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Porsche ace Cairoli in line for Lamborghini LMDh drive in IMSA

Nurburgring 24 Hours winner Matteo Cairoli appears in line for a Lamborghini LMDh drive in the GTP class of IMSA SportsCar Championship next year.

Lamborghini LMDh in action

Lamborghini LMDh in action

Lamborghini Squadra Corse

Cairoli, who is contracted by Porsche but doesn’t have factory driver status, could fill one of the two remaining seats in Lamborghini’s LMDh programme that will span the endurance leg of IMSA and the full World Endurance Championship season in 2024.

The Italian got to sample the under-development Lamborghini SC63 LMDh for the first time in a private test at Jerez last month, where he was joined by Mahindra Formula E driver Edoardo Mortara.

The 27-year-old couldn’t comment on suggestions that he will be joining Lamborghini next year, but did admit to Autosport that he drove the SC63 in Spain.

“I just can say that I tried a car, I enjoyed the test but not more than this,” he said.

Cairoli revealed that his 2024 racing programme will be based in the US, suggesting he will be leaving the World Endurance Championship after six seasons to move to IMSA.

The new Lamborghini LMDh will make its IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup debut at the Sebring 12 Hour in March 2024 after skipping the Daytona 24 Hours season opener in January.

Insight: How Lamborghini took the long road to Le Mans

“I think it's a bit too early to speak as my programme is not really confirmed yet and there are some things going on behind my career,” he said.

“I can tell you that I will probably more on the US side next year, not in Europe.”

#20 Huber Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R (992): Matteo Cairoli 

Photo by: AG Photo

#20 Huber Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R (992): Matteo Cairoli 

Cairoli has spent the majority of his racing career with Porsche, and inked his first contract with the German manufacturer in 2015 when he was signed as a junior driver.

The Italian made his way through the ranks over the years but was never officially promoted to factory status despite some impressive results in both GT3 and GT3 cars.

Cairoli finished runner-up in his first season in WEC’s GTE Am class in 2017, but the highlight of his career was arguably an overall victory at the 2021 Nurburgring 24 Hours, when he was joined by Michael Christesen and Kevin Estre in a Manthey-run Porsche 911 GTR 3.

Speaking at the Bahrain WEC finale, Cairoli strongly hinted that he would leave Porsche at the end of the season, a move that would pave the way for him to join Lamborghini next year in factory capacity. 

“We are facing some changes,” he said. “I have been a Porsche driver for nearly 10 years now. 

“So I started with them. They grew me up. I will always be forever thankful with the brand but I think our story could finish by end of this year.”

Cairoli said he feels ready to make the step up to prototype machinery after a long stint in GT cars. Most of Porsche and Ferrari Hypercar’s drivers also moved up the ladder directly from GT racing, skipping the LMP2 class altogether.

“I was waiting for this opportunity since a long time,” he said.

#56 Project 1 - AO Porsche 911 RSR - 19: PJ Hyett, Gunnar Jeannette, Matteo Cairoli

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

#56 Project 1 - AO Porsche 911 RSR - 19: PJ Hyett, Gunnar Jeannette, Matteo Cairoli

“I mean I tried it and it's a different kind of car. And also as a racing driver I think I also need an upgrade for my career. So the new era of prototype is the right one for me. 

He added: “In my case I started very late in motorsport. I was 16. I didn't have any kart experience. 

“So I did one year in single-seaters and then rest of my career has always been around GT cars. 

“I think it's the right procedure, starting with GT cars and then moving on to GTE, which is between a GT and a prototype. And now it's time for the next chapter which is LMDh.”

Lamborghini has already signed four drivers for its first-ever prototype programme and is in the process of completing the full line-up. 

Mirko Bortolotti and Andrea Caldarelli were named by the Italian manufacturer when it first announced plans to develop an Ligier LMP2-based LMDh car in May 2022, while it has since added ex-Formula 1 drivers Daniil Kvyat and Romain Grosjean to its roster. 

An official announcement regarding the remaining drivers, plus the exact make-up of its two cars, is not expected until at least December.

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