GRT Grasser Racing had another excellent showing in the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship one week ago. However, despite their best efforts, the team from Austria were denied their second triumph in the legendary 12 Hours of Sebring when the #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO crashed out of contention after just over three hours of racing. Tim Zimmermann’s best time in qualifying remained the weekend’s highlight after the hard knock ending Saturday’s main event.
Lamborghini Junior Zimmermann set the fastest lap in the highly competitive GTD class on Friday, thus throwing down the gauntlet for GRT Grasser Racing in their fight for victory. However, Zimmermann and team-mates Franck Perera and Stephen Simpson remained in pole position for only a short time. Their GT3 car had been found to have an active wifi hotspot in violation of telemetry rules, so the three drivers were consigned to the back of the grid.
Still, the team soon forgot their disappointment as the race got underway on Saturday morning at 10:00 am local time. After standing in at short notice just before the weekend for regular crew member Misha Goikhberg, who was unwell, South African driver Simpson used the performance of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO to good advantage during the first stint at the Sebring International Raceway, gradually working his way up the field. He quickly adapted to the new GT3 sports car despite not having had much time for practice and showed good pace while keeping up with the competition.
After the driver change, Zimmermann subsequently unleashed the full potential of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO and re-established the connection to the front-runners by posting a whole string of fastest lap times. A little later, however, on Lap 92, progress up the field came to an abrupt end when a problem forced Lamborghini works driver Perera out of the race. The Frenchman crashed out while braking for Turn 3. The severe damage sustained made it impossible for him to continue.
GRT Grasser Racing will get a chance to make amends in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship taking place May 14th-16th when the first round of the Sprint Cup will be run on the famous Mid-Ohio racetrack. Prior to that, though, the Austrian outfit’s Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs will contest the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup and the ADAC GT Masters in Europe in April and May as the first races on home turf are staged.
Franck Perera: “I rarely have accidents and crashing like that didn’t feel at all nice. Unfortunately, these things happen. My back is still causing me pain at the moment, but my physio will soon sort that out. Anyway, I would prefer to focus on the positives from the weekend, as we’ve made huge progress as a team since Daytona. We prepared well during testing. The car was excellent and extremely fast. My team-mates did a great job. Stephen was competitive right from the start despite not having had any experience at all of racing GT3s and that spurs us on even more for the rest of the season. I would like to thank GRT Grasser Racing and Lamborghini Squadra Corse for all their efforts at Sebring. We’ll be back.”
Tim Zimmermann: “We had an excellent test to begin with and learned much that was important as regards setup. Preparations went really well, which obviously paid off over the weekend. Our pace was terrific throughout. Posting best time in qualifying felt absolutely incredible. After all, the 12 Hours of Sebring are not just any old race. Unfortunately, we were out of luck again this time. It’s a shame we were forced to retire, because we were in with an excellent chance of securing victory. We just need to look to the future now. I’m sure the team will get to the root of the problem. The main thing is that Franck is OK and we can attack again next time.”
Stephen Simpson: “It sure has been a hectic weekend. It was only on Wednesday morning that I heard I would be standing in for Misha. It was my first time in a GT3 car after having driven prototypes all these years previously, so I was on a steep learning curve. I would like to thank everyone in the outfit and all my team mates for making it real easy for me to settle in. Franck and Tim were very helpful and the engineers gave me all the information I needed to get up to pace. I felt very comfortable in the Lamborghini during the race. The car was great to drive, and but for the incident, we would definitely have had a fighting chance of taking the win in the end. Still, these things happen in motor racing. I’m just relieved that Franck is okay.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “We started out with high expectations but experienced another setback in Sebring, unfortunately. We must now take time out to analyse the data at our leisure and find out what caused the problem. We’re mighty relieved that nothing happened to Franck. This outcome of the race is a real shame, because everyone in the team did a top job. We quickly moved up from last to third place after being stripped of pole position. Tim showed fantastic pace in qualifying and Stephen was immediately on the ball despite having had little time to prepare and did a great job. The same applies to all the mechanics, our engineers and to the crew, who did an excellent job as well. The win was ours for the taking. It hurts, but what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Fresh challenges await us in Europe. We’re extremely motivated and are really looking forward to the season ahead.”