Double Podium Finish at Nürburgring – Emotional Roller-Coaster for GRT Racing

19.09.2017

GRT Grasser Racing went through a roller-coaster of emotions during the final of the Blancpain GT Sprintseries at Nürburgring: It all started with a lot of bad luck in qualifying for title contenders Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti in car number 63. Twice the Italian was stopped by red flags on a fast lap, missing the Top Qualifying as a consequence and having to put up with P18 on the grid. Just five places ahead of the also affected Rolf Ineichen and Tom Dillmann in the third Grasser Lamborghini. Meanwhile car number 19 with Andrea Caldarelli and Ezequiel Perez Companc made it into the second row, proving the real strength of the Grasser squad again.

Both of them confirmed their impressive form also in the qualifying race. Caldarelli managed to stay close to the leading Audi of Vanthoor from the beginning, a better pitstop than that of the opposition even made Perez Companc return to the track in the lead. The young Argentinian was pitting in the race of his life, defending first position against a whole bunch of well experienced and successful GT drivers like Marcel Fässler (CH) in the Audi, Franck Perera (GER) in the Mercedes and Maxime Soulet (BEL) in the Bentley. He also crossed the finish line in P1, but was later stripped of his victory by a rather awkward one-second-penalty for cutting the chicane, which dropped him back to P2.

Perez Companc was really baffled: “When the Bentley launched an attack I was quite surprised. We were both on the left hand side of the track, so there was no other choice than to go straight. I was completely sideways through the gravel, which was not fun. I do not understand why we get a penalty for that, to lose a win like this hurts a lot.” Team principal Gottfried Grasser absolutely shared his view: „For me this was a victory, even if the stewards did regard it differently. I have never seen a one-second penalty in motor racing before. At least justice was brought back on Sunday.”

In the Sunday race Perez Companc and Caldarelli made the podium again in third place, even with the Italian being harshly pushed off the track again by Maxim Soulet in his Bentley, with the Belgian this time receiving a drive-through penalty immediately. But it was Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti to make the biggest headlines with an epic performance. After Bortolotti had been spun around on Saturday just after the start and a lot of time was lost, the pairing did not get any further up than into P19, “which meant that the Championship was already nearly lost at that point”, as Grasser stated. But from so far behind on the grid, the two Lamborghini factory drivers still managed to climb through the field up to P5. “It felt nearly like a victory”, Bortolotti was ever so content, and Engelhart joined in happily: “All the bad luck we encountered before could not stop us. Some very nice overtaking moves but mainly the absolutely perfect pitstop made it possible to reach this success.”

This pitstop also made the team principal ever so happy: „I am so proud of our guys. It was the first time that Bernhard Hauser and Pedro Peixoto were on the podium for GRT, having won the Pitstop Challenge! Unbelievable, I will always remember this moment. It´s just fantastic to best the best GT teams in the world in the pitstop and it was obvious with all our three card during the race how much of a difference this can make.” Even with the number 82 with Dillmann and Ineichen finally not seeing the chequered flag, having to retire due to a heavily damaged rim and tyre after being hit by a competitor.

15 points in the lead in the Team Championship and even 22 in the Drivers´ Championship, GRT Grasser Racing and Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart are now heading to the final of the Blancpain GT Series at Barcelona in two weeks time with all chances left to score the title in the general classification: “We will enter three cars again there”, Gottfried Grasser is already able to reveal...

GRT Grasser Program - next races

Hockenheim / 7. ADAC GT Masters
22.09. - 24.09.

Barcelona / 10. Blancpain GT Sprint Cup
30.09. - 01.10.

24H COTA – USA / 7. Creventic Series
10.11. - 12.11.

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