GRT Grasser Racing Team travelled to Brandenburg for the penultimate weekend of the 2020 ADAC GT Masters. The organisers of the Super Sports Car League were forced to cancel the Zandvoort fixture due to the acute coronavirus situation in the Netherlands and to make late arrangements for the two races to be contested at the Lausitzring, which had already hosted the series earlier in summer. There was one slight difference between this event and the season opener in July/August, as the 4,534-metre track variant was used this time. For the Austrian outfit, however, the return to the venue did not bring the hoped-for success, with only one Top Ten finish to show for their endeavours. The strong pace of the three Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs was compromised in two tempestuous races by unfortunate timing.
After a strong performance in Friday’s free practice, the Lamborghini works drivers Franck Perera and Albert Costa Balboa went into the weekend with high expectations. However, the lead pairing of the GRT Grasser Racing Team were once again dogged by bad luck, and it was only thanks to a furious charge through the field that the duo managed to salvage a P8 finish in Sunday’s race. The Lausitzring was not doing any favours for the Lamborghini Juniors Steijn Schothorst and Tim Zimmermann either. A technical fault cost them a potential podium on Saturday, so that all they have to show for their weekend is a modest P14 in the second race. The third driver duo, Clemens Schmid and Niels Lagrange, came away empty-handed from two chaotic races.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Franck Perera/Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P10 – Race 1: P13
Qualifying 2: P15 – Race 2: P8
Perera and Costa Balboa got their weekend off to an excellent start with a P3 and a P4 in Friday’s rain-affected free practice sessions, and they set themselves a correspondingly high target for Q1. But on a wet Saturday morning, Costa Balboa was unable to get into his customary rhythm. The Spaniard just about managed to qualify tenth late on in the session. In the race, he then made quick progress and had worked his way up to sixth by the time the pit window opened. Perera then went on to cross the finish line fifth at the end of a busy second half in which the safety car came out on more than one occasion. However, the race stewards imposed retrospective penalties on no fewer than 14 of the 25 cars that were classified. The number 63 car had 30 seconds added to its time, resulting in the loss of eight positions.
The trials and tribulations continued undiminished for the Lamborghini factory drivers on Sunday. Perera went out on slicks at the start of the second qualifying session, but early rain forced him back to the pits and he ultimately had to settle for 15th place on the grid. A strong start to the second race for the 36-year-old Frenchman went unrewarded after he was pushed off track and dropped back to 24th position. Over the rest of his stint, he fought his way back to 21st. Costa Balboa then put in an unleashed performance in the second half on a gradually drying track. The 30-year-old advanced to eighth position and set an impressive fastest race lap which was more than a second and a half superior to the time clocked by the second-fastest driver in the field. The GT3 veterans go into next weekend’s closing fixture seventh in the championship.
Franck Perera: “That was a very tough weekend for us. The weather, the track conditions and the chaos made life very difficult for us. The team has done a fantastic job to keep improving the car in the changing conditions. On Saturday, we had a strong result, but unfortunately we lost it because of a yellow flag violation. In the second race, we staged a good comeback. We had a great pit stop, and Albert drove superbly. However, we might have got more out of the race if somebody hadn’t driven into my car in turn four. That was a real shame, because I had a good start and had already made the breakthrough into the Top Ten.”
Albert Costa Balboa: “Saturday’s qualifying was not one of my best. We initially struggled to find the right setup in the rain. We made a big step forward in the race and finished in the Top Five. The penalty was a bit of a blow. On Sunday, Franck had no chance in qualifying and was then forced out at the start of the second race. I took over the car in 20th position and really gave my all. The balance was great, and I was just annoyed that we were so far behind. I wanted to show everyone that we are capable of much more, and so I fought my way back into the Top Ten. At the end of such a difficult race, I was very happy about this, but the team deserves more than a P8 finish. Hopefully we will have a clean weekend at Oschersleben.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Steijn Schothorst/Tim Zimmermann)
Qualifying 1: P6 – Race 1: P22
Qualifying 2: P13 – Race 2: P14
With two pole positions already to his credit in the 2020 season, Schothorst once again took the honours in Saturday’s qualifying as the best Lamborghini driver in the field. The Dutchman showed his mettle in the rain, booking sixth position on the grid for the number 82 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. With a strong start, he immediately stormed forward to third in the running order. The 26-year-old was on course for a top result until he and Zimmermann were held up by a technical problem during the driver change. His team-mate lost more than half a minute before he was able to resume the race and consequently dropped back to the end of the field. Zimmermann saw the chequered flag in P22 at the end of the 60-minute race.
