GRT Grasser Racing really lived up to their reputations as local heroes in Spielberg at the weekend during the second round of the ADAC GT Masters when the team from Knittelfeld were on impressive form once more with their four Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs. As the 9,000 fans allowed through the gates watched on, the team had an excellent showing in the two highly competitive races at the Red Bull Ring, producing strong pace and showing an ability to win through. With three Top Five results, GRT Grasser Racing improved to take second place in both the drivers’ and team standings.
Lamborghini works drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Albert Costa Balboa were the highlight of the show. After Bortolotti’s best time in qualifying, they secured their second podium of the current season in Saturday’s race. Franck Perera and Rolf Ineichen opened the account with two strong results, narrowly missing the podium on Sunday. Swiss driver Ineichen secured two wins in the Trophy class. Local heroes Clemens Schmid and Max Hofer also achieved points-scoring results in the championship along with team-mates Mike David Ortmann and Tim Zimmermann.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P1 – Race 1: P2
Qualifying 2: P6 – Race 2: P4
Bortolotti threw down the gauntlet in Q1 with a fabulous lap, demonstrating that the team meant business in their home round. The Italian took his fourth pole position in the ADAC GT Masters with the fastest lap time of any of the 27 GT3 cars in the field, but his joy was short-lived. He and team-mate Costa Balboa had to tackle the first race from sixth on the grid because of a penalty handed out at Oschersleben. However, neither of them allowed that to discourage them and put their pace to good use once again in the race. Bortolotti made up two positions in the first stint, showing great skill with his overtaking manoeuvre for fourth place. Following a strong overcut by the Italian, Costa Balboa gained another position to cross the finish line in second place after 60 minutes.
The 31-year-old Spaniard secured sixth position in qualifying for Sunday’s second race, taking the same grid spot as the duo had done the day before. From the third row of the grid, the only thing left for him and Bortolotti to do was to push forward once again. Costa Balboa fought his way up into fifth position during the first stint with some fine overtaking moves. A small mistake immediately after a safety car period dropped him back down to ninth place just before it was Bortolotti’s turn to drive. The 31-year-old took no prisoners during a no-holds barred second stint and secured another top result with fourth place.
Albert Costa Balboa: “It was a very positive weekend for us with two top-five results. We are now second in the championship after even managing to take points out of the leaders in the second race, which is very important. I was really pleased with my podium in the first round. Unfortunately on Sunday, I made a small mistake that cost us two places, but Mirko had a great stint and made up for it. It’s a pity, but it wasn’t quite enough for the win. Still, we won’t have quite so much success ballast in the next race, which will be an advantage. The most important thing this weekend was that we again showed consistency and were on the ball, which really matters in the fight for the title. I feel pretty confident that we can continue to operate at this level for the rest of the season.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rolf Ineichen/Franck Perera)
Qualifying 1: P7 – Race 1: P7
Qualifying 2: P4 – Race 2: P5
The drivers and crew of car #19 were on top form right from the start at the famous 4.32km circuit in Styria. Once again, Ineichen confirmed his reputation as one of the best Silver Class drivers in GT3 sport by securing P7 in Q1. However, he lost two positions at the start but maintained the connection with their rivals until drivers changed places with a supreme display of driving. Lamborghini works driver Perera tirelessly continued the fight during the second stint and retook seventh place which is where they finished, thus claiming their first championship points of the season and victory for Ineichen in the Trophy class.
37-year-old French driver Perera seamlessly continued their fine performance in Q2 on Sunday by finishing fourth after moving up one position during the opening stages of the race. 43-year-old Ineichen showed his class by posting laps on a par with the front-runners after the driver swap. He pulled out a comfortable lead over his pursuers until the field was neutralised and bunched up together again. At the restart, he was attacked by a rival driver with a big top speed advantage. Ineichen bravely tried to fend him off through several corners but ultimately had to admit defeat. Just before the finish line, he showed his worth as a team player by allowing Bortolotti through, who is better placed in the overall standings. Another victory and the lead in the Trophy standings went some way to making up for missing the podium, however.
Franck Perera: “Spielberg was very important to all of us and we can be really satisfied with the results. We scored a lot of points towards the championship. Both rounds went well for Rolf and me. He drove a fantastic race and had the pace for the podium on Sunday. It’s a pity that we missed it because of the safety car period, but that’s all part and parcel of the sport. Ultimately, the positives outweigh the negatives for us. We were quick and were top contenders. We have the entire GRT Grasser Racing team and Lamborghini Squadra Corse to thank for making it possible with their hard work. The season still has a long way to go and we intend to continue in the same vein.”
