Hard work brings well-deserved rewards in the first showdown of the 2020 season for GRT Grasser Racing. The Austrians sent no less than three Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs out to do battle in the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona last weekend with the aim of achieving a hat trick of wins in the GTD class during the season opener of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Florida. After taking victories in the past two years, the outfit managed by team boss Gottfried Grasser set about their task with twelve drivers, male and female, in the field of 18 GT3 cars.
The team just missed their goal of defending their title in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. After a close scrap over the final stages, the GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with start number 44 finished second, bringing a tough week to a satisfactory conclusion. Lamborghini works driver Marco Mapelli was beaten by the winner by less than half a minute after the two sister cars lost their chance of a top result early on in the race due to technical problems.
Despite all obstacles, GRT Grasser Racing’s squad of three newly established driver pairings passed their first joint baptism of fire with flying colours. Both car #11 and the four ladies in the GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 demonstrated strong pace and perfect teamwork.
In just a couple of weeks, GRT Grasser Racing will get their next chance to translate the potential shown at Daytona into top results in another great American endurance classic. In the Sebring 12 Hours (18th-21st March), they plan to mount another title defence after last year’s victory.
GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #44 (Andy Lally/Marco Mapelli/Spencer Pumpelly/John Potter)
Car number 44 had a hard time at the Daytona International Speedway even before the start. A gearbox problem caused the crew led by Lamborghini works driver Marco Mapelli to miss qualifying and they had to start the race from last place in the GTD class. With stoic calm, strong pace and clever strategy, the Italian and his three American team-mates Lally, Pumpelly and Potter fought their way up through the field in the race and were able to contend for the win over the final stages.
Mapelli fought hard against fellow Lamborghini driver, Andrea Caldarelli, during the final few hours on Sunday and was beaten by less than 20 seconds after 765 laps. Second place in the Daytona 24 Hours for the GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO saw GRT Grasser Racing take their third podium in a row despite experiencing a tough weekend.
Marco Mapelli: “We had a clean race without any problems. We made no mistakes. John did a great job, which was one of the key elements for our team. Compared to our immediate rivals, we had a real gentleman driver on our car. Andy and Spencer were great as always and deployed their experience at the right moment. Of course, I would also like to thank GRT Magnus for a perfectly prepared car that was both fast and reliable. It was a bit disappointing that we ultimately finished second, but the other Lamborghini team was a bit faster this time, so we have to accept that and work hard to be out in front again next time.”
GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #11 (Franck Perera/Albert Costa/Richard Heistand/Steijn Schothorst)
Car #11 had to face the first setback while still getting ready for this extremely competitive endurance race. The chassis of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO driven by Perera, Costa, Heistand and Schothorst was badly damaged in an incident during training, and it was only thanks to the crew’s tireless efforts that the vehicle was ready again in time for qualifying. The drivers got their revenge by qualifying fifth on the grid, making their Lamborghini the fastest in the field.
In the race, they used their position on the grid to good effect and kept in touch with the leading group during the first couple of hours. A defective fuel pump during his first stint forced Perera into the pits just before nightfall. The car was able to rejoin the race after a long break for repairs thanks to the mechanics. The resulting deficit robbed the favourites in the Lamborghini of any chance of victory. Despite producing some excellent lap times, they only finished 14th.
Franck Perera: “First of all, congratulations to Lamborghini and to our sister car from GRT Magnus. The double victory is just great and is fine testament to the potential of the Huracán GT3 EVO and to Lamborghini’s hard work. The result is, of course, disappointing for us, because we had the speed and a crew that could fight for victory. We were top contenders until the problems started. It’s a shame, but the team did a great job, enabling us to finish the race. In the final analysis, there’s a lot that was very positive that we can take from Daytona. After the repair, we continued to match the lap times of the front-runners and had good fun together. I’m sure that we will return even stronger to the fray in Sebring and I’m really looking forward to that.”
Albert Costa: “The race went well until we had the fuel pump problem. We came here to win but unfortunately, were no longer in a position to do so due to our difficulties. Still, we continued to fight hard on the track. It was fun and we showed with our pace that we could have finished on the podium but for the gremlins. Still, that’s just how things go sometimes in motorsport. It was my first 24-hour race, but I enjoyed every minute of it, nevertheless. Our sister car did a great job and I can’t wait to start the European season with Grasser.”
Steijn Schothorst: “It was a tough race for us. We looked strong and were well prepared. We were definitely in the Top Five over the initial stints and posted top lap times. However, we had no chance once Franck ran into problems. The team did an incredible job of getting the car back on the road and we were very fast after that. We showed everyone that we had the pace to win overall. We really enjoyed driving and had a lot of fun despite everything. We’re now focusing on the future, as we still have a lot of races ahead of us in the USA. I’m already really looking forward to Sebring.”
GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rahel Frey/Christina Nielsen/Katherine Legge/Tatiana Calderon)
The Daytona 24 Hours looked promising over long stretches of the race for the four women in the GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19. Competing under the GEAR banner (Girl Empowerment Around Racing), the crew finished three of the four practice sessions in the Top Ten. In qualifying, however, they were unable to fully exploit their potential, finishing 14th.
In the race, though, Frey, Nielsen, Legge and Calderon acquitted well of themselves with solid pace and good strategy, which enabled them to consistently gain position. They were even in sixth place at times, but the dream of a finish in the Top Five ended five hours before the chequered flag was waved. Nielsen was forced to come to a stop on track with a technical defect, which meant that the team had no chance to carry out repairs this time and were unable to continue.
Tatiana Calderon: “Daytona was a wonderful experience for me. It was my first 24-hour race and my sports car debut. It was fantastic to experience all of this with an outfit like GEAR Racing powered by GRT Grasser and to have team-mates really experienced in this type of motor racing, plus, it was very enjoyable. The team did absolutely everything and gave us a very competitive car. It’s a shame that we couldn’t finish the race, but I want to thank everyone for their amazing support this weekend. It was just tremendous to feel that I had their backing and to have a team around me so hungry for success.”
Team Principal, Gottfried Grasser: “I’ve got mixed feelings after this weekend. Of course, we would like to have won Daytona for a third time, but you simply can’t expect things to work out every year. We had a great chance of winning with car #11, but unfortunately, it ran into technical problems as did car #19, so neither car got the result we were looking for. Nevertheless, we can be proud, because the girls turned in a terrific performance until the car broke down and the guys continued to go all out after their car was repaired. In view of these difficulties, we were obviously delighted with second place for the GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #44. They came from last place on the grid and had a great race. Hats off to Marco Mapelli, who fought hard for victory over the closing stages. It’s a pity that it was not quite enough. Still, we are very pleased for Lamborghini. This third win in a row and double victory are proof of the excellent work being done. We must now analyse exactly what caused the problems for our cars. Preparations will be starting again soon here in Florida and the first round of tests in Sebring are scheduled for the middle of February. The next highlight of the year will then take place in March. After last year’s victory, we obviously intend to repeat our success and defend the title.”