In the second qualifying session, the 24-year-old ADAC GT Masters rookie once again produced the best result among the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO contingent in the 30-strong field of GT3 cars with a P13 on the grid. Just like Perera, however, he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time on the first few corners and went off the track. Between then and the half-time pit stop, Zimmermann fought his way back to 21st position. Schothorst took advantage of the varying surface conditions in the second half of the race to advance to 14th position and thus at least score points towards the overall standings. The duo go into the final showdown at Oschersleben twelfth in the drivers’ championship. Zimmermann is also on course for the title in the Junior classification for drivers under 25 with a clear lead of 31.5 points.
Steijn Schothorst: “The rain made it difficult for us right from the start. We were having some problems with the setup, and I was therefore very happy with sixth place in the first qualifying session. That was the maximum we were going to get. The start was promising, and I was doing better than expected in third position. Unfortunately, the problem at the pit stop meant that our race was effectively over. Tim only went out for his stint for the sake of gaining experience. On Sunday, he managed a very good qualifying, but unfortunately the race start did not go according to plan. He fought his way back, but the outcome of our race was already decided. The only good thing to come out of it was that we were once again very fast in the second stint on a drying track.”
Tim Zimmermann: “The weekend was characterised by bad luck. In the first race, we were superb on track, but after the driver change, I wasn’t able to start the engine. That was extremely frustrating because we had been in contention for a podium up to that point. Sunday was also disappointing. I got off to a bad start, got out onto the grass and was running almost last after that. We subsequently fought our way back and saw that the Lamborghini was going really well again in the dry. The only other positive aspect was that I managed to extend my lead in the Junior classification. I hope that the conditions at Oschersleben are better and that we can mix it with the front-runners again.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Clemens Schmid/Niels Lagrange)
Qualifying 1: P29 – Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P28 – Race 2: P20
Having posted their first ever Top Ten result, Schmid and Lagrange travelled from the Red Bull Ring to Brandenburg with a spring in their step. However, the return to the Lausitzring turned out to be more problematic than expected for the drivers of the number 19 car. ADAC GT Masters newcomer Lagrange’s lack of experience with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO in the rain was apparent. The Belgian finished the first qualifying session in 29th position, though in the race itself a few hours later, the pace was significantly better. Lagrange worked his way through the field, but had a minor brush with an opponent, which led to a penalty. He handed the car over to Schmid in 21st position. The 30-year-old continued to gain ground and was up to 18th when he made a driving error that ended his race.
Sunday’s qualifying was something of a lottery, and Schmid was not destined to be among the contestants who hit the jackpot. The Austrian struggled with the setup in the difficult conditions and finished the session in grid position 28. He steadily made up ground in the early stages of the race until he was spun by an opponent in a battle for position. The duo effectively had to start their race all over again, but this time from the rear and with a huge gap to the rest of the field. Like their team-mates, they defied the setbacks to make subsequent progress, eventually finishing in 20th position.
Clemens Schmid: “Friday actually went quite well, but unfortunately the races were disappointing. Saturday’s race was effectively over after only a few laps when we were handed the drive-through penalty. Later, I made a mistake when trying to overtake a BMW and skidded off into the gravel. That was because we had nothing more to lose and I simply risked too much. In qualifying on Sunday, I had problems getting the rain tyres up to temperature. In the race, we had better control of the setup and the car ran perfectly until I was spun around by an opponent. We made relatively good progress after that, but of course we had set our sights so much higher.”
Team principal Gottfried Grasser: “We had been hoping for so much more on our return to the Lausitzring. We were very surprised that we had such problems getting the tyres to work with all the standing water on the track. That’s why we were struggling so much with the conditions. On Sunday, things were a lot better. In qualifying, we unfortunately missed the right time window, but despite that, the race itself went pretty well. The fastest race lap set by our number 63 was remarkable – nobody came anywhere near matching it. When the track dried up, the tyres worked well and we were very good. Albert mounted a great charge, but unfortunately, it was still one of those weekends to put down to experience. That’s why we prefer to focus on Oschersleben. As far as we’re concerned, the grand finale will be an occasion to go into full attack mode, because we want to end the season on a high.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Gruppe C