Two 24 hour races within two weeks present a huge challenge to any racing team, especially to a rather small one like the GRT Grasser Racing Team. Nevertheless, the Austrian squad is taking up the the challenge and after a fast and competitive, but also very unlucky performance at Dubai now is already looking forward to the classic 24 Hours of Daytona.
There the team will be represented by Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart and Ezequiel Companc in car number 11 and Roberto Pampanini, Mirko Pavlovic, Rolf Ineichen, Christian Engelhart and Michele Beretta in car number 61. 49-year-old Italian Pampanini, a newcomer to the team, comes from the Lamborghini Super Trofeo and is now trying to step up further in GT3 racing.
Looking back to Dubai, the weekend started very well for the Austrian squad with very promising times in free practise and P2 and P7 in Qualifying. Mirko Bortolotti put in a great lap to place the number 963 car in the front row of the 95 car grid at Dubai, while Christian Engelhart in the number 964 sister car was hamperd by a yellow flag on his fasted qualifying lap and therefore had to settle in P7.
But things should turn out even worse for the 964 car of Rolf Ineichen, Christian Engelhart, Ezequiel Companc and Adrian Amstutz. Having risen to P3, the car with Amstutz behind the wheel was involved in a heavy accident after four hours of racing, while lapping a slower competitor, the number 303 Seat, with the two cars ending on top of each other. “It was really a big crash”, said team principal Gottfried Grasser, “there was no chance of repair for us, which meant that we had to retire the car.”
Soall hopes now had to lie on car number 963 with Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Rik Breukers and Rolf and Mark Ineichen sharing driving duties. But while sucessfully trying to make up a lot of time, Rolf Ineichen also made contact with another car.” Also this car was fighting for the podium, but the necessary repairs cost us eight laps and dropped us far back to P33”, stated Grasser. “Coming from so far behind we managed very well to come back into the Top 7 until the early morning hours.” But then bad luck stroke again, as Dutch Grasser newcomer Rik Breukers recalls: “Mirko was in the car when a Mercedes spun while lapping a slower competitor and tried to rejoin the track, but while rejoining he hit our car and our race was over. There was nothing we could do to prevent this.”
No wonder that Grasser was quite heartbroken afterwards: “Such a bad weekend. We are leaving Dubai very disappointed. Our cars where so fast and able to achieve a podium, but luck wasn’t on our side in any way. That’s the bad taste of racing. But you should never give up and so we are looking forward now to the big 24 Hours of Daytona in a bit more than one week! I also want to say thank you to our drivers for their great job and mainly to our hard working team! Some very busy weeks are coming up…”
With the first big challenge now being the 24 hours of Daytona, “where we all will try again,” as Mirko Bortolotti confirms. And Christian Engelhart is quick to add:“ Sometimes in racing luck is not on your side. Let’s leave all the bad luck behind in Dubai and come back strong in Daytona!”
GRT Grasser Program in early 2017
24 Hours of Daytona
26.01.2017 – 29.01.2017
12 Hours of Sebring
16.03.2017 – 18.03.2017
Source. GRT Grasser Racing Team – Wolfgang Koepp