GRT Grasser Racing Team have generally done well in the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona these past few years. After taking two wins previously and finishing runners-up last year, their main objective at the weekend in the opening round of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship was to secure a third victory in the endurance classic. However, despite the fact that their two Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs were well placed, the Austrian team’s efforts went unrewarded this time in Florida, as both crews had their wings clipped surprisingly early in the race.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #111 (Mirko Bortolotti/Rolf Ineichen/Marco Mapelli/Steijn Schothorst)
Qualifying: P3 – Race: DNF
With P3 in the Roar Before The Rolex 24, the four drivers in car number 111 were able to secure an excellent starting position for the season opener in the USA. Swiss driver Rolf Ineichen remained in contention during the period at the start which was turbulent at times and confidently maintained his place in the leading group of cars. While early safety car interventions prevented him from gaining ground, he was in second place after the first hour and able to maintain the connection with the race leaders.
But bad luck quickly struck the crew in only the fourth hour of the race when an electronics fault necessitated a long stop for repairs. The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO driven by Ineichen, the two Lamborghini works drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Marco Mapelli plus Lamborghini Junior Steijn Schothorst was finally able to rejoin the race after about 60 minutes or so. The crew fought on tirelessly until the 13th hour when the decision to retire the car was taken, because it was in a hopeless position.
Marco Mapelli: “I think we did an excellent job in the week before the race. Everyone worked really well together, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t our day. I feel very sorry for the team and want to thank everyone for their efforts, including all my colleagues and Lamborghini.”
Mirko Bortolotti: “Unfortunately, we had to retire early from the race. Obviously, it’s extremely disappointing to come away empty-handed from Daytona after all our hard work, especially in view of the fact that we had a competitive car.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Franck Perera/Albert Costa Balboa/Tim Zimmermann/Misha Goikhberg)
Qualifying: P6 – Race: DNF
In final practice, the drivers in car #19 set best time in the GTD class ahead of their team-mates in the #111, showing excellent pace before the Daytona 24 Hours had even got under way. Veteran IMSA driver Misha Goikhberg was unable to start the race from sixth on the grid, which is where he had qualified, but the Canadian bravely fought his way forward from P17 during the first stint.
He found himself back in ninth place after the start and continued to gain ground. He and his three Lamborghini team-mates were fourth by the end of the second hour, but gremlins struck them too some three hours later. Lamborghini works driver Albert Costa Balboa reported problems with the engine just before handing over to Frenchman Franck Perera, who had no choice but to retire the car shortly afterwards.
Franck Perera: “It’s very disappointing to be forced to retire so early on. We tried everything we could to stay in the race, but it was no good. We had prepared really well as a team and were among the front-runners in practice. There’s no doubt in my mind that we had the pace to win. It’s a big pity for all of us the way it ended. I would like to thank GRT Grasser Racing Team and Lamborghini Squadra Corse for their hard work this week. We must now draw a line under this setback. The season still has a long way to go and we will attack again in Sebring.”
Tim Zimmermann: “Whilst things did not proceed according to plan, I’m delighted to have been there at the start in Daytona. Taking part in this race was an incredible opportunity, for which I am extremely grateful to Gottfried, the entire GRT Grasser Racing Team and Lamborghini. I really enjoyed every lap and learned a lot as a driver. The atmosphere here is fantastic and there are many positives that I can take with me from the USA. Of course, it’s very frustrating to retire with a fault, but we can’t change that and should look to the future instead. We win and lose as a team, and our team spirit was without equal even in this difficult situation. That makes me feel really great and I’m looking forward to the upcoming races.”
Albert Costa Balboa: “The whole team put a lot of effort into the Daytona 24 Hours and we all had high hopes. Unfortunately, there are things that are simply out of your control. The race didn’t end the way we expected but that’s life. Disappointments and setbacks are part and parcel of motorsport. I hope to return again next year to fight for victory.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “We prepared for the 24 Hours of Daytona with great commitment and thought that we had a good chance. Unfortunately, the result was very disappointing for all of us. We must look carefully into what caused the problems and ensure that they never crop up again in the future. I’m pretty certain that we will get to the bottom of what happened. We must stop feeling frustrated with the outcome and look to the future. The whole team did their best and the drivers too. We’ll get a chance to make amends at Sebring and I’m sure that we will do better there.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing