Former champions, race winners and works drivers: A strong contingent of local drivers have set their sights high for their home event in the German GT Championship. The highlight in Hockenheim (22nd to 24th October) will decide who heads to the finale with title aspirations still intact, and the local favourites will be hungry to challenge at the front of the field at the penultimate race weekend of the season. Among those looking forward to their home races are former F1 driver Markus Winkelhock (41/Zdiměřice), double champion Sebastian Asch (35/Ammerbuch) and Audi Sport driver Dennis Marschall (25/Eggenstein), as well as the Corvette team of Callaway Competition and Audi team Rutronik Racing. Fans are welcome in the grandstands and the open, fan-friendly paddock in Hockenheim.
Swabian connection at Car Collection Motorsport
The Car Collection Motorsport team starts with two Swabian drivers. Sharing the driving duties in the Audi R8 LMS are ex Formula 1 driver Markus Winkelhock and Florian Spengler (33/Ellwangen), who currently leads the Pirelli Trophy. “Hockenheim is obviously rather special for us Swabians,” says Winkelhock, who was born in Stuttgart. “I am very much looking forward to the weekend and hope we can back up our last result at the Sachsenring, where we finished seventh. A top-ten result is definitely realistic. It is great to drive in front of your home crowd. The atmosphere in the Motodrom is always special. As a racing driver, you pick up on the great atmosphere, particularly as you approach the famous Sachskurve corner.” Another Swabian in the starting field is two-time champion Sebastian Asch, who also drives an Audi alongside 22-time ADAC GT Masters race winner and 2013 champion Daniel Keilwitz (32/Villingen) for Aust Motorsport. With a total of four victories in Hockenheim, Keilwitz is the record winner at the circuit near Heidelberg. Rookie and ADAC Stiftung Sport driver Luco-Sandro Trefz (19, Montaplast by Land-Motorsport) from Wüstenrot is another local boy who will line up in an R8 LMS at the Hockenheimring.
Sports car star looking forward to “second” home outing
“Hockenheim is a great hunting ground for us and, together with the Nürburgring, a second home event. I won the title in the Porsche Carrera Cup there in 2001, and we took victory there in the ADAC GT Masters in 2016,” recalls Timo Bernhard, two-time Le Mans winner and team principal at Küs Team Bernhard. His team fields two Porsche 911 GT3 R, including a car for defending champion Christian Engelhart (34/Starnberg) and Porsche works driver Thomas Preining (23/A). “A lot of our fans ,friends and employees will be there to cheer us on. We recently finished fourth, fifth and third, and would like to continue this upwards trend. The podium at the Sachsenring was nice, but we want even more.”
One of the drivers who was victorious in Hockenheim in 2016 is David Jahn. The 30-year-old was born in Speyer, just a stone’s throw from the Hockenheimring, and drives a Porsche 911 GT3 R for Team Joos Sportwagentechnik. “It is always nice to drive at home in Hockenheim. I first drove there in a kart when I was just eight. I know practically every stone there. The track is a lot of fun and should suit our car. Having twice been blamelessly involved in collisions at the start at the Sachsenring last time out, we really want two clean races now. That would be very important for the whole team. I would like to qualify in the top six again and then pick up points in the races, in order to gain some positions in the championships after the two zeroes at the Sachsenring.”
Rutronik Racing returns to the scene of former success
Rutronik Racing by Tece will travel roughly 60 kilometres from Remchingen to the Hockenheimring. This year’s squad of drivers once again includes local favourite Dennis Marschall. The Audi Sport driver has secured pole positions at the 4.574-kilometre circuit in previous years. Marschall currently leads the Pirelli Junior competition for young drivers, together with his partner Kim-Luis Schramm (24/Meuspath).
Callaway Competition has won on its doorstep on four occasions in the past
The Hockenheimring is also the home circuit for Callaway Competition. The oldest-serving team in the ADAC GT Masters – and, with 35 race wins, the most successful – develops and assembles its Corvette C7 GT3-R in Leingarten, which is also about 60 kilometres from the racetrack. The powerful US sports car is shared by Jeffrey Schmidt (27/CH) and Marvin Kirchhöfer (27/Luzern), who were victorious at the Red Bull Ring in June. “Hockenheim is the nearest racetrack to Switzerland, making it my home event in Germany and the highlight on my calendar,” says Schmidt. “We may not have home advantage, but the extra support there makes us one or two tenths of a second faster. Marvin and I want to win. The team has grafted so hard in recent years, and has seldom been rewarded for that work. We want to give them something back now.”
Strong Swiss contingent
Drivers from nearby Switzerland are well represented in the ADAC GT Masters – and they are fast, as proven by championship leader Ricardo Feller (21/CH, Montaplast by Land-Motorsport). With four races remaining, Feller and his partner Christopher Mies (31/Düsseldorf) have a slender two-point lead at the top of the table. Former champion Patric Niederhauser (30/CH, Phoenix Racing) has twice climbed onto the top step of the podium in Hockenheim, having won one race in each of the past two years. Rolf Ineichen (42) is a good bet to finish well up the field. The Swiss won at the circuit near Heidelberg in 2017 and again lines up in a Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo for the GRT Grasser Racing Team. The only woman in the field also comes from Switzerland: Porsche works driver Simona De Silvestro (33/CH) drives a 911 GT3 R for Precote Herberth Motorsport.