Rolf Ineichen: “The home race is always something very special for the team and we were well prepared. I had a good qualifying with seventh place on Saturday and was delighted with the result in the first race. Franck set us up for a podium on Sunday with a great performance in qualifying and a terrific start. I felt very comfortable in the car during my stint and was battling for second position until the safety car came out just before the end. I’ve got mixed feelings about missing third place. A podium would have been terrific, but still, we should be very satisfied despite everything. Everyone in the team showed their full commitment on both days. I want to say a big thank you to all the guys and gals who made it possible for us to compete up front.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #16 (Clemens Schmid/Mike David Ortmann)
Qualifying 1: P11 – Race 1: P17
Qualifying 2: P15 – Race 2: P11
Driving the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO, newcomer Mike David Ortmann showed a sharp rise in form during Q1. The German missed the Top Ten on his hot lap by the tiniest of margins, a mere five hundredths of a second. Despite being in a strong position at the start, Saturday’s race ended without points for him and team-mate Clemens Schmid. After an action-packed first stint, the Austrian took over the car lying in 13th position, but the stewards handed them a penalty for making a mistake during a pit stop, causing them to drop out of the points.
In qualifying on Sunday, Schmid discovered for himself just how high the level of performance in the ADAC GT Masters actually is. Coming 15th, he was only a tenth of a second down on a place in the Top Ten. He promptly made good at the beginning of the second race, but the race stewards decided that he had to hand back the positions won during an action-packed start. Schmid began pushing for a second time and managed to re-establish the connection to the Top Ten. After the driver handover, Ortmann in eleventh place secured their second finish of the season in the points.
Clemens Schmid: “I would just like to say thank you to everyone in the team. The start of the weekend wasn’t easy, but they all worked extremely hard on sorting out the setup. We had a sensational car in the race. Unfortunately, my qualifying didn’t quite go according to plan on Sunday. I gained six places at the start, but the race stewards bumped me back down again for the restart. I don’t quite understand why, because other drivers overtook just the same in Turn 1 but kept their positions. Nevertheless, we had a good race after that and were heading back into the Top Ten when we swapped drivers. We fought hard for our P11 and achieved a fine result in the end.”
Mike David Ortmann: “The weekend went very well for us overall. We gained some important insights and really got going just in the nick of time after some intensive work on setup. The car was well sorted for Saturday and Sunday. The penalty in the first race was very annoying and not entirely justified either in my opinion, but there’s no point in getting upset in such situations. It’s inevitable in motorsport. The main thing is that with our pace, we were able to get into the Top Ten. Our goal is to build on that and take the next step forwards in Zandvoort. I feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to produce even better results very soon.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Tim Zimmermann/Max Hofer)
Qualifying 1: P16 – Race 1: P14
Qualifying 2: P23 – Race 2: DNF
Spielberg did not bring the success expected for the fourth pairing in the ranks of Team GRT Grasser Racing. Lamborghini Junior Tim Zimmermann was sharing the cockpit of car #82 with 22-year old Austrian Max Hofer for the first time, who had a solid debut with grid slot 16 in Q1. In the first race, he was running eleventh for a time. After the driver handover, Zimmermann did very well with lap times on a par with those of the leading group of drivers, but shortly afterwards, this pairing was penalised for a pit stop infringement and dropped down the ranks as a result. Nevertheless, they scored two championship points for 14th place.
Things did not work out quite as planned either for 24-year-old Zimmermann in Q2. After qualifying 23rd, it was apparent that he could not repeat his outstanding performance from the previous year, when he took pole position at the Red Bull Ring. After this setback, unfortunately, his fighting spirit in Sunday’s race was not about to be rekindled, as he was taken out by another competitor during the jockeying for position at the start. The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO was too badly damaged to continue.
Tim Zimmermann: “I’m just really disappointed. The overall package simply wasn’t right even though everyone did a really good job. To be forced to retire so early in the second race was extremely frustrating. It was pretty tight in Turn 3. I took a hit and was unable to carry on as a result. Maybe I could have done more in view of all the safety car periods, but that’s just how things are sometimes in motor racing. There’ll be other chances.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “Our home race in Spielberg is always the best time of the season for us, especially with such a big line-up. Competing here in the ADAC GT Masters with four cars has been a real highlight, but the very best thing is that we were able to welcome spectators back to the track. It gave us all a feeling of normality, being able to go out on the grid and see the stands well-filled once more. There was real life in the pit-lane again. It was just wonderful. Also, we were really pleased with the terrific support we’ve been getting for our local heroes from the Spielberg area and the Red Bull Ring. What’s even nicer is that we’ve had an excellent weekend from a sporting perspective too. With two top results in the championship, Mirko and Albert have established the connection with the leaders. They showed great pace. And things have finally improved for car number 19 after the difficult start in Oschersleben. Rolf has done an extraordinarily good job. His qualifying on Saturday was mega and his lap times in the race were just first class. He and Franck really deserved to finish on the podium on Sunday.Then on the other side of the garage, our juniors have once again made great progress. Mike David and Clemens are knocking on the door of the Top Ten and I’m sure they’ll get there very soon. On the other hand, I feel sorry for the guys in our starting number 82. Things just didn’t go right for them. In the first race, their fastest lap was on a par with Mirko’s, showing that they have the pace to do even more. Tim and Max must keep looking ahead and continue to push and should then move up the ranks again – hopefully, at Zandvoort. Bring it on! We’re approaching the next round with tremendous optimism and are still to secure our first win of the season.”