The grand finale of the 2020 ADAC GT Masters last weekend did not have the triumphant ending that GRT Grasser Racing had been hoping for. For the last stop on the itinerary of this year’s Super Sports Car League, the team travelled to Oschersleben near Magdeburg. But the Austrian outfit was once again out of luck. Despite strong pace, the three Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs were unable to muster a single top result between them from two problematic races. Tim Zimmermann’s title win in the Junior classification shone the only ray of light on a frustrating weekend.
A P12 in Saturday’s race for Franck Perera and Albert Costa Balboa provided the emotional high point at Oschersleben. In the second race the Lamborghini works drivers were caught up in a collision immediately after the start, for which they were handed a penalty, thereby costing them the chance of a Top Five finish. Tim Zimmermann and Steijn Schothorst suffered an even crueller fate – the Lamborghini Juniors went out of the race within the first few metres through no fault of their own in an accident on the pit straight. It was ultimately left to Clemens Schmid and Niels Lagrange in the third Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO to salvage the team’s only championship point on Sunday.
GRT Grasser Racing have a second chance this coming weekend (12th – 15th November) to round off the 2020 season in conciliatory fashion when the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship culminates in the 12 Hours of Sebring. After winning last year’s endurance classic, the team is sending two Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs to the USA to defend the title. Franck Perera and Steijn Schothorst will share one of the cockpits with IMSA specialist Richard Heistand. The sister car will be driven by the American trio of Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Franck Perera / Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P20 – Race 1: P12
Qualifying 2: P4 – Race 2: P22
The weekend got off to a promising start for the crew of the number 63 car. In the first of Friday’s two free practice sessions, Perera was fifth on the timesheets. In Saturday morning’s quali, however, the 36-year-old Frenchman could only book 20th on the grid after being hampered by red flags and traffic. A brilliant start to the first race catapulted Perera up to 15th place. After the initial phase, however, progress on the extremely tight and twisty 3.66km Motorsport Arena Oschersleben track proved to be difficult. Costa Balboa gained three further positions in the second stint to secure a points result with twelfth place.
Sunday brought a much better starting position thanks to a strong qualifying performance from the Spaniard. Costa Balboa placed the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO on the second row of the grid in fourth place. However, all prospects of a podium in the second race were ruined as early as the second corner where the 30-year-old made contact with an opponent in the starting mêlée and was handed a drive-through penalty. A pile-up in midfield had in any case led to the race being stopped. Costa Balboa dropped back to last position after the restart due to the penalty. Despite setting the third-fastest race lap and mounting a resolute pursuit in the second half of the race, Perera ultimately had to settle for P22 at the finish line.
Franck Perera: “It’s been a year of complications, and Oschersleben was no exception. Once again, we could have achieved so much more, but it just wasn’t meant to be. On the one hand, we were very lucky to be able to complete a full season given the difficult circumstances in the world. But in sporting terms, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for us. We showed what we were capable of in quite a few races, but we’ve had a lot of bad luck along the way, and we were put at a disadvantage several times due to penalties. This has deprived us of a good position in the championship. But the whole team did a fantastic job, and we aim to end the year at Sebring with a victory.”
Albert Costa Balboa: “Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan this time either. Franck was very unlucky with his timing in qualifying. We fought back well in the first race and pulled off more overtaking moves than anyone else in the field. In the second quali, I made an unfortunate mistake: I hit a wet kerb and crashed. The team did a fantastic job repairing the car before the end of the session. I managed a few good laps in the closing stages, and I couldn’t believe it when they told me that we were in fourth position. I was really happy for the guys, because they deserved it. At the start of the race, I was involved in a battle for position, and unfortunately, I sent the other car into a spin. The penalty cost us the race, which is a great pity.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Steijn Schothorst / Tim Zimmermann)
Qualifying 1: P14 – Race 1: P17
Qualifying 2: P9 – Race 2: DNF
The ADAC GT Masters apprenticeship year ended with a harsh lesson at Oschersleben for the youngsters sharing the number 82 Lamborghini. After an impressive Friday with a P3 and a P9 in free practice, qualifying ace Steijn Schothorst was to experience bitter disappointment on Saturday morning. He skidded off the track on his flying lap in the closing stage of qualifying and had to content himself with 14th place on the grid for Race 1. Even so, the 26-year-old was still the best-placed Lamborghini driver in the field of 30 GT3 cars. In the race itself, Schothorst and Zimmermann struggled with the balance of their car and could finish no higher than 17th.
