GRT Grasser Racing reaped the reward for impressive teamwork with a valuable points haul last weekend. In rounds seven and eight of the 2021 ADAC GT Masters hosted by the Lausitzring, all three Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs fielded by the Austrian outfit finished in the points. Lamborghini factory drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Albert Costa Balboa produced the standout result of the weekend with a P3 on Saturday, which puts them third in the drivers’ championship and handily placed for a late title push. In the team standings, the situation is even tighter, with GRT Grasser Racing Team in second place, only seven points behind the International German GT Championship leaders.
The team’s all-round performance on the 3.44km circuit in Brandenburg featured top results from all three driver duos. Clemens Schmid and Mike David Ortmann achieved their best result so far this year with a P5 in the first race. Ortmann came third in the Junior classification to score his first podium of the season. Silver driver Rolf Ineichen, ably assisted by Lamborghini works driver Franck Perera, matched the achievement of the two youngsters by winning the Trophy classification on both days.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P2 – Race 1: P3
Qualifying 2: P12 – Race 2: P5
For the title aspirants in car number 63, the weekend once again started according to plan, with a P2 in the first practice session. In the first quali, Bortolotti repeated the performance in impressive fashion. As rain set in, the 31-year-old was one of the few drivers to improve his lap time late in the session, booking second place on the grid for the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. The race itself turned out to be a chaotic affair, but he and Costa Balboa kept out of trouble to cross the finish line in third place and celebrate their third podium of the current campaign.
On Sunday, the duo faced another tough test in the championship battle. Due to a technical problem, Costa Balboa was only able to chase times in the last minutes of qualifying. The 31-year-old Spaniard still managed to salvage twelfth on the grid. Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances going into the second race, there was no stopping the forward momentum of the two Lamborghini works drivers. Costa Balboa handed over the car to Bortolotti at the driver change in tenth place. The Italian took no prisoners in the second stint and fought his way up to sixth place. The strong recovery earned the title contenders a valuable fifth place.
Albert Costa Balboa: “It was a solid weekend, and I’m pretty happy with it. We were up against some tough opposition, and we got the maximum out of the situation. It was by no means easy, but we all worked superbly well together and did a great job. Lamborghini, the entire GRT Grasser Racing team, Mirko and I are extremely focused on what we do, and we’re giving it everything we’ve got. We had our plan from the start this weekend, and we followed it through. We’ve made up good ground in the championship, and we’re now entering the decisive phase. I’m already looking forward to the Sachsenring. Last year I felt very much at my ease there, and the car was great. I’m very optimistic. The best is yet to come.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rolf Ineichen/Franck Perera)
Qualifying 1: P18 – Race 1: P8
Qualifying 2: P2 – Race 2: P7
Perera spearheaded the GRT Grasser Racing twin-pronged attack by setting the fastest time in the opening practice session on Friday. In Saturday’s qualifying, Ineichen improved steadily despite the changeable track conditions. By virtue of consistent lap times, he managed a place on the ninth row of the grid for the first race. From the anonymity of the midfield, the number 19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO then moved inexorably forward as the race progressed – Ineichen had made good no fewer than seven positions by the end of the first lap. Thanks to an overcut in the pit stop window, Perera started the second stint in net ninth position. In an eventful final phase, the Frenchman gained a further position to finish eighth.
He carried forward the momentum from Race 1 into the second qualifying session. The Lamborghini factory driver clocked an impressive lap time to secure second place on the grid for the number 19 car in Sunday’s race. Jostling for position in a competitive start, he slipped back to fifth. In the first stint, the 37-year-old easily kept up with the rest of the leading group. The team applied the right strategy to make up lost ground. Unfortunately, Ineichen lost three seconds during the driver change when the start from the pit area was delayed due to the engine stalling for a moment. He then firmly defended the points result against his pursuers in the second half of the race and saw the chequered flag in seventh place.
Franck Perera: “After the good outcome to the first race, we were definitely hoping for more on Sunday from second on the grid. Unfortunately, being on the outside at the start is a disadvantage on this track. I was hit from behind coming into turn three and lost a few positions. The car was running great, and we were able to keep up with the pace ahead. At the driver change, we lost some time due to a small problem. We would have liked to finish higher than seventh. But all in all, it was a positive weekend with points in both races. Rolf did a great job, and we showed that we had the speed in qualifying. There are still a few races to go, and we will keep on giving it our all.”
