Returning to the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup proved to be tough for GRT Grasser Racing last weekend. After a year’s absence, the Austrian outfit lined up for the Monza opener with an all new crew at the wheel of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. In a race marked by very poor weather, the two Lamborghini Juniors Tim Zimmermann and Kikko Galbiati, together with team-mate Clemens Schmid, secured twelfth place in the Silver Cup in a highly competitive field with some 43 GT3 cars in all.
As they prepared for the first of five events scheduled this season, the three GTWC rookies comfortably secured a position in the midfield in the number 16 Lamborghini. In Thursday’s official tests, they booked P18 overall, giving them fifth place in the Silver Cup. This may be their first appearance in this top-class endurance series, but after finishing seventh in practice on Saturday morning, the three drivers showed that they were ahead of the game on their steep learning curve by claiming second position in class in pre-qualifying shortly afterwards.
Qualifying on Sunday morning was not without its problems despite their good progress. Austrian driver Schmid had to bed in the new brakes on the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO in Q1 after red flags had prevented the team from doing so in the session previously. As a result, he lost a couple of laps before he was able to set a competitive time. He improved consistently despite the difficult task. He qualified eighth in the Silver Cup setting his best time on his final attempt.
In the second 15-minute qualifying segment, 24-year-old Zimmermann improved on his team-mate’s lap by three-tenths of a second, thus setting the fastest time for the car with start number 16 in this session. He finished seventh in Q2. Italian driver Galbiati took the wheel for Q3, the final segment, and came tenth in the Silver Cup in the strongest qualifying group. Taking the aggregate of results overall, that translated into 28th on the grid for the team in the three-hour race.
The start at 3:00 pm local time went smoothly for 30-year-old Schmid. He gained a few positions over the first lap and was 23rd. Shortly afterwards, the heavens opened over Monza. Schmid’s progress was impeded by the difficult conditions. A little later, he pitted from P21, but the safety car came out at an inopportune moment, bumping GRT Grasser Racing back down the field.
After a little over an hour, 22-year-old Galbiati took his turn at the wheel in 31st place. However, a technical problem during the pit stop meant that the team were lapped by the field. He worked his way back up again on the drying track and handed over to Zimmermann for the last stint of the race during the second switch of drivers. After completing the full race distance, the German crossed the finish line in twelfth place in the Silver Cup and was 27th overall.
Following on from Monza, GRT Grasser Racing Team will contest the next round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, May 28th-29th, at Circuit Paul Ricard which has gained fame for staging the French round of Formula 1. Prior to that, however, the team will see action at two other legendary venues with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO, as the season opener of the ADAC GT Masters at Oschersleben and the third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in Mid-Ohio are scheduled for the weekend of May 14th-16th.
Tim Zimmermann: “It was a very tough first weekend in the GT World Challenge with a great deal for us to learn. For my part, I have to say that tyre blankets were something I’d never had never expierenced until this weekend. Exploiting the peak of the tyre in qualifying was not easy, and the race itself was much more intense than I’d expected for an endurance round. Basically, it was a sprint race lasting several hours where you were constantly on the limit. Unfortunately, we didn’t get tyre pressures dead right for my stint, which is why I found it difficult to get up to speed and little things just kept cropping up here and there that made life difficult for us. Still, we learned a huge amount and must now ensure that we put it all into practice in the future.”
Clemens Schmid: “Unfortunately, the start didn’t go quite as hoped. Since I’d been unable to bed in the brakes during qualifying, I couldn’t utilise the tyre’s optimal performance over the first few laps, which was a shame, but we made the best of it. I got off to a great start in the race, but unfortunately, we were just unlucky later during the safety car period and then the driver handover went wrong, leaving us with no other option but to draw a line under the weekend. Fortunately, test outings for the ADAC GT Masters are on the following week’s schedule, so we can quickly turn our attention to the next task in hand.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “We had hoped before the weekend to finish a little further ahead in the Silver Cup. In the end, our boys had a lot to learn, and it was always par for the course that our crew of three rookies would be on a steep learning curve. None of them had ever driven in a race series with pre-warmed tyres before. These little details can make a huge difference and we’re now going to have to work on getting them right before the next event. We know for a fact that Tim, Clemens and Kikko are very skilled and I’m pretty certain that at Le Castellet, they will bring into play what they’ve just learned and we should see a big improvement there. For the team, the focus now is on preparing for the ADAC GT Masters which started this week with test sessions at Oschersleben. This year, we’ll have four cars in the line-up for the first time and we’re really looking forward to the challenge!”