Reportage: Lamborghini Sterrato on the Nardo test track: A dusty affair

Every Lamborghini is a super sports car that delights millions of car fans around the world.

Reportage: Lamborghini Sterrato on the Nardo test track: A dusty affair

Every Lamborghini is a super sports car that delights millions of car fans around the world. But there has never been a car like the Sterrato in 60 years of Lamborghini history. With a top speed of just 260 km/h, it is the slowest Lamborghini in years and yet Gaetano Santoro's verdict is clear: "No Huracan can guarantee more driving pleasure than the Sterrato," beams the person responsible for the Huracan model series. Nardo is more than just a high-speed line alone. For decades, countless car manufacturers have valued the so-called Nardo Technical Center in southern Italy as a strictly secured test site because they can put the vehicles of tomorrow and the day after through their paces here, largely undisturbed.

The Nardo test center was opened in 1975 by Fiat with the support of the Puglia region and the province of Lecce and sold to Porsche in 2012. There are no fewer than 17 test tracks on the site in the southern Italian no man's land, spread across the entire area. Just one of them is the famous four-lane high-speed oval with a circumference of 12.5 kilometers and a width of 16 meters. The lanes are inclined so that a driver in the outermost lane does not have to turn the steering wheel at a speed of 240 km/h. This neutral speed varies greatly between lanes: 100 km/h on the lowest lane, 130 on the second lane and 190 on the third lane. The top speed is 260 km/h. Unless the slope is rented exclusively to one customer, because they can revoke the maximum speed at will.

The speed record for production vehicles on the high-speed oval of 388 km/h was set in February 2005 by a Koenigsegg CCR. Other interesting records: The first car to exceed 400 km/h (exactly 403.9 km/h) was the Mercedes C111-IV, which completed a complete lap in 1.57 minutes on May 5, 1979; between August 17 and 21, 1983, three Mercedes 190E 2.3-16s broke the world endurance driving record by covering 50,000 km in Nardo in 201 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds; A Volkswagen W12 broke the distance record in 24 hours, covering 7,740.57 kilometers at an incredible 322.9 km/h. Loris Bicocchi, the pilot who set the Koenigsegg speed record in 2005, has bittersweet memories of this place because shortly before his speed record he was involved in a serious accident with a Bugatti Veyron prototype at 400 km/h. One of the wheels exploded, tearing first the bumper and then the hood, which then landed on the windshield, completely shattering it and ultimately causing Bicocchi to lose control of the vehicle before it crashed into the guardrails. The car's brakes failed and Loris Bicocchi had to reduce the Veyron's supersonic speed by dragging it against the guardrails until it finally came to a stop. A few weeks later, the fast Italian experienced the next shock when he opened a sealed letter from the test center in Nardo, which contained a hefty invoice for the repair of 1,800 meters of damaged guardrail, which Bugatti then took over.

The 6.2 kilometer long handling track, which is located within the main oval, is just as famous as it is infamous. And the gravel road known as Strada Bianca - the white road - with two sections, each 2,130 meters long, is also known to many car developers. Before setting off on one of the two Strada Bianca, Mario Fasanetto, head of Lamborghini's test driver department, gives important tips about the Sterrato and the gravel road, which he has learned like the back of his hand during up to ten hours of daily test drives. “We will record your laps on video and all the telemetry will also be properly registered so that you can then look in the Unica app to see what you did right, what you did wrong and what areas still need improvement,” smiles Fasanetto.

The differences between the Lamborghini Sterrato, which is limited to 1,499 vehicles, and the normal Huracan versions are as obvious as they are quickly explained. Gaetano Santoro: “The main differences compared to an Evo 4x4 result from the 44 mm increased ground clearance, the front metal elements, side skirts, a modified rear diffuser and of course the protective elements on the underbody.” The side air inlets of the 5.2 liter V10 -Aspirated engines have been sealed off and instead there is a central intake pipe above the roof, designed to ensure the air is as clean as possible. The suspension with its Magna Ride shock absorbers and the LDVI on-board electronics have also been tuned for rapid use on loose surfaces. Thanks to the off-road tires, the wheelbase grew by nine millimeters and the vertical wheel path was extended by 25 percent at the front and 35 percent at the rear. The Sterrato also shines with a track that has been widened by 3 or 3.4 centimeters. The plastic used in the lower and more exposed parts of the body helps reduce the weight to 1,470 kilograms. There is also an aluminum hood, rear wing and carbon ceramic brakes.

The familiar elements of the Huracan family can be found in the interior, where communication with passenger Fasanetto is ensured via the helmet intercom. For example, the sports steering wheel covered in Alcantara, the switch that controls the Strada, Sport and Rally driving modes and the striking start button, the red cover of which could also be used to launch a surface-to-air missile. Already in the first few hundred meters you can feel that the few centimeters more ground clearance is enough to prevent the vehicle floor from being in constant contact with the gravel. The Bridgestone Dueler tires (235/40 at the front and 285/40 at the rear on 19-inch rims) can handle considerable amounts of gravel and sand that work in their rubber grooves.

In Rally mode, which noticeably softens the suspension springs, the full-time all-wheel drive favors the transfer of torque to the rear wheels, while at the same time the stability control keeps the reins looser. This turns the Sterrato into a shameless drift machine in mud, sand and gravel or a mix of all three like on the Strada Bianca, preferring to sprint sideways rather than forward at will. Wedging guaranteed. What if the drifts in the constant dust aren't enough? There are no limits to even donuts on the test site. All of this happens under the throaty sound of the naturally aspirated V10 engine, which, together with the spectacular design, ensures that it turns heads everywhere and constantly. But that's exactly why you get the 313,000 euro fun maker into your own vehicle collection. A sports car can hardly be more entertaining than the slowest Lamborghini of the past few decades. Promised. But now it's time to go to the car wash.