Rolf Ineichen: “My qualifying on Saturday was not quite optimal. I didn’t put the sectors together perfectly on my lap. But it was really cool the way we moved up through the field. I got off to a great start and also had some luck being in the right place at the right time. Eighth place was ultimately a very good result. On Sunday, Franck once again put in a great performance to book second place on the grid, but the race itself didn’t go according to plan. He was a bit unlucky at the start, and things didn’t go smoothly at the pit stop either. We then obviously concentrated on supporting Mirko and Albert in the closing stage of the race. All in all, we are very satisfied with the weekend. The whole team did a great job, and the car was really good.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #16 (Clemens Schmid/Mike David Ortmann)
Qualifying 1: P13 – Race 1: P5
Qualifying 2: P11 – Race 2: P14
For Mike David Ortmann, the Lausitzring weekend was always going to be the personal highlight of the season. The 21-year-old, who comes from Berlin, an hour and a half away, was delighted to have the support of family, friends, partners and fans at his home race. In the first qualifying session, he ensured a solid starting position with 13th on the grid. In the first stint of Saturday’s race, Ortmann made up four places and kept up the pressure on the opposition until the driver change. Schmid took over the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO in sixth position. In the closing stages, the Tyrolean went flat out and overtook another opponent. The brilliant drive to fifth place marked the best result of the season for the duo in car number 16.
On Sunday, Schmid again set the pair up nicely with eleventh place in qualifying, although he got stuck in traffic twice in the final sector, which meant he was unable to fully exploit the car’s potential. At the race start, he was spooked into making an error when the car behind him attacked too early, and as a result he strayed out of grid position before the lights on the gantry went out. The race stewards imposed a long lap penalty on Schmid, which he had to serve immediately after a safety car deployment. As a result, he dropped back to 18th position. Despite the setback, the 31-year-old and Ortmann managed to finish 14th and secure a fourth points-paying result of the current season.
Clemens Schmid: “The weekend was really good. We had one hell of a race on Saturday. Mike David worked his way to the front, and I overtook two opponents at the beginning of my stint. After the restart, I put pressure on the guy in front of me, but he defended very hard. I then decided to hold back and not jeopardise fifth place. Unfortunately, my qualifying on Saturday didn’t go perfectly. I got stuck behind traffic twice and didn’t get my last lap together perfectly. At the start, I pulled away too soon because someone behind me attacked too early and I reacted. The penalty for that was annoying, but that’s the way the rules are.”
Mike David Ortmann: “We had a great feeling right from the start. The team gave us an unbelievable car, and everything was just right. Saturday was obviously outstanding with the Junior podium and fifth place. It was a tough race, but we had great pace and I’m really happy for the whole team. Everyone did a great job. The penalty on Sunday was a shame, but all in all, it was a great weekend for us. It was especially nice for me personally to have the backing of my family, sponsors and fans. We had invited a lot of guests. I have missed this atmosphere so much in the past months. It was a super event, and I hope we can carry our momentum forward and build on our performances at the Sachsenring.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “It was a very good weekend for us. It’s always a good feeling to close the gap in the standings. The title fight is really brilliant this season. Every race is crucial, because there are more teams battling for the championship than ever before. Small mistakes have big consequences in a field as strong as this. Mirko and Albert delivered in both races, which was important for the overall standings. As a team, we put in a very good and almost flawless performance at the Lausitzring, which I am enormously proud of. Clemens and Mike David are getting better and better. They have improved a lot and are really pushing hard. Their Saturday race was mega, and the penalty in the second race was just unfortunate. Rolf showed again in the races that he is a tough opponent in the ADAC GT Masters. He defended superbly and was extremely strong. This just makes us greedy for more, and we are really looking forward to the Sachsenring. Our Lamborghini is traditionally very competitive there, and we have a clear objective. After all the podium finishes, we’re aiming to be on the top step at last.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Axel Weichert