From the Alps of Austria to the undulating Sachsenring: last weekend, GRT Grasser Racing Team were competing in the penultimate round of the ADAC GT Masters in front of more than 20,000 spectators. The 3.64km circuit near Chemnitz is considered to be a drivers’ delight and therefore an ideal arena for the team’s six Lamborghini Huracán GT3 drivers to parade their skills. Title within touching distance The Sachsenring presented an opportunity for Andrea Calderelli and Mirko Bortolotti to get one hand on the championship trophy. The duo in the number 63 car went into the weekend ranked fourth and among the prime contenders for the title. From eleventh on the grid, they steadily progressed into and up the Top Ten as their opponents fell by the wayside. However, a problem with the GPS system at the pit stop and a resultant drive-through penalty ruined their prospects. In any case, they subsequently had to park the car after sustaining a puncture. This disappointment merely served to strengthen the resolve of the Italians as they went into the Sunday race from ninth place. In the chaotic start, Caldarelli managed to steer clear of the various collisions and made an immediate gain of two positions. So once again, there was scope for progress up the championship table. But after the driver change, Bortolotti was unceremoniously forced into the gravel by an opponent, and yet another race had come to a premature end. “It was by no means a straightforward weekend for us,” said Andrea Caldarelli. “Friday started well enough – we were fast in the rain and managed to identify a good setup during the dry sessions. Unfortunately, the first race was ruined by the drive-through penalty and by the puncture. I was satisfied with ninth on the grid for Sunday’s race – I don’t think we could have qualified any higher. The race itself was just amazing, with all the accidents and interruptions. I had a pretty good stint and got the car up to seventh place. Unfortunately, Mirko then came into contact with an opponent, otherwise we might have finished in the Top Four.” Abrupt halt to a promising pursuit Just how incredibly tight it is in the ADAC GT Masters was demonstrated on Saturday by Rolf Ineichen and Christian Engelhart; less than a second separated them from the Top Ten in qualifying, yet they still found themselves having to start the race from a relatively lowly P25. From there, Trophy contestant Ineichen started to work his way forward, but on Lap 6, he was hit by an opponent and forced to abandon the number 82 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 on the home straight. Engelhart started the second race from 13th and seemed unperturbed by either the temporary interruption or by the many subsequent safety car deployments. After Ineichen took over in the cockpit, the duo were up to ninth place at one point, but they ultimately finished in 14th. “We had set ourselves very ambitious targets for this weekend,” explained Engelhart. “Unfortunately, things did not quite go according to plan, and we therefore leave the Sachsenring pointless. We have to analyse why we had such a struggle with our performance and then come back all the stronger for the grand finale at Hockenheim. For the moment, though, I’m thinking ahead to the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup at the Nürburgring. In that particular championship, we are currently third and still have a realistic chance of winning the title.” Qualifying – a work in progress Ezequiel Perez Companc and Marco Mapelli once again saw how narrow the dividing line is between good and bad luck in motor racing. In the two qualifying sessions, both drivers made minor errors which resulted in a P17 and a P25 start. Although the number 19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 gained two positions in Saturday’s race to cross the finish line in 15th place, a puncture on Sunday brought about a premature end. A bitter disappointment, as the duo had been jostling for position with the eventual winners on the early laps, and an indication of what might have been possible in this chaotic race. “The car felt good all weekend, and we could have got a lot more out of it,” said Mapelli. “Unfortunately, I made a mistake in my quali. In a field as tight as this, it means you start from 25th instead of among the Top Six. When you find yourself at that end of the grid, it’s more about survival than racing.” Teammate Perez Companc concurred: “We had a decent car and all the makings of a Top Ten result. Unfortunately, we did not manage to put in the perfect lap in qualifying.” Team principal Gottfried Grasser: “Unfortunately, this was absolutely not our weekend. In the qualifying sessions, we struggled to secure decent grid positions. Furthermore, both races were disappointing. We were making progress through the field, and then we were taken out of the race several times by other cars. That robbed us of any chance of good results. Despite that, we’re looking forward to the upcoming sprint race at the Nürburgring and to putting the past weekend behind us.” Next weekend (14th - 16th September), GRT Grasser Racing Team will be back in action when they contest the final Sprint Cup race of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series at the Nürburgring.
Blancpain GT Test Days:79 days, 04 hours, 07 minutes