Despite the setback on Saturday, Zimmermann went into Sunday’s final race of the season as leader in the Junior classification. The ADAC GT Masters rookie once again displayed impressive form in qualifying for Race 2, booking P9 on the grid. He and Schothorst were therefore well placed for the showdown, but this did not bring them any luck. Before they had even left the pit straight, there was a multi-vehicle crash. Zimmermann was a helpless bystander as an opponent lost control of his car on the grass and skidded into the Lamborghini. For the 24-year-old and his Dutch team-mate, the second race was over before it had even begun. But despite the unfortunate early retirement, Zimmermann’s lead in the Junior stakes held through to the end of the race when he was crowned champion in this classification.
Steijn Schothorst: “It really was a tough weekend for us. In qualifying on Saturday, I made a mistake and spun off. Up to then, my lap had been good enough to put me on the front row of the grid, but things like that are all part of racing. If you don’t take any calculated risks in qualifying, you’ll never get yourself at the front of the grid. Unfortunately, we had problems in the race and couldn’t seem to make any progress. Tim then managed a good qualifying session on Sunday despite a lot of bad luck with red flags. We had been hoping for a strong final race, but he had no chance with the incident at the start. Now we have to look ahead because we have good chances at Sebring. We are all highly motivated, and I absolutely want to round off the season on a successful note.”
Tim Zimmermann: “The accident at the start was a great pity because we would have liked to end the season on a high. Anyway, it’s all the more reason to celebrate winning the Junior title – and having done so in spite of our bad luck. I’m incredibly happy about this and would like to thank the entire team, Lamborghini and of course Steijn. We did a great job together to achieve this outcome. I would also like to thank all my partners and sponsors, my family and friends for their great support. I am highly satisfied with my first year in the ADAC GT Masters. I am curious to see where we go from here, and I can hardly wait for the next season to begin.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Clemens Schmid / Niels Lagrange)
Qualifying 1: P28 – Race 1: P18
Qualifying 2: P13 – Race 2: P15
The final weekend got off to a promising start for the driver pairing in the number 19 car. After Clemens Schmid clocked the third-fastest time in FP1, the signs were set for another Top Ten result. In the first qualifying session, however, Lagrange’s progress was impeded by accidents involving opponents and, to make matters worse, he had his fastest lap nullified for disrespecting track limits. As a result, he only managed a P28 on the grid for the first race. The duo subsequently worked their way up to 18th position, but still missed out on points.
Schmid put in a strong performance on Sunday despite a frequently interrupted qualifying session to book 13th. However, a penalty incurred by Lagrange from previous events meant that he and his team-mate dropped ten places back on the grid. At the start of the second race, Schmid escaped the pile-up in front of him by virtue of smart evasive action and kept the Lamborghini in the race. The Austrian had moved up into the points when the pit window opened. In a hard-fought second half of the race, Lagrange banked another championship point with 15th place in the final race of the season.
Clemens Schmid: “Our pace was actually very good – the car was great, especially in the race. But with what happened in the first qualifying session, our chances of a good result on Saturday were effectively finished. In the second qualifying session, I had two red flags on a hot lap. P13 was OK, but I feel that we could have done so much better. In the end, though, it would have counted for nothing, because Niels had a grid penalty of ten positions and so we had to start from way back anyway. In the ADAC GT Masters, that is a heavy deficit to work off. In the second race, we were doing quite well at first, but then Niels had problems in the second stint and also got spun around. In the circumstances, we have to be satisfied that we at least scored a point.”
Niels Lagrange: “That could actually have turned out to be a decent weekend. It took us some time at the beginning to find the right setup, but after that, everything worked out fine. I pushed hard, because the time differences at Oschersleben were again extremely tight. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to bring my best sectors together in the quali. What’s more, the session was interrupted. My start in the first race was good, but we still missed out on the points. Fortunately, Clemens managed to avoid the pile-up at the start of Sunday’s race, and I was able to salvage a P15 finish after the driver change.”
Team principal Gottfried Grasser: “Unfortunately, things didn’t go as we had expected. It was a very disappointing weekend in sporting terms due to the various accidents and incidents. We again had the potential for more, but in such circumstances, we were unable to register a useful result. Tim’s title win in the Junior classification gave us cause for celebration. We are very proud of him and the success he has achieved. I would also like to congratulate Christian Engelhart on winning the drivers’ championship. It is nice to see our former drivers succeed on their subsequent career path. After a difficult season, we are looking forward to coming back even stronger in the ADAC GT Masters next year. But before that, we have our sights firmly set on Sebring. We want to end the year on a feel-good note, and are highly motivated to defend our title in this race.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Axel Weichert