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GRT GRASSER RACING TEAM BACK ON WINNERS’ ROW

Game, set and match for Team GRT Grasser Racing! The Austrian squad put their stamp on the ADAC GT Masters at the weekend in Hockenheim with a brace of victories and pole positions. At the legendary grand prix circuit in south-west Germany, Mirko Bortolotti and Marco Mapelli finally ended the long spell without a win in the Super Sports Car League for the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. The Lamborghini works drivers secured the first triumph in the ADAC GT Masters since 2019 for GRT Grasser Racing and Lamborghini Squadra Corse.

Lamborghini professional Franck Perera and Silver class racing sensation Rolf Ineichen found success again on Sunday with another lights-to-flag victory. With a supreme display of strength, they secured the 17th pole and 12th victory in the Super Sports Car League for GRT Grasser Racing. Their partners wrapped things up for the team by achieving three more points-scoring finishes in the field of 28 GT3 cars. Lamborghini Junior Tim Zimmermann and rookie Hugo Sasse scored a top-ten result in Race 1. Clemens Schmid and Mike David Ortmann made it into the points twice.

Having taken a strong haul of points at Hockenheim, GRT Grasser Racing have gone one up in a very important development as regards the team stakes. The outfit now heads the championship and has a good chance of winning the title ahead of the Nürburgring finale. The lead on their rivals could not be any smaller with just a one-point margin, and an exciting showdown is set to follow in the Eifel on the weekend of November 5th-7th.

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Marco Mapelli)
Qualifying 1: P1 – Race 1: P1
Qualifying 2: P16 – Race 2: P19

Mirko Bortolotti returned to the fray in impressive style at Hockenheim after a setback at the Sachsenring, this time driving alongside Marco Mapelli. The Italian set the pace right from the start in Q1 and secured his seventh pole position in the ADAC GT Masters at the famous 4.57km race track. The 31-year-old effortlessly built on his strong form in Saturday’s race, controlling the action from the front during the first stint. After the driver change, Mapelli kept his cool despite two safety car periods. He fiercely defended the lead and ultimately secured GRT Grasser Racing’s first victory in this year’s ADAC GT Masters.

The two of them were faced with the challenge of an extremely tough grid slot on Sunday. Mapelli was unable to do better than 16th on the grid in Q2. The position on the grid in combination with their additional success weight made the race very difficult for 34-year-old Mapelli and Bortolotti, but the former made an excellent job of getting through an action-packed start phase with two yellow flag periods. On the second restart, however, he took a hit to the rear and spun in the hairpin, causing the #63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO to drop back to last position. Bortolotti gained ground during the second stint but was unable to move back into the points.

Marco Mapelli: “The weekend was a real roller-coaster. Saturday was just perfect. Mirko turned in an incredible performance and I managed to finish the job for us. But on the other hand, second qualifying didn’t go too well, even though the car was excellent and very fast. It’s always touch-and-go when you start in the midfield. I then made a decent beginning and we were already in the Top Ten when someone hit me from behind and made me spin. I’m a bit annoyed and disappointed about it. People sometimes don’t have enough respect, which is very bad. Anyway, there’s nothing we can do to change it. We’ll go on the attack again at the Nürburgring.”

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rolf Ineichen/Franck Perera)
Qualifying 1: P20 – Race 1: P6
Qualifying 2: P1 – Race 2: P1

As for Franck Perera and Rolf Ineichen, the Hockenheimring weekend produced yet more evidence of just how well they work together as a team. Qualifying 20th for the first race, Ineichen did not live up to expectations in Q1, but in the race itself, he and his team-mate made up for everything in fine style. Swiss driver Ineichen worked his way up into 13th place during the first stint. 37-year-old Perera made good use of the way the race was going by gaining a whole string of positions in the midfield with a series of determined manoeuvres in the second half when the field was bunched close together again after two neutralisations. The race to catch up was rewarded with a strong sixth place at the finish for car #19.

Frenchman Perera demonstrated his impressive form by posting best time in qualifying on Sunday. He made good use of his third pole position in the ADAC GT Masters to deliver a top-class performance in Race 2. He pulled out a lead of over five seconds during the first stint despite the field being neutralised several times and went on to post the fastest lap. Ineichen took over the #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO in the lead and secured victory by controlling the pace. This was Perera’s first triumph in the ADAC GT Masters and Ineichen’s fourth victory in this top-class GT3 series. What is more, the 43-year-old Swiss driver also managed to bag a double victory in the Trophy class at Hockenheim.

Franck Perera: “The entire GRT Grasser Racing Team, Lamborghini Squadra Corse and we as drivers have done a terrific job all weekend. We’re getting stronger with every race and proved that at Hockenheim. The second race was tough. I knew that the start and the time immediately after would be crucