The rollercoaster circuit set amid the sand dunes of the Dutch North Sea coast once again lived up to expectations for the GRT Grasser Racing Team. Last weekend, the historic track in Zandvoort hosted rounds five and six of the 2021 ADAC GT Masters. In the course of two nerve-wracking races, the crews and drivers of the four Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs gave further evidence of their never-say-die attitude. Despite setbacks, the Austrian outfit produced three points finishes and a podium, thereby reducing the gap to the championship leaders to five points.
The outstanding result of the weekend was provided by Lamborghini works driver Franck Perera and Silver category contestant Rolf Ineichen. The duo finished third on Sunday and lifted their first trophy of the current campaign on the 4.26km Formula 1 circuit. Despite mechanical failure, bad luck and mishaps in two difficult races, title contenders Mirko Bortolotti and Albert Costa Balboa still managed to salvage valuable points towards the championship. Clemens Schmid and Mike David Ortmann rounded off a hard-fought weekend with a recovery from 26th to 13th position.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P2 – Race 1: P12
Qualifying 2: P3 – Race 2: P9
In the first qualifying session, Bortolotti was involved in a collision early on through no fault of his own, as a result of which he had to abort his first run. Despite damage to his car, he set a clear best time, which was only bested by an opponent late on. With second place on the grid, the Italian secured a near-perfect starting position for himself and Costa Balboa. The first race for Bortolotti went according to the book, but the team then unfortunately made a mistake at the pit stop, which caused them to fall short of the minimum standing time. Costa Balboa consequently had to serve a drive-through penalty. The time loss incurred meant that he then saw the chequered flag in only twelfth place.
Costa Balboa responded to the disappointment with a strong qualifying on Sunday, earning a P3 on the grid and laying the foundation for another top result. The Spaniard’s ambitions were thwarted shortly after the start of race two, however, when a minor brush with an opponent damaged the onboard electronics; Costa Balboa and Bortolotti had to complete the race without ABS. The loss of this system, which controls the braking of the GT3 car, put them at a severe disadvantage against the rest of the 27 strong field. In this difficult situation, the Lamborghini factory drivers showed once again why they are among the best in the business. Thanks to perfect crisis management, they managed to salvage ninth place and vital points towards the drivers’ standings. They come away from Zandvoort occupying third place in the drivers’ championship.
Mirko Bortolotti: “It was a difficult weekend in Zandvoort. For various reasons, we were unable to get the results in both races that we could have. On Saturday, we unfortunately missed out on a lot of points and a nailed-on podium because our pit stop was too short. On the other hand, ninth place on Sunday bordered on a miracle after vital onboard systems failed due to a defective sensor. But we fought bravely and I am proud of that.”
Albert Costa Balboa: “It was really frustrating. We missed a major chance to score big points in the championship. Saturday was a bitter disappointment, and the second race was really one of the toughest of my life. But we have to look at the positives. We managed to salvage something in these difficult conditions, despite not having the benefit of ABS. Keeping the car on the track was extremely challenging, and we did a good job in that respect. Mirko drove very powerfully in his stint, and we secured vital points. Despite everything, we’ve closed the gap to the leaders in the overall standings. There is still everything to play for, and we just can’t wait for the upcoming races.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rolf Ineichen/Franck Perera)
Qualifying 1: P22 – Race 1: P17
Qualifying 2: P2 – Race 2: P3
At the Red Bull Ring, Ineichen and Perera narrowly missed out on what would have been a well-deserved podium, and the momentum from Spielberg carried over to Zandvoort, although maybe not on Saturday. Ineichen made a mistake in the first qualifying session, as a result of which he had to start the race from 22nd position. In the crowded midfield, he was pushed out by an opponent. The Swiss and his team-mate then had to pick themselves up from the rear of the pack. After a resolute second stint, Perera crossed the finish line in 17th place, only just missing out on the points.
Things then got decidedly better for the duo in the number 19 car on Sunday. Perera produced an outstanding performance in qualifying to book second place on the grid, a mere three hundredths of a second shy of pole. In the initial phase of the race, the Frenchman held his ground in the leading group with controlled pace, saving the tyres for the second stint. After the driver change, Ineichen exploited the pace of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO to the full, fighting hard for the runner-up spot. He managed to avoid a collision in some heated wheel-to-wheel action and eventually crossed the line in a comfortable third place. It was also enough for Ineichen to claim win number three in this year’s Trophy classification.
