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Monday, December 7, 2009

2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni

After reading the previous post about the 2009 Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, there is a good chance you were thinking that the LP560-4 sat at the top echelon of performance. That may have been true, but Lamborghini has once again outdone themselves. They did so in the form of the 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni. Lamborghini debuted this special edition Gallardo in honor of their world renowned test driver, Valentino Balboni, who retired after marking his 40th year with Lamborghini.

Having a car as prestigious and iconic as a Lamborghini created in your name means that you more than likely did something monumental in your life to deserve it. Valentino Balboni was a huge asset to Lamborghini through his 40 years of work. He began working for Ferrucio Lamborghini in 1967 as an assistant test driver alongside driver Bob Wallace. Their job was to test drive each prototype and report back to Ferrucio Lamborghini in order to better the cars. Along with this job, they drove every Lamborghini to come off of the production line to make sure everything was in perfect condition for the customer that the car was going to. After Wallace retired, Valentino Balboni became the chief test driver for Lamborghini and continued his work for 40 years with Lamborghini and has just recently retired. In honor of all of the years of hard work that Balboni devoted his life to, Lamborghini named their newest special edition Gallardo after him. (For a complete biography of Valentino Balboni, click here.)

To the untrained eye, the Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni may look like any other Gallardo out on the streets but it is far from that. The LP550-2 underwent various cosmetic changes including new Scorpius wheels from the Gallardo Superleggera, a new white and gold stripe down the center of the car, a re-designed interior that carries the striped theme throughout the car, and 8 different body color options. Besides cosmetic changes, the LP550-2 underwent a series of changes under the hood. In the name, LP550-2, LP stands for Longitudinale Posteriore which is the positioning of the engine in the car (positioned in the rear), 550 stands for the jaw-dropping 550 horsepower that the Gallardo puts out, and the dash 2 stands for the all new rear wheel drive system that Lamborghini gave this car. The Gallardo underwent suspension upgrades, the 550 horsepower 5.2 Liter V-10 engine was tuned to provide ample torque for the cr, and the car also had a drive-train swap making it rear-wheel drive. The fact that it is rear-wheel drive is what makes this car so unique. All other current model Lamborghinis use a 4 wheel drive system that provides superb handling, but Lamborghini wanted to take this special edition back to the roots of Lamborghini and really give it that vintage feel. They believe that the rear-wheel drive lets the driver feel complete control over the car and provides a much more exciting driving experience. To further their goal of making this the ultimate driver's car, the Balboni is offered with a 6-speed manual transmission instead of the E-gear, though it is still available upon special order. Road and Track editor Patrick Hong reiterates the fun-factor this car has : "That feeling of pure joy can still be felt today, and it only enhanced the thrill of testing the new Gallardo Balboni, a most fitting tribute to a superb young test driver who must have been only in his 30s back then...." This special edition Gallardo will be limited to a production run of 250 cars with a base price starting at $219,800.

Now I could go on and on giving stats on the car, but I would rather talk about my opportunity to meet the legend himself and his special edition car. On Friday, August 28th, I had the chance to meet Valentino Balboni at the unveiling of the Gallardo LP550-2 at St. Louis Motorsports and I took it. I went to this big event and when I arrived the car was under cover (shown at top of page) and I stood around awaiting his arrival because he is one of my 'heroes' and I was so excited to finally meet the legend I have looked up to. When he finally came out, he made a small speech and it was plain to see how grateful he was to have been honored this way and what a humble guy he was. He started up the car for us and did some revs and I got to hear the beautiful sound of that 550 horsepower V10. Afterward, he was open for photo-ops and I took the opportunity to meet him and ask him many questions I had been dying to ask him. He was such a great man to talk to; he answered my questions with great enthusiasm, shook my hand, took pictures with me (below), and signed several autographs. Normally, if you think of someone that important and famous, it is assumed that they would be stuck up and not very friendly. Valentino Balboni was the complete opposite and I respect him even more because of that. Mark Smeyers of Italiaspeed.com said, "
Valentino today is quite simply a walking encyclopaedia of everything that is Lamborghini related, a genuine, very enthusiastic and likeable person who always has time to share his overriding passion with the many enthusiasts' of the brand." That quote basically sums up my opinion of Balboni and why it was such an honor to meet him.

The 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Valentino Balboni is a true piece of automotive innovation and it was named after the most deserving man alive.

*Note: All images and videos on this post were created by and are property of Ryan Cohen.