Team GRT Grasser Racing had a tough time during the fifth round of the 2021 ADAC GT Masters at weekend. The Austrian outfit once again showed strong pace with their four Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs at the Sachsenring, but results did not live up to their high expectations in the end. A place on the front row of the grid and P4 for Lamborghini pro driver Franck Perera and Silver class driver Rolf Ineichen in Sunday’s race were only small consolation for a missed opportunity.
While all four driver pairings made it into the points at the famous 3.67km Hohenstein-Ernstthal race track, the two races did not go according to plan as regards the battle for the championship. Lamborghini works drivers Mirko Bortolotti and Albert Costa Balboa lost a certain place on the podium through being forced to retire on Saturday and finished Race 2 in P11 after an unfortunate collision and a penalty which had relegated them to the back of the field.
Despite these setbacks, GRT Grasser Racing are in fourth place in the team standings and still have a chance of winning the title in the International German GT Championship during the last two race weekends of the season at the Hockenheimring and Nürburgring. Bortolotti and Costa Balboa have dropped down to sixth in the drivers’ classification, and with a 31-point deficit, a considerable gap on the leaders has now opened up, but they are still in the race for victory overall, mathematically speaking.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Albert Costa Balboa)
Qualifying 1: P4 – Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P7 – Race 2: P11
The weekend got off to a difficult start for GRT Grasser Racing’s title contenders on Friday. Suffering from technical problems, the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with starting number 63 was unable to join the hunt for lap times in practice, but 31-year-old Bortolotti showed that he was not the slightest bit worried on Saturday morning. Despite having had no chance to practise, he booked an excellent P4 in the field of 27 GT3 cars in Q1. In the race itself, he quickly fought his way up into third position. However, he and Costa Balboa had to face another setback in their fight for the championship just before coming in to swap drivers when Bortolotti had to park up with a problem while heading for a certain podium.
Following this setback, GRT Grasser Racing’s crew once again demonstrated their indomitable fighting spirit. The car was ready to go back out again, and Costa Balboa took part in Sunday’s Q2 without having posted a single lap in practice. He delivered a very respectable performance, qualifying seventh on the grid. However, the 31-year-old Spaniard was unable to capitalise on his good starting position after making contact with another competitor in the heat of battle at the start, for which he received a drive-through penalty. Bortolotti fought his way back into the points from P19 during the second stint, overtaking no less than seven of his rivals on the narrow Sachsenring circuit to secure eleventh place.
Albert Costa Balboa: “It was a tough weekend right from the start. Although we were unable to go out on track in practice, the team still gave us an amazing car. Mirko as well did a terrific job and I put in a decent performance in qualifying on Sunday. Unfortunately, I then made a mistake at the start of the race. I was pushed off the line by an opponent while attacking down the inside. As a result, I was no longer able to brake properly and made contact with the rear-end of Maximilian Buhk’s car. It was nothing major, but enough to cause him to spin. I want to say for the record that my manoeuvre was by no means a reckless attempt. Of course, it doesn’t change the fact that I was at fault. I’m very disappointed and really upset about the incident. I would like to offer my sincere apologies to Buhk and his team. I have to come to terms with what was my mistake and have to put it behind me now. There are two races left and I want to do my best for GRT Grasser Racing and Lamborghini Squadra Corse in order to make up for it.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rolf Ineichen/Franck Perera)
Qualifying 1: P22 – Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P2 – Race 2: P4
The weekend at the Sachsenring was full of ups and downs for Rolf Ineichen and Franck Perera. Ineichen had to retire from Race 1 on the first lap after a contact just as the race was getting under way but Saturday’s frustration was followed by another strong qualifying for Perera on Sunday. The 37-year-old Frenchman in car number 19 took second place on the grid for the third time this season. Sunday’s race went very much according to plan for the Lamborghini works driver and his team mate right down to the final few metres.
Perera managed the pace confidently in P2 during the first half of the race before handing the car over to Ineichen who defended their podium with steely determination against rivals, who tapped the rear of his Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO several times. In the last turn of the race, another competitor muscled his way past with an aggressive manoeuvre, causing Ineichen to lose momentum and be overtaken by another car on the sprint to the finish. Despite this last-minute disappointment, he and Perera had achieved another top-class result for fourth place.
Franck Perera: “It’s a real shame that we lost the podium on the last lap, but we can still be proud of what we achieved this weekend. It wasn’t easy for us out there, and Rolf put up a really great fight on Sunday in order to achieve the best possible outcome. I too was mega pleased with my qualifying and first stint. The team gave us a fast car and fourth place is still a decent result. Of course, we would have liked to see our team-mates in car number 63 secure a top-class finish. Things will go better for them next time, hopefully. We refuse to give up and will continue to do all we can as a team.”
