The curtain came down on a thrilling 2018 Blancpain GT Series this weekend at the famous Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, giving the GRT Grasser Racing Team a well-deserved 3rd place finish in the championship.
Earlier in the weekend, the qualifying session was red-flagged twice for two separate incidents, losing at least 30 minutes of track running time out of the 90-minute session. That hampered the teams session in Q2, both the #63 and #19 cars were not able to set a lap time. Unfortunately, as a result – P48 and P49 was the maximum position for the start grid.
When the lights went out to signal the start of the 3-hour race, over 50 cars accelerated off the line to get the race underway. The #63 and Bortolotti pounced on their competition, putting in some brave wheel-to-wheel racing, whilst climbing through the pack to a fantastic 22nd place, all within the first hour, pulling off some strong overtaking. After handing the #63 over to Caldarelli, who also showed strong performance, who placed the car up in to P13. The race settled down in the middle hour and when Engelharttook over the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 he emerged in 13rd place for the final stint.
Over to the sister car, Giammaria in car #19 showed clear intentions from lights out. The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 launched off the line battling his way through the grid in the early stages of the race, moving up the order to P25 overall, after almost starting on the last row of the grid. Companc improved that position after the hand-over and then placed the car up in to P13. By the end of three exhilarating hours of racing, Mapelli crossed the finish line in a fantastic P5 – a well-fought race for the team and an astonishing finish over-taking some 45 cars.
Car #82 of Franck Perera, Rolf Ineichen and Phil Keen delivered good qualifying performance with a session best of 9th place, after such a limited session on track. Perera was at the wheel of the #82 for the start of the race and dropped the car five places before handing over to Ineichen. Moments later, an unfortunate incident with #8 Bentley, forced him to retire.
Despite a very difficult year for the GRT Grasser Racing Team, an amazing 3rd place finish in the 2018 Team Championship is a worthy end to the season.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 #63 (Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Andrea Caldarelli)
Race: P12nd (1:47.273), 92 laps
Mirko Bortolotti: “I qualified in P2 in Qualifying 1 with a great lap, but unfortunately we had to start from P47 for what happened to us in Qualifying 2. I drove the car at the start of the race and had a great first stint getting into the top 20. Unfortunately, our last pitstop was too short, so once again we had a drive through penalty, which stripped us from a sensational result. We’ve got to learn from it as a team and avoid today’s Qualifying and Race mistakes in the future.”
Andrea Caldarelli: “Again it was unfortunate weekend. We were really unlucky in Qualifying 2 and couldn’t set up any lap times, because of the two red flags in my both laps. This basically compromised our weekend. We started from P48 and managed to finish in P13. Mirko did a mega stint, then unfortunately we lost 5 secs on the pitstop because we had car damage. Anyway, I was able to take the second stint and we got back to P12. The car wasn’t perfect because of this damage, but I’m very happy with my stint. I made some good overtakes. Then we had got a drive-through penalty for leaving the pit too early on Christian’s stint. Again, it’s not the result we wanted, but at least we did a very good recovery race. It’s a pity to finish the season like this but we will try again in the next year.”
Christian Engelhart: “It’s been a race like this season, full of up’s and down’s. In the end we displayed our fighting spirit today even if we didn’t make it to the podium. Anyway I want to thank all that were involved for this season, my partners, my family and especially the GRT team for all the effort this year. We had some tough races, but we also managed to win races and we were always there to put up a fight against all odds.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 #82 (Franck Perera, Rolf Ineichen, Phil Keen)
Franck Perera: “It’s quite disappointing, but at the same time I’m quite happy about the weekend’s performance. I think we showed improvement with the car and the lineup. Today we had a good starting position. I made a really good start and was happy about my stint. I jumped to P7 and then to P5 and had to fight with the leaders. Then Rolf did everything he could, but unfortunately Bentley again did what they did. It’s a shame, because we deserved to be on the podium. But this is racing. I’m happy that we took the 3rdplace in the Team Championship. Now we are looking forward to the next year.”
Phil Keen: “We had a good Qualifying session, considering the dramas at the track. We qualified in P9. We were quite strong and expected to finish in the top five. It’s a great shame that Rolf got hit by the Bentley and unfortunately the race was over for us. Rolf improved a lot during the last year and now we are looking forward to the next year.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 #19 (Ezequiel Perez Companc, Raffaele Giammaria, Marco Mapelli)
Race: P5th (1:47.273), 92 laps
Ezequiel Perez Companc: “I’m very happy, it was fantastic! We were very unlucky in Qualifying and couldn’t do a lap in Q2. It was a shame, because we could have been in the top 10. Then Raffaele made a rocket start and a mega job throughout. He overtook 14 cars in the first lap. Then I took the car in P13 and finally Marco finished in P5. I couldn’t be happier for the team and my teammates. It was an amazing finish on the year and I cannot be happier. Thank you.”
Raffaele Giammaria: “What a fantastic race, even if the start position wasn’t good. I made a good start and to be honest I think I’ve been very lucky, because I found some spots on the track where to pass and overtook many cars without any risks. Then I had a little contact with Mirko, where I lost two positions. I am a little bit disappointed about that, but it is the race, but I did make a very good recovery. Ezequiel did an amazing job too. And then, in my opinion, Marko finished one of the best races in the year and the best in two years that I’ve raced for the GRT. Fantastic job!”
Marco Mapelli: “We had a very unlucky Qualifying session but eventually gained 45 positions, which is for sure a big win for us! Everybody did their own job, team and drivers. We were lucky to avoid any contact and our pace was strong until the finish. So I’m very happy to finish the season on a high.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing