In the end it was not the podium finish everyone in the team had hoped for, but at least the Grasser Racing Team was able to leave Misano with the first points scored: Not everything went according to plan for the Austrian squad at the first race of the Blancpain-GT-Sprintseries in Italy, but at least even after a few unlucky incidents the team got confirmation of having the speed to compete at the top of the field.
Already the qualifying race on Saturday turned out to be ever so eventful: Immediately after the start a huge crash occurred at the back of the field, with the Grasser car number 19 driven by Norbert Siedler one of the helpless victims. “The guy did not have the slightest chance of avoiding to get involved in the mess”, team principal Gottfried Grasser had to state. Siedler himself of course was very disappointed, especially as the damage to the Lamborghini Huracán turned out to be too severe to allow a start in the main race on Sunday. “I imagined a slightly different start with Gottfried and the team, but unfortunately this is part of racing”, the Austrian said. “We had a few technical problems over the weekend which meant we never managed to get some proper running in – hence the low grid position. The earlier test at Misano had been really promising, so we came here thinking we could really do something… But now everyone has to look forward to the future and we have to get a better grid position in the next races to be out of the regions where crashes are most likely.”
Things seemed to go much more according to plan for the Grasser Lamborghini number 63: Mirko Bortolotti immediately climbed up to P4 from P6 on the grid, and after the race being red flagged and re-started due to the early crash even managed to improve to P2 behind the leading HTP-Mercedes. An early stop for driver change immediately after the opening of the pitstop window for once did not get rewarded: After everything being sorted again, Christian Engelhart found himself in P4 with a McLaren pushing hard close behind. Nevertheless P4 seemed to be rather safe until during the last lap of the race a backmarker got in the way of the two fighting front runners and involved them both in a crash: “I think it´s really sad that somebody already lapped gets herself involved into a championship fight for top positions”, Grasser was quite annoyed, after Engelhart at least still managed to bring the car home in P8 after the incident.
But bad luck continued during the main race: Christian Engelhart held P7 when he was spun around frim behind: Mercedes driver Fabian Schiller got it completely wrong when trying to overtake a BMW racing close behind Engelhart and hit the Lamborghini. He later got a drive-through penalty for the offence, but this did not really help the Grasser squad to undo the damage already done: Engelhart dropped back to P13, “and afterwards we really had to play catch up. Mirko Bortolotti still managed to bring the car back to P9, “but without the incident a Top 5 finish would have been possible”, Engelhart was adamant. “It was not an easy weekend, but with a great team effort we managed to collect a few championship points. A win was out of reach this weekend, but we will go for it again already at Monza.” Bortolotti was also convinced “that for sure we deserved more than the two points we finally scored. With my personal performance over the weekend I am very happy. Let´s keep working, I am optimistic for the season.”
Also, Gottfried Grasser tried to take the positive notes from the weekend: “At least in the end we scored some points. That´s something that really counts, as last year at this track we did not even reach the Top 25, now we are in the Top Ten – that´s some progress. Of course all the incedents were quite annoying, especially it´s really a pity for Ezequiel Companc, that he did not even get the chance to race at all at his start of the season. But I have to praise the team, the guys put in all-nighters nearly every day. Their performance is unbelievable. Thanks a lot for this! And now – heads up and just going on! There is a long season ahead of us, we got the first points and I am looking forward to Monza, as track that suits us well!”
But before the start of the Blancpain-GT-Endurance Series at Monza at 22nd and 23rd of April there will be another event for the Grasser Racing Team at their Austrian home turf: At the Red Bull-Ring the team will take part in the 12 hour race, which belongs to the Creventis Endurance Series, with two cars. In car number 964 in the A6-Pro category Christian Engelhart and Swiss brothers Rolf and Mark Ineichen will share drivers´duties, while car number 963 in A6-Am class will see Milos Pavlovic, Christoph Lenz and Roberto Pampanini behind the wheel.
GRT Grasser Racing Team – Wolfgang Koepp
GRT Grasser Program – next races
12h Red Bull Ring / 3. Creventic Series
07.04. – 08.04.
Monza / 2. Blancpain GT Endurance Series
22.04. – 23.04.
Oschersleben / 1. ADAC GT Masters
28.04. – 30.04.
24h Paul Ricard / 4. Creventic Series
05.05. – 07.05.
Source. GRT Grasser Racing Team – Wolfgang Koepp