Road Trip: 2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2

Ordinarily, supercar drives are relatively short, just a couple of hundred kilometres to boost your Instagram feed, then drop it back having just barely stretched the thing’s legs. But not today. This is the driver’s Lamborghini – the lighter, rear-wheel-drive version – and I have special dispensation to spin the odometer freely. It’s 4:30 in the morning, and somewhere out there is fresh, dry, blissfully empty tarmac. Let’s go.

To many, a Lamborghini is more about image than substance – they’re certainly fast cars, but both Ferrari and McLaren are the enthusiast’s favourite. Certainly the V12-powered Aventador seems more about theatrics than Nürburgring lap times – it’s still really freakin’ cool though.

But the smaller, lighter Huracán is a genuine performer. The GT3 versions of the class recently scored a convincing win at Virginia International Raceway in the GT Daytona class, a victory that those in the know proclaimed inevitable. The Huracáns are blindingly fast on the straights, composed under braking, and very stable through long sweepers. Their podium finish (closely pursued by the similar Audi R8s) lends sporting pedigree to this red Italian wedge.

That’s doubly good, because my destination is a meeting with one of the most intriguing figures in Canadian motorsport. All through the 1970s, Walter Wolf’s racing machines bore the Maple Leaf flag, carrying it to victory against drivers like Niki Lauda and James Hunt at racetracks from Monaco to Mosport. He also essentially kept Lamborghini afloat through one of its darkest financial periods, and usually arrived at European races in one of his three factory-prototype Countachs.

2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2

The first of these machines was essentially the same colour scheme as the car I’m in today, which makes for a nice confluence of stories. I’ve a photograph of it parked at Monaco in 1976, the year before the Wolf team won the race with South African driver Jody Scheckter at the wheel. It still exists, incidentally, tucked away in a private collection in Tokyo.

This theoretically entry-level Lamborghini is far more common than Wolf’s hand-built prototypes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t special. Even in Vancouver, with its glut of supercars, the new shape draws envious eyeballs. The Huracán looks less insane than the Aventador, yet still also manages to stand out far more than any Bentley or Porsche (well, except maybe the 911 GT3 RS).

Far outside the city, as the highway begins climbing towards the mountain passes, the colour turns the car into a demon lurking in the fog. On a side-road, stopped for pictures, the hellish crimson seems to glow in the sodden twilight. Big rigs hurtle past, shaking the ground and streaming contrails of atomized water.

I can’t imagine trying to drive through this kind of weather in a Lamborghini of the old school. The one Countach owner I know locally drives his car sparingly, not just because of its ever-increasing value, but because it is relatively brittle. The Huracán, on the other hand, shrugs off the wet as if it was just a really fancy Golf.

2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2

No Golf ever sounded like this though. Hammering up to speed on the short onramp, the mighty 5.2L V10 howls with the banshee wail you only get from ten furious cylinders. In the age of turbocharging and hybridization, this is about as old school a mid-engined car as you can get: big, naturally aspirated engine, power fed only to the rear wheels, and a weight bias split 40/60 in favour of the rear.

Spearing through the mist-wreathed mountains, the Huracán finds its path and ascends the narrow pass. By 7 a.m., with the city hundreds of kilometres in the rearview, we finally punch through the clouds huddled against the side of the coastal range.

Dawn flickers past furze-fuzzed hills as the road slithers down the far side towards the grasslands. I hang a right at Merritt as regular traffic begins to dot the Coquihalla, heading east towards the tiny town of Quilchena.

There’s a plaque out here commemorating the rolling hills as the Empire of Grass, a tribute to those early settlers who were enticed here by tales of gold nuggets lying on river banks, but found riches instead amongst the susurrating grasses. This is ranchland, cattle country, and the fighting bull of Sant’a’gata takes to it with glee.

2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2

The road is entirely empty. The odd tractor-trailer uses this route as a way ’round the tolls of the highway, but this is the old, longer road and most tourists favour the newer highway and its higher speed limits. For a car like this, though, the detour is worth it. The way is smooth, with a fresh-laid surface and wide shoulders. It’s all fast straights and lakeside curves, with the sightlines running far out to the horizon. Lamborghini country, in other words.

Like a Ferrari, the Huracán has almost all the controls moved onto the steering wheel. You activate the turn signals and the wipers via switches under your thumbs. The paddle shifters are big, metal affairs mounted to the steering column. Select Sport via a rectangular switch mounted on the bottom spoke of the chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel, flick the left-most paddle twice, and hammer it.

The resulting violent lunge is teeth-baringly exhilarating. According to the spec sheets, the LP580-2 makes 572 hp and 389 lb-ft of torque from an engine that’s slightly detuned from the all-wheel-drive version. You have to imagine that adding the power back takes little more than a software upgrade, but it’s not like it’d be necessary.

This car is perfectly capable of lighting up the rears under hard acceleration, charging forward in a manner befitting the rampant bull on its nose. An enraged scarlet ungulate stampedes across the landscape, leaving scorch marks and startled waterfowl in its wake.

2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2

Halfway along, I find another side road looping lazily up a hill and pull over for some photos. With the engine killed, the silence is eerie. A red-tailed hawk loops above my head, swooping low and screaming its soul-piercing cry. You can see the road stretching out in both directions, void of traffic, pregnant with potential. It makes my feet itch.

Nearing civilization, the rains close back in. The pace slows, and before too long the Huracán is settling itself outside a coffee shop in Kamloops. There, it has but a short wait before Walter Wolf shows up – we talk F1 history, introducing Gilles Villeneuve to Enzo Ferrari, what it felt like to win Monaco outright, those fabulous Countachs. He’s led an unbelievable life, and tale after tale boggles the mind.

This, perhaps, is the ultimate expression of supercar ownership. Wolf’s machines were the fastest and best in the world, unequalled in their fury. His third Countach, for instance, boasted a modified rear suspension out of a F1 car, a scarcely credible 7:1 steering rack, and around 500 hp. Never mind the 1970s proviso – by any standard, that’s insane.

2016 Lamborghini Huracán LP580-2

Our Huracán, on the other hand, is several shades less berserk. I’ll put near enough 900 km on it today, but feel no ill effects. It’s not tiring to drive, just extremely fast.

And perhaps this reveals another, essential facet of supercar ownership. Walter never kept his cars: he had them built, drove them, then let them go. The joy of ownership was in the experience of the drive, and he never failed to pin the throttle when the occasion demanded it.

The LP580-2 feels like the kind of car that would favour the kind of person who aspires to that life. Someone who finds the time to rise early, grab a set of keys with purpose. Somewhere, out there, there’s a fresh piece of road just waiting for someone to write a story on it. Life’s too short not to thrash the hell out of a beast like this. There’s four hundred kilometres between me and home. Let’s go.