• GRT Grasser Racing Team pairing Ineichen and Perera move from sixth on grid to third in Sunday’s second race
• P5 and first Junior podium for Beretta and Mapelli
• Bortolotti and Engelhart show strong pace: Pole position on Sunday
Ups and downs for GRT Grasser Racing Team in ADAC GT Masters season opener at Oschersleben. 25,000 enthusiastic motorsport fans experienced three days packed with great racing action last weekend. The first two races in the Super Sports Car League turned out to be as changeable as the weather for the three Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Franck Perera and Rolf Ineichen)
Qualifying 1: P22 - Race 1: P20
Qualifying 2: P6 - Race 2: P3
The new ADAC GT Masters season could hardly have started better for the experienced pair of Lamborghini works driver, Franck Perera, and Rolf Ineichen. The weather for the last weekend in April was very unsettled, and second qualifying on Sunday took place on a wet track. No problem for Frenchman Perera. Posting a great lap, he set the sixth-best time of the second qualifying session, securing an ideal starting position in the race to come for himself and his team-mate into. “It’s never easy to have a decent qualifying session when conditions are so changeable, so I was more than satisfied with sixth,” said Perera.
The Frenchman took the first stint. The track had now dried out and the two drivers brought all their experience into play. Perera was pleased with his performance: “I was able to push quite well during my stint and kept the connection to the race leaders. What’s more, I had a particularly strong in-lap before the driver handover. You can gain a lot of time on the other cars at this point, which I managed to do really well.”
GRT Grasser Racing made a perfect pit stop after 22 laps and sent 40-year-old Swiss driver Ineichen back out on course for a podium. He showed all his class during his stint and secured the first podium of the season for his outfit with third place, which was a big relief after a mediocre showing on Saturday with P20. “Saturday was not easy for us,” he said. “After the many stoppages in qualifying, our grid position for the race was not ideal, but then we made a solid start and were even heading for the points.” Unfortunately, another car made me spin off, causing a puncture, which ended our race in point of fact.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Michele Beretta and Marco Mapelli)
Qualifying 1: P30 - Race1: P15
Qualifying 2: P7 - Race 2: P5
Lamborghini Junior Michele Beretta and Lamborghini works driver Marco Mapelli turned in a convincing performance, especially when in race trim. The GRT Grasser Racing pairing moved up no less than 17 places in the two races. Their reward, two lots of points and the first Junior podium in the ADAC GT Masters for 24-year-old Beretta. “The second race was really good, especially when you consider how the weekend had started for us. I made one or two mistakes on Saturday, which I found very annoying,” said Beretta. “Of course, I’m very happy with fifth place in Sunday’s race, but we could have achieved even more. Unfortunately, we lost some time around the middle of the race, so we couldn’t challenge for the podium until the end.”
Their position on the grid for the first race was anything but rosy. Nevertheless, the two Italians managed during the course of the 60-minute race to move up from grid slot 30 into the points. Mapelli and Beretta mastered the tricky conditions really well as rain began to fall.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart)
Qualifying 1: P6 - Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P1 - Race 2: P21
Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart were the two unlucky fellows in the first race weekend at Oschersleben. As we have come to expect, the German driver looked good in the tricky conditions, and secured grid slot six with a deficit of only three tenths of a second. The two of them were even bumped up the field by one position when another driver was handed a penalty. After making a good start, Engelhart kept the connection to the front-runners throughout his entire stint, but a technical problem ruined what had been an impeccable performance up until that point. “We had hardly any driving time before the first qualifying session after puncturing in FP1,” said Engelhart. “Still, Oschersleben really suits me and I managed to post an excellent lap by calling on all my experience. I was in the running throughout my stint, but unfortunately, we were forced to retire the car with a technical problem.”
Their plan to make amends on Sunday seemed to work at first. Bortolotti did well on the wet track and secured GRT Grasser Racing’s first pole position of the ADAC GT Masters season. The Lamborghini works driver did a fine job of defending P1 at the start of the second race and for the rest of his stint. However, he suffered a puncture, which forced the team to bring him in to change the tyre. The rules state that when changing tyres, ten seconds must be added to the regulation minimum length of time for a pit stop. The team sent Engelhart back out in accordance with the regs regarding time limits and thought they had done well. But no! Shortly afterwards, their Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with start number 63 was handed a drive-through penalty, which subsequently proved to be unjustified because the timekeeping was wrong. However, as a result, it was no longer possible for Engelhart and Bortolotti to finish up front.
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “I’m very pleased with Franck and Rolf. The two of them worked really well and turned in a great performance. Our Lamborghini #82 saved the team’s honour by moving up the field from P6 to finish on the podium. Michele and Marco drove a great race on Sunday. They made tremendous progress all weekend and got their just reward with fifth place in the second race. Also, Michele finished second in the Junior classification, which is a really good start. Unfortunately, Mirko’s and Christian’s weekend was chaotic from start to finish. There was some small recompense after their retirement in the first race with a technical problem, at least for now, with pole position on Sunday. In the race itself, Mirko really gave it his all and kept the lead despite our disadvantage where straight-line speed is concerned. However, we found that a tyre was losing air and had to be changed in the pits. Of course, we were well within the regs concerning the additional time stipulated for a tyre change. We followed the rules to the letter, but the timekeeper’s clock said different. However, that was a mistake on their part. We served the drive-through penalty, but our race was over after that.”