GRT Grasser Racing were forced to endure a roller-coaster of emotions this weekend at Oschersleben. In the ADAC GT Masters season opener, Lamborghini works drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Albert Costa Balboa did well initially as they began to do battle for the title in the International German GT Championship, securing a P2 finish for car #63. But the two of them suffered a major setback on Sunday when their Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO did not take the chequered flag in an action-packed race around Oschersleben’s 3.667-km circuit.
Various difficulties stopped their team-mates from achieving a better overall result. Franck Perera and Rolf Ineichen were on course to secure a top-class finish in the second heat, but their car with start number 19 was involved in a no-fault collision which dashed all hope of a strong result. Likewise, fortune failed to smile on Mike David Ortmann/Clemens Schmid and Tim Zimmermann/Steijn Schothorst this weekend. Zimmerman and Schothorst did indeed score points in the first race but bad luck with strategy on Sunday spoiled the chances of achieving more for both sets of drivers.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P5 – Race 1: P2
Qualifying 2: P9 – Race 2: DNF
After showing promise in the practice sessions, car number 63 suffered a setback in Q1 with Bortolotti at the wheel. A puncture put an end to the Italian driver’s hunt for pole position. Despite the incident, he ensured a solid position for the start by qualifying fifth and went on to make good use of his place well up the grid in Race 1, immediately becoming a hot contender for the lead. He gained several positions during the first stint and set the fastest lap of the race. Thanks to a successful overcut, Costa Balboa then found himself in second place after the driver swap. The Spaniard continued to push hard and ultimately crossed the finish line in P2 at the end of the 60-minute race.
However, their podium finish was not a good indicator of more success to come in Sunday’s round. Costa Balboa qualified in ninth place and was well placed once again. He gained ground in the rain at the start of Race 2 but dropped from fourth to eighth position during an action-packed restart and then became embroiled in a scrap with another competitor. Unfortunately, a contact then resulted in retirement just before the driver change. Despite their setback, Bortolotti and Costa Balboa are in sixth place in the overall standings thanks to Saturday’s podium.
Albert Costa Balboa: “Saturday’s podium was a good start, but I was very disappointed with the second race. I didn’t take too many risks initially, because mistakes can easily happen in the wet. After getting away well off the line, I got involved in a scrap and dropped back. After that, I was faster than the car in front of me and initiated a manoeuvre that had already worked previously on another competitor. Unfortunately, I got it wrong. I’m very upset about it and want to say sorry to Mirko and the team. I’m really mad with myself. We want to be championship contenders this year but will not win if we make errors like that. I’ll just have to learn from what happened so that we can come back stronger and more focused.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rolf Ineichen/Franck Perera)
Qualifying 1: P23 – Race 1: P18
Qualifying 2: P7 – Race 2: DNF
Ineichen’s and Perera’s comeback as team-mates did not go according to plan on Saturday. A stoppage during qualifying meant that Swiss driver Ineichen was unable to launch a major offensive, so he only managed to qualify 23rd on the grid. Running in 21st position, he got stuck in traffic in Race 1 on the narrow, winding racetrack. The pit stop window served to mix the field up a little, and 36-year-old Perera was able to gain position during the second stint as a result but just missed a points-scoring finish in 18th place.
Perera had an excellent showing in Sunday’s qualifying at the wheel of the best-placed Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. However, seventh place on the grid did not result in the top-class finish that Perera and Ineichen had hoped for. Lamborghini works driver Perera immediately gained three places at the start with lightning-fast reactions, but his joy was short lived. He was rear-ended by another competitor in Turn 1 and left with no chance of preventing a spin. He got stuck in the gravel as a result of the incident which brought an early end to the race for car number 19.
Franck Perera: “It was a very unfortunate weekend for our car, but we mustn’t forget the positives. We worked well together and showed decent pace overall. We could have achieved a lot on Sunday. Qualifying was good and I had a great start, gaining three positions straightaway. I was hit from behind in the first corner and couldn’t do much about it, but that’s just how it goes sometimes in racing. It’s a shame that we were unable to secure a good result, but this was only the opener. We’ll have plenty more chances to make up for it later. Luck will be on our side next time out, hopefully.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Tim Zimmermann/Steijn Schothorst)
Qualifying 1: P16 – Race 1: P14
Qualifying 2: P23 – Race 2: P21
Lamborghini Juniors Schothorst and Zimmermann had high hopes as they started the weekend, but the opener to the new season was hard on them. Zimmermann was only able to qualify 16th after being forced to ease off by the red flags. He worked his way up to eleventh place and into the points during the first stint of Saturday’s race. However, a safety car period just after the driver handover subsequently made life difficult for Dutchman Schothorst. He fell back to 14th position in the turbulent midfield but managed to limit the damage for the crew of car #82 with a points-scoring result.
