worth. It’s a different game today, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann told Car and Driver.

“The trends are changing, and there is a technical reason too,” Winklemann said. “We’re in the midst of transition from ICE to plug-in hybrid. Endurance racing gives us a chance to test materials.”

Plus, he said, seeing electrified systems in motorsports helps customers accustomed to V8 and V12 engines to accept electrified production cars.

The SC63 hybrid is equipped with a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 paired with an electric motor. Image: Lamborghini

A “cold V” and eight radiators

With the completion of the 12 Hours of Sebring Race earlier this month, the Raging Bull has added a big checkmark to its inaugural year of prototype racing. Aerodynamically focused and swoopy, the SC63 hints at its Lamborghini lineage but it doesn’t look like its road-going cars. Per racing rules, the car had to meet size requirements, but chief designer Mitja Borkert incorporated the brand’s unique Y-shaped taillights and an inlet inspired by the air intake of the legendary Countach model.

The V8 was developed specifically for racing by the Raging Bull with a “cold V” configuration, which means the turbos are mounted outside of the V shape of the block as opposed to the inside of the V, a hallmark of a “hot V” setup. This arrangement makes it easier for mechanics to access the turbos to service them, and it offers the additional benefit of facilitated cooling. By placing the turbos on the outside of the engine, the car has a lower mass and makes the most out of its center of gravity. Ultimately, that translates to optimal balance and consistent speed on the track both short and long term.

Managing thermal elements is key during the race, and the prototype features eight different radiators. That includes two intercoolers, which cool compressed air from the turbocharger before it enters the engine, along with radiators for the gearbox, the energy recovery system, energy storage system, and others. All in, the car was built for the worst-case heat scenarios (especially in hot, humid Florida) to be as thermally efficient as possible.

The drivers had a say, too. Lamborghini prototype driver Romain Grosjean has hybrid race experience in Formula 1 and consulted with the engineers to tune the LMDh system and the design of the steering wheel controls.   

The result: More work is needed, but it’s looking good

a man in a green suit stands in front of a green, red, and black race car on a rack track
While Lamborghini’s first hybrid race car didn’t win its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring race, the brand gathered valuable data for the future. Image: Lamborghini

The SC63 didn’t win the race, but that wasn’t the goal for the supercar brand. Ultimately placing seventh, the Lamborghini race car finished intact, sharing data points and experience the brand will use for future races and even production cars.

“The [race car] is still very specific because it’s really super sophisticated,” Chief Technology Officer Rouven Mohr told Car and Driver. “But the newer damper technology, what we find today in a high-performance car, you have seen some years ago in the race cars: multi-way adjustability, friction optimization. This, by the way, is something that we learned also on the [race cars], to minimize every friction in your suspension. This is something that you can use for the street car, even if you are not carrying over the suspension itself.”

Grosjean says he is happy with the result, especially knowing that the Sebring 12 Hours is one of the toughest races out there due to the bumpy, uneven surface of the track. “It is a really positive step that we managed to finish the race and on the lead lap in P7,” Grosjean says. “There is still a lot that we need to work on, and I am excited for the future.”

Mohr shares his enthusiasm and agrees the brand can take its learnings from Sebring and apply them for improvements.

“I am delighted with the result of the #63; finishing seventh and on the same lap as the winner of the race is an incredible achievement,” Mohr says. “Of course, there are always things to do better, and we are aware that we need to close the gap to the front of the field, which is still quite far away at the moment.”