It took some time for Forte Racing by USRT to fulfill the promise it showed almost from the beginning of its time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD category. But a second-place finish for the No. 78 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 at Indianapolis followed by a victory at Motul Petit Le Mans for full-season drivers Misha Goikhberg, Loris Spinelli and supplemented by Patrick Liddy demonstrated the team’s capability. Now, with Spinelli elevated to Lamborghini factory driver status and recent IndyCar driver Devlin DeFrancesco on board for the endurance events, the team is looking to be a championship contender in its sophomore season.
“Everyone needs to keep building on the momentum,” says team principal Shane Seneviratne. “It was funny… we had a briefing after Indy, pre-race briefing for Atlanta. I said, ‘Guys, what can we do? Let’s just go do better than Indy.’ We finished second, so better than that was first, and we managed to execute that. But we all know how difficult this type of racing is and how difficult it is to get a result. So a realistic expectation is to be consistent, try and score top five finishes, try to finish every race. And if you if you do that, just as a group with the drivers and the crew, I think we have talented drivers that could deliver the results if you’re in that position.”
Seneviratne rebranded his US RaceTronics team that had started in Formula Atlantic, but in recent years had found a home in Lamborghini Super Trofeo, as Forte Racing for 2023 when it embarked on its first full season of WeatherTech Championship competition. The team brought along longtime Canadian sports car racer Goikhberg, best known to IMSA fans for his long stint with JDC Miller MotorSports that began in Prototype Challenge, carried on through LMP2 and included a season in the team’s Cadillac DPi. In recent years he’s run in GT World Challenge America with K-PAX Racing.
Spinelli was a Super Trofeo champion in Europe, and more recently competed for US RaceTronics in GT World Challenge America. After the team’s successful first season, he was elevated to factory driver status for the Italian marque, joining the likes of Andrea Caldarelli, Romain Grosjean, Franck Perera and Mirko Bortolotti.
“It’s a dream come true,” Spinelli says. “It’s a really good treatment for me because I worked hard for it, since 2015, when I started with Super Trofeo. And now that I did it, honestly I can say that is just a start, because I know that right now with the Lamborghini support, I can work better and also understand this car better. Marco Mapelli is one of the best Lamborghini factory drivers; I can learn a lot from him. We worked together at the beginning of  in Daytona. So it’s just a new start to evolve my performance, and also my knowledge of the car.”
After a year as teammates, Goikhberg and Spinelli are performing well together as the team builds its portfolio of experience.
“Misha, I have to say that he’s really good teammates, we have a really good feeling for each other,” Spinelli says.
“We try to work always in the same way with the setup. And talking about the team expecting to be on top in the first three races, we’ve already showed good performance when I got the pole [at Watkins Glen]. I always knew that the performance was there. The team needed a bit more experience because we know that IMSA is really challenging.”
Finally achieving victory in the season-ending race drew a picture of a team that not only gathered knowledge quickly, but applied it properly. That has Spinelli ready to get 2024 started, armed with the assurance that the team enters 2024 much more prepared than it was a year ago when it unloaded at Daytona International Speedway.
“I will be more confident because 2023 has been their first year in IMSA for me, for the team,” says. “We needed experience, we needed time; we showed the good performance in the last few rounds. So I’m sure that if we put all together I think that we have a really good package to look for the win.”