A tough qualifying session on Sunday meant that they were left facing another big challenge. In Race 2, Schothorst immediately gained position from P23 and set his sights on a finish in the points. He was already in 17th position by the end of the first lap but became stuck in traffic, so the team decided to go for the undercut just as the pit stop window was opening, but luck was not on their side following the driver change. There was a safety car period after 23-year-old Zimmermann had taken over in the car, which benefited all of the teams out in front but cost him the position they had fought so hard to secure and he had to settle for 21st place at the finish.
Tim Zimmermann: “We were a bit down on pace all weekend and struggled to find the reason for that. Still, I could have done more in Q1 had it not been for all the yellow and red flags getting in the way. We know the potential is there. Steijn and I proved it last year, and things went really well for me this winter. It just wasn’t meant to be this time around, but still, we won’t let it get us down. We’ll learn from this setback and do everything we can to do better in the next race.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #16 (Clemens Schmid/Mike David Ortmann)
Qualifying 1: P20 – Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P19 – Race 2: P16
Newcomer Ortmann made a successful debut in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with fifth place in Trophy practice, but Q1 did not go as expected with grid slot 20 for the Italian GT3 car as a result of the red flags coming out. The German driver of car number 16 found himself stuck in the midfield during the race, and the pit stops did not benefit the team either. After the driver swap, Austrian driver Schmid in P20 was able to become fully engaged in the race action once again but was forced to retire early after sustaining damage while battling to catch up with the drivers in the points.
Schmid and Ortmann were faced with even more ups and downs the following day and had a tough task ahead of them again after qualifying 19th. During the early stages of the second race, Schmid gained a great many positions amidst the chaos of the midfield and kept alive their chances of scoring points with an error-free drive. 21-year-old Ortmann produced a strong performance after the driver handover as he moved up the field into P8. However, bolting on wet weather tyres for the second stint of the race turned out to be the wrong call, causing him to drop back down the field on the drying track. After switching to slicks late in the race, he was then literally torpedoed by another competitor. Ortmann and Schmid came home in 16th place and just narrowly missed the points despite the chaos.
Clemens Schmid: “Our speed was terrific all weekend, but we were unlucky in both qualifying sessions. The red flags stopped Mike’s progress, and I was permanently stuck in traffic due to being unfavourably placed out on track. Still, we were heading for the points in Race 1 until a problem brought us to a halt. The car was lightning quick again on Saturday and we gained a lot of places once more, which is testament to the Lamborghini’s incredible potential. It’s a pity, but our gamble with wet weather tyres didn’t work out, unfortunately, but still, I felt good as we left Oschersleben and I’m really looking forward to our home fixture at the Red Bull Ring. We’ll do better there!”
Mike David Ortmann: “We had a run of bad luck at the start and used up all of our bad luck for the season in one go, more or less. The car’s pace was good but we were always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I could have been close to the Top Ten in Q1, for sure, which would have made for an excellent debut, but getting ahead is not easy when you start the race way down the field and become caught up in the scraps. Sunday was absolute chaos. Our hot laps in the quali were ruined several times. Clemens had an excellent showing to begin with during the second round in changeable conditions, but unfortunately, our tactics did not pay off. It was a lottery, so we’ve nothing to blame ourselves for. Things could just as easily have gone our way. Despite everything that’s happened, we can still feel optimistic about the future given the package we’ve got, and I’m already really looking forward to our home fixture, coming up next in Austria.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “Mirko and Albert had a really terrific race on Saturday. Securing a podium again at last was very important for the entire team, as it showed just what we’re capable of when everything goes according to plan. Sunday, on the other hand, was a complete mess. It was very disappointing to come away empty-handed with all four cars. We expected a lot more after our strong start, but everything went against us, which is a real pity. Clemens did an amazing job, moving up into ninth place. Unfortunately, we were dealt a bad hand when we gambled with tyres and switched to slicks too late. Mike David’s lap times were then super, matching those of the front-runners, but unfortunately, we just missed the points. Our other cars were just as unlucky. Still, the potential is there, and I’m pretty confident that we’ll soon be on an upward trend. We intend to push hard to achieve that in the next race, our home fixture at the Red Bull Ring. We’re all really looking forward to it.”