Franck Perera: “In conclusion, I can say that it has been a positive weekend for us. It’s a shame for the guys in the other car, because I think we were both very competitive, and we could both be on the podium. I’m very happy, glad and proud that we have kept working and fighting since the first race in Oschersleben. The performance is really getting better and better. I put in a good lap in qualifying. At the last moment after the red flag, I took the decision to push again. I only just missed out on pole. The race was not easy. At the start, I didn’t want to affect my team-mates’ chances in the championship. We came close to finishing second. But it’s a very good result. We are still fighting, and the championship still has a long way to go.”
Rolf Ineichen: “The team did a great job and gave us a really good car, starting with the first free practice session. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to exploit it to the full on Saturday. I made an unforced error in qualifying, and in the race itself, I was pushed off the track and found myself trailing the field. In the circumstances, 17th place was a decent result. On Sunday, things went very well for us. Franck had another great quali, and after a very good first stint in the race, he handed over to me in third place. The pressure was on to get the result across the finish line, because I really wanted to do it for the team. The car ran fantastically well, and I didn’t take any unnecessary risks. I am very happy about the podium. It’s an excellent result for us, and the team has really deserved it.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #16 (Clemens Schmid/Mike David Ortmann)
Qualifying 1: P20 – Race 1: P18
Qualifying 2: P26 – Race 2: P13
After scoring their first points of the season in Austria, Clemens Schmid and Mike David Ortmann in the number 16 car again had the Top 15 in their sights. Unfortunately, a repeat performance was to elude them. Ortmann qualified for Saturday’s race in 20th place, but problems at the pit stop meant that Schmid had to settle for 18th, some way short of the desired points finish.
In Sunday’s qualifying, the crew took a gamble on rainy conditions setting in, but it didn’t pay off and Schmid found himself starting the race from P26 on the grid. The 30-year-old from Tyrol was not downhearted and compensated with a strong first stint. After the driver change, Ortmann continued the steady progress from 19th place. In a fiercely contested second half of the race, the Berliner concluded a heroic charge with 13th place at the finish line.
Clemens Schmid: “We gambled a bit in the second quali in the hope of rain. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work out. I should have set a time on my first two laps, but was hindered by yellow flags. After that, the tyres didn’t perform well, and the rain didn’t come. The race went reasonably OK. In such a highly competitive championship, it’s really difficult to make progress from the very back of the field up to 13th place, so in that regard we did rather well. It was some consolation after things didn’t quite work out for us on Saturday.”
Mike David Ortmann: “Unfortunately, we had technical problems that affected our race on Saturday. It’s frustrating, because we lost a lot of driving time. The first quali was really chaotic due to the red and yellow flags. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good lap together. There are not many overtaking opportunities at Zandvoort, which is why we didn’t manage to fight our way through to the front. On Sunday, we had a good race after a difficult qualifying. It was nice to finish in the points again. The weekend finished on an upbeat note, but we had been hoping for better results.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Tim Zimmermann/Marco Mapelli)
Qualifying 1: P15 – Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P10 – Race 2: DNF
After a frustrating start to the season, the third event on the calendar also proved to be a tough one for the crew of the number 82 car. For the Zandvoort weekend, Marco Mapelli, a top driver from the factory squad of the Italian sports car manufacturer, was brought in to support Lamborghini Junior Tim Zimmermann. Unfortunately, all the effort put in by the driver pairing ultimately came to naught. Starting from grid positions 15 and 10, they fell victim to the characteristic rowdy behaviour of the midfield in both races. On Sunday, Zimmermann and Mapelli were in contention for a Top Ten result, but after both were spun round by opponents, they were forced to park the car one lap before the finish.
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “That was a really exciting weekend. The podium finish for Rolf and Franck was of course the standout result. Rolf once again delivered a superb performance and showed how much progress he has made. To see them both up there again was mega. It was a tough weekend for the guys in car number 63. A simple communication error between team and driver cost Mirko and Albert a certain podium in the first race. By contrast, the two of them then performed a real miracle on Sunday. To hold their own in this field for over an hour without ABS and still finish in the Top Ten was an incredible achievement. Mike David and Clemens also put in a strong race in car number 16. To finish in the points from last place on the grid was a fabulous performance. Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan for Tim and Marco. They got caught up in several racing incidents which deprived them of any prospect of a decent result. As a team, we leave Zandvoort not fully satisfied, but nonetheless with a sense of relief. We have closed the gap in the championship despite the problems we encountered. The title fight could scarcely be any tougher, and we will continue to press hard. The competition is really hotting up.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Axel Weichert