Rolf Ineichen: “That last lap was the final straw at the end of a tough weekend. We had prepared very thoroughly, but unfortunately, there were lots of problems, which slowed us up. On Sunday, I thought that it was down to me to secure a podium to say thank you to the team for their terrific work. I felt really sorry for the guys, because we’re all fighting as one for the success of the team. Being overtaken in the final turn is pretty annoying, for sure! I always try to be fair, but sometimes, I have to drive with my elbows out a little more when others are intent on forcing their way past. I see this as a lesson learnt and intend to put it behind me now.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #16 (Clemens Schmid/Mike David Ortmann)
Qualifying 1: P18 – Race 1: P15
Qualifying 2: P14 – Race 2: P13
After achieving their best result of the season at the Lausitzring, Clemens Schmid and Mike David Ortmann travelled to the Sachsenring buoyed by the impetus of their success. The two of them secured points once again in both races in the #16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. They were unable to repeat their excellent fifth place from three weeks ago despite doing everything right in the races. Practice did not go as smoothly as it should have, and Ortmann subsequently qualified 18th in Q1. The German and his Austrian team-mate Schmid moved up three positions in Saturday’s race.
Schmid secured a solid P14 in qualifying on Sunday. At the start of the second race, however, he was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision, losing ground as a result. He worked his way up into a points-scoring position during the first stint, but because he was stuck in traffic, pitted early to hand the car over to 21-year-old Ortmann, who was also forced to struggle during the second stint in a tightly bunched midfield. Caught up in the cut and thrust of a group ranging from seventh to 15th position, he finally crossed the finish line in P13 after an hour’s racing.
Clemens Schmid: “Our pace was very strong on Saturday, but unfortunately, our starting position was not ideal. Qualifying is extremely important at the Sachsenring and if it goes wrong, then you can have a really tough race, and that’s exactly what happened to us on Sunday. We were just unlucky with timing during qualifying. My progress was impeded several times while out on hot laps. I lost a lot of positions in the chaos at the start of the race. I moved forwards after that, but the pace in the midfield was very slow. We definitely could have achieved more this weekend.”
Mike David Ortmann: “It was not an easy weekend. We couldn’t test on Thursday at the Sachsenring because of restrictions and had some difficulties in Friday practice. Saturday’s qualifying was very tricky due to a lack of preparation, and unfortunately, I was unable to string things together properly on my lap. I made a good start subsequently but got stuck in traffic as usual at the Sachsenring. Clemens had a lot of bad luck on Sunday. We still took some decent points but should have scored more with our pace. We intend to go on the attack again at Hockenheim.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Tim Zimmermann/Hugo Sasse)
Qualifying 1: P21 – Race 1: P19
Qualifying 2: P15 – Race 2: P14
The fourth Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO from GRT Grasser Racing’s ranks started at the Sachsenring with a brand new driver pairing as Tim Zimmermann shared the cockpit with young Hugo Sasse for the return of car number 82. The 17-year-old ADAC GT Masters rookie joined the team following the round at the Lausitzring in order to progress his training alongside Lamborghini Junior Zimmermann. He also competed in the ADAC GT4 Germany where he celebrated victory on Saturday.
The two new team mates had a measured start on their first appearance together with P19 in their first ADAC GT Masters race. The next day, the two of them secured a better position on the grid with a place on Row 7. Zimmermann did everything right during an action-packed start and quickly made it into the Top Ten. Later in the race, he and Sasse, like their team mates, had to deal with tough racing in the midfield. Caught up in the peloton, Sasse made a small mistake during his stint, which bumped him a little way down the field in the group. He and Zimmermann finally managed to secure points for P14.
Tim Zimmermann: “My first weekend with Hugo was very interesting. We had two rather turbulent races and the results were certainly not what we expected. Still, I’m confident that we can achieve more in the last two rounds. Our goal still is to finish the season with a set of decent results. We took a podium at Hockenheim last year, which makes me feel optimistic that things will be better there.”
Hugo Sasse: “The weekend was very exciting for me with two outings in the ADAC GT Masters and in the ADAC GT4 Germany. Unfortunately, I had a lot of traffic in qualifying on Saturday and couldn’t use the tyres optimally. As a result, my race was very tricky. It went better on Sunday. I felt really comfortable during my stint and was able to go the pace in the midfield. Unfortunately, I lost three places due to a small mistake. All in all, this has been a most useful and very positive weekend for me personally. I’m really looking forward to Hockenheim.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “Franck and Rolf had a great race on Sunday and we would have liked to see them both achieve a podium on this difficult weekend. Rolf put up a great fight but made a small mistake in the last corner and competitors in this field are never slow to seize an opportunity. Still, our crew in car number 19 showed once again just how strong they are. After doing much better last time out at the Lausitzring, Clemens and Mike David had another terrific showing. Clemens was a real class act in the races once more and put on an amazing show. We were also very pleased to welcome Hugo. He’s a really nice young man and is extremely professional in his approach for his age. He had a good first outing with a finish in the points and we are delighted to have him in the team. I’m sure that he’ll do even better in the next few races. As for our guys in car number 63 and their championship hopes, things are not looking too good now, being realistic. We had problems with the car from Day 1. I was mega impressed by the fact that Mirko and Albert were able to qualify so far up the field without posting any laps in practice. They could have achieved a great deal, but unfortunately, problems from practice caught up with us and halted us in our tracks on Saturday. Albert overcooked it at the start of Race 2 and hit Maximilian Buhk’s Mercedes. I would like to say sorry to Team Landgraf-HTP WWR for what happened and stress that this outcome was in no way intentional. But such things can sometimes occur when jockeying for position at the start, and I can well understand our driver’s actions in trying to keep alive our title hopes with a risky manoeuvre after his retirement from the previous day. Unfortunately, it went wrong, but still, we want to wish our fellow competitors all the best in the upcoming races.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Axel Weichert