GRT Grasser Racing Team achieved their first notable success in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup since returning to contest the highly competitive GT3 series. The Austrian outfit’s Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO finished third in the Silver Cup at the legendary Circuit Paul Ricard. In a hard-fought 6 hour race, Lamborghini Juniors Tim Zimmermann and Kikko Galbiati and their team-mate Clemens Schmid moved up twelve positions and secured the first precious metal of the year in the 47 strong field.
The overall winners from 2017 had some catching up to do in France after a turbulent start in Monza. Still, the second round of the top-class GT World Challenge Europe endurance series produced another tough race that was well worth watching. The team went flat-out from the word go in first practice to get up to pace on the 5.79-km Formula 1 race track. The opposing teams had already completed their work on setup during the official test drives at the end of March when GRT Grasser Racing Team were busy competing in the American sports car championship.
The three drivers of the #16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO gradually got into their stride as the weekend progressed. They managed to make some small progress in pre-qualifying with ninth place in the Silver Cup. Qualifying did not go according to plan with eleventh place on the grid in class, but there was penty of time for things to come good in the 1,000-km race.
GRT Grasser Racing Team make it onto the podium after going on a charge
24-year-old Zimmermann put in a strong first lap as the race got under way at 6.00 pm and promptly gained three positions. During the first stint, he worked his way up into P4 in the Silver Cup and handed the car over to Galbiati after 60 minutes. The Italian maintained the connection with the Top Three by putting in an error-free drive before it was Schmid’s turn to take over. In the hours that followed, the trio of drivers maintained position behind the Top Three ready to pounce.
Things really began to hot up shortly before the start of the sixth and final hour when a stricken car triggered a safety car period, causing the field to become neutralised and bunch back up together again while 22-year-old Galbiati was running third in the Silver Cup. As they swapped drivers for the last time, he gave up his seat in the car to Schmid, who was faced with a nail-biting final hour in the darkness.
Austrian driver Schmid fought hard to book a podium finish for a full hour out on the race track. As the chequered flag fell at midnight, he beat his opponent by a wafer-thin margin of half-a-second and in addition to securing third place in the Silver Cup, came 17th overall. In the overall standings, GRT Grasser Racing Team are in sixth position following this success. The next round in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps will also mark the highlight of the season with the staging of the legendary 24-hour race in the Ardennes from 29th July to 1st August.
Tim Zimmermann: “I’m very pleased with our podium in the Silver Cup. We faced a big challenge this weekend. Most of the teams had already tested at Le Castellet while we were racing in the USA. Apart from not having had the benefit of that experience, the circuit was basically new to me into the bargain. When I was last here in 2019 before switching to GT3 racing, we used a different track layout and it was wet. I didn’t feel completely at ease in qualifying, but the race went much better. I made a good start and quickly found my rhythm. The car’s balance was a bit tricky in places, but we coped well. The whole team did a terrific job.”
Clemens Schmid: “What a super result! The weekend didn’t quite start as we would have hoped and things didn’t work out altogether well in qualifying either. I wasn’t very happy with my lap, because I didn’t make the best use of the tyre’s best performance. Still, we made a good job of fighting back in the race. We produced an amazing performance as a team by finishing on the podium after starting out so far down the field. My last stint was really tough. I was hard at it scrapping the whole time and it was really close all the way to the finish. I’m delighted that we got the better of them in the end. We fought hard for this podium.”
Kikko Galbiati: “This weekend was definitely not easy. We worked really hard to improve both ourselves and the car. We’ve managed to make some noticeable progress since Monza and our result is fine testament to that. My team-mates drove a strong race. Strategy was perfect and the pit stops went like clockwork. I’m delighted with our first podium in the GT World Challenge Europe. I would like to thank everyone in the team as well as my family and sponsors, who have given me such incredible support at every race. I really hope we can do even better in the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps. It’s the highlight of the season and we intend to fight for victory again there in the Silver Cup.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “We struggled a bit with set-up at the start of the weekend but got it under control in time for the race. It went very well from the start. The drivers’ performance was great and team strategy just perfect. We made the right calls and gained a lot of ground as a result. Clemens’ final stint was really thrilling throughout. He defended his place on the podium for an hour and even had to fight to retake his position once. Third place is a brilliant result, with which we’re very happy. The most important race in the GT World Challenge Europe is next up at Spa-Francorchamps. We’ve got two days of testing in preparation for this classic round and are confident that we’ll manage to take another big step forwards there.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing Team/Photo. Alex Galli