Leeds, Ala., April 7, 2019…Driver Ron Atapattu returned to a Lamborghini cockpit this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the inaugural 2019 IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America race.
He drove the No. 24 elephantea/ShipOCI Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo Evo to a fifth-place finish on Saturday and a sixth-place finish on Sunday in the LM Cup class in the doubleheader race weekend.
The veteran racer last drove a Lamborghini competitively in 2001, and it was a Lamborghini Diablo SVR in the SRO Lamborghini SuperSport Trophy. This year Atapattu has taken on the challenge of the 12-race Super Trofeo series across North America and the season finale in Spain. As a single driver in the LM Cup class, he is the solo driver for the entire race. Other classes within the series conduct a driver change.
"It's great to be back in a Lamborghini," said the Boca Raton, Florida resident. "The car is so racy that it's tempting to overdrive this car. So being within the limits of my driving skill and the car's handling in the challenge. It's a very competitive event."
In Saturday's 50-minute race, Atapattu lost the opportunity for a good finish when he was assessed a drive-through penalty in the second half of the race. Atapattu was glad to be back behind the wheel and accepted his finish and lesson learned and was all the readier to return to the track on Sunday.
"The first lap was like a stampeding herd of elephants running in the wild," said Atapattu, an elephant conservationist. "It's a great feeling to be back with Lamborghini. I'm enjoying all the racing and I think that without the drive-through we could have had a podium."
Sunday's race produced a sixth-place finish and another 15th overall finish as the temperatures reached low 80 degrees F, and even hotter in the cockpit of the beastly Huracan with a Lamborghini V10 5.2cc engine with 620 hp.
"Today was probably better than yesterday's race," added Atapattu. "It was very hot in the car and asa solo driver, it takes a lot out of you; and towards the end of the last few laps I was feeling quite hot. Nevertheless, it was very good. I was battling a few cars, but I never got close enough to pass them and then the leaders came by, so I lost a bit of pace, but overall, I was trying to produce consistent laps rather than working on top speed.
"I think the racing was pretty good as I was getting used to the car and I think I can pick up more speed as I go along and get more driving under my belt. This is just the first event of the year. In both races I finished the car with no off-track excursions, no going in the grass, no gravel. Keeping the car on the track is key. All weekend long we had no issues so I know we can probably increase the speed a bit in my driving, but it was a new car and new track for me so overall it was a good weekend.
"Being a single driver through the race and not doing a driver change has its pluses and minuses. The negative is that it's quite overwhelming being in the heat that long during the race. The positive is that you are stable in the car. You can basically get dialed in on your lap times and look for consistency.
"I'm looking forward to getting back on track at the next race to see if we can bring the Elephantea car home with our first podium finish of the season."
The next IMSA Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series race is at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y. on June 28-29.
Ron created eTeaRacing as a marketing opportunity to promote his elephantea brand of organic Ceylon teas from Sri Lanka with proceeds going to an elephant conservation programs.
The elephantea brand, started by Ron and his daughter, Shani, is certified organic, fair trade and kosher. The parent tea company, Bogawantalawa, is one of the few single source tea companies that grows, hand picks, processes and packages the tea leaves from its over 17,000 acre, 160-year-old tea plantation. Ceylon teas from the Golden Valley of Sri Lanka are considered the finest teas in the world. The plantation's teas are currently shipped to over 25 countries across the globe.
A few of the conservation programs that elephantea supports are:
The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS), www.slwcs.org
and New Life Elephant Sanctuary (NLES)