The GRT Grasser Racing Team arrived for their home fixture at the Red Bull Ring last weekend in resolute mood. After being deprived of a first victory in the 2020 ADAC GT Masters, the team were looking for payback on the fifth weekend of the Super Sports Car League. On the historic Spielberg race track, less than ten kilometres from team headquarters in Knittelfeld, the crews of the three Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs once again showed indomitable spirit.
This time, it was Lamborghini Juniors Steijn Schothorst and Tim Zimmermann who elicited the biggest cheers from Gottfried Grasser and the team. The youngsters claimed pole position in both qualifying sessions on the 4.32km circuit in the Styrian Alps. In the two races, Lamborghini works drivers Franck Perera and Albert Costa Balboa delivered top results with a P4 on Saturday and a P3 on Sunday. In the team classification, GRT Grasser Racing made up ground on the championship leaders and are now only 23 points behind in fifth place.
Meanwhile, another of the GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs was excelling on the other side of the Atlantic this weekend. In the ten-hour Petit Le Mans, a component race of the American WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, GRT Magnus secured a podium at Road Atlanta thanks to the efforts of Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly who finished third in the GTD class.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Franck Perera / Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P6 – Race 1: P4
Qualifying 2: P9 – Race 2: P3
After the massive disappointment of a disallowed victory at the Sachsenring, Franck Perera went into the Red Bull Ring weekend with a point to prove. In the first qualifying session, the 36-year-old Frenchman booked a solid starting position for Saturday’s race with sixth place on the grid. As fans have come to expect, he and Costa Balboa sharing the number 63 car made progress over the 60-minute duration, only narrowly missing out on a podium in P4.
Costa Balboa drove a strong second qualifying on Sunday and missed pole position by just one and a half tenths of a second. In the exceptionally tight field of 30 GT3 cars contesting the 2020 ADAC GT Masters, this small deficit earned only a P9 start. The 30-year-old Spaniard and team-mate Perera again made a determined charge through the field, eventually crossing the line in a Top Five position. Retrospective penalties imposed on two of their opponents bumped the Lamborghini factory drivers up to third place. The Spielberg weekend has advanced the duo to fifth place in the overall standings.
Franck Perera: “After the disappointment of the Sachsenring, this weekend has turned out a lot better for us. We were not totally satisfied with the qualifying sessions, but we battled hard as usual and had two really good races. The results were very important for the overall standings. We still think we’re in with a chance of winning the title, and we will pull out all the stops in the last two events. The team and Lamborghini are doing an incredible job. We had a successful home race and are looking forward to the next one. Albert and I will be going flat out until the last lap of this championship.”
Albert Costa Balboa: “The podium was obviously a very nice surprise. I only found out about it at the airport on my way home, but of course I hadn’t forgotten that the Porsche had overtaken me on the outside at the start, ignoring the track limits. That was not legal, and the penalty was justified. To be back in the Top Three after the frustration of recent weekends is a good feeling. The pace of the car was insanely good; I am very proud of the team, of Lamborghini and of Franck. We will try to finish the season as near the front as possible.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Steijn Schothorst / Tim Zimmermann)
Qualifying 1: P1 – Race 1: P7
Qualifying 2: P1 – Race 2: P9
Saturday began with another bravura performance from Steijn Schothorst. The 26-year-old Dutchman set the fastest time in the first qualifying session on a drying track, securing an ADAC GT Masters pole position for the second time, the first one having come at Hockenheim. At the start, he was swamped by opponents exploiting the BoP advantage. Following the driver change, Zimmermann hung on to seventh place through to the chequered flag.
The 24-year-old rookie had his own big moment in the second qualifying session on Sunday morning, when he booked a maiden ADAC GT Masters pole position. It was the third pole of the current season for car number 82 – indeed, no other driver pairing has started from P1 more often. The race start proved to be difficult for Zimmermann as well, and he quickly dropped back to the tail end of the Top Ten. By the time they saw the chequered flag, the duo had fought their way back up to sixth position. A time penalty for straying outside track limits ultimately meant ninth place. Zimmermann’s P2 and P4 in the Junior classification have further extended his lead in this championship for drivers under 25 years.
Steijn Schothorst: “Our pace was great, and the team did a fantastic job. We knew that we would have a hard time on this track, yet we still managed to be fast. It goes to show how well we work together and how we are constantly improving. Two pole positions on a single weekend is something I’ve never experienced before. We can be very proud of that. In the race, it was unfortunately impossible to keep the opposition at bay with the prevailing Balance of Performance. In the end, though, and even with the penalty, we had two strong results. We are consistently matching the front runners for pace, and I am sure that’s something we can build on and have two very good final weekends.”
Tim Zimmermann: “I am very satisfied. To qualify in pole position twice in the team’s home fixture is something very special, and so is my first pole in the ADAC GT Masters. Steijn and I have shown again that we have what it takes to compete at the highest level. In the races, we had obviously been hoping for more, especially with the good starting positions, but under the circumstances, victory was unfortunately never going to happen. The penalty in the second race was annoying, but we’re taking the positives away with us. We are competitive in qualifying as well as in the races themselves, and I have extended my championship lead in the Junior classification.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Clemens Schmid / Niels Lagrange)
Qualifying 1: P12 – Race 1: P9
Qualifying 2: P15 – Race 2: DNF
After two problematic weekends at Hockenheim and the Sachsenring, Clemens Schmid and Niels Lagrange returned to form in Austria with a strong performance. ADAC GT Masters newcomer Lagrange posted his best qualifying result of the season on Saturday, booking twelfth on the grid for the number 19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. In the race itself, the Belgian advanced to tenth position before handing the car over to Schmid. The Tyrolean gained one further position and ensured the duo’s best result of the season with a P9 finish.
On Sunday, things did not go according to plan for the 30-year-old local favourite. He qualified some way back in 15th, three and a half tenths adrift of the pole-sitter’s time. Race 2 got off to a promising start as Schmid worked his way towards the Top Ten over the first stint, but a penalty for crossing the line at the pit entrance ruined all hopes for another decent points result. And in any case, Lagrange had to park the Lamborghini shortly afterwards after sustaining damage in a duel for position.
Clemens Schmid: “The weekend was very positive despite the retirement on Sunday. We were always fast and performed very well as a team. Niels had a great weekend and was really fast. Unfortunately, the second qualifying was a bit of a disaster for me, but in the end, the track limits are the same for everyone. We had very good pace and are very optimistic about the sprint finish to the season. The cold temperatures seem to suit us, and we are aiming for the Top Ten at the Lausitzring.”
Team principal Gottfried Grasser: “All in all, it was a great weekend for our team. Two pole positions and a podium in the ADAC GT Masters, plus third place at the Petit Le Mans in the USA – we can be more than satisfied with that. Huge credit to the whole team and especially to our youngsters in the number 82 car, who once again showed how incredibly fast they are. The fact that they ultimately didn’t make it onto the podium has to be put into perspective. The advantage the opposition derived from the BoP rule was so extreme here that even experienced drivers would have had a hard time defending their pole position. I am very happy with the performance of the team, and I’m feeling optimistic about the upcoming races. We have everything to play for in the coming weeks. We will be competing in the 12 Hours of Sebring in the USA, and we are about to enter the decisive phase of the ADAC GT Masters. We have realistic title prospects in both the team and Junior classifications. Winning these two championships is our ultimate goal. We are confident that the next event will play to our strengths. The switch from Zandvoort to the Lausitzring should suit us, because we are usually very competitive there.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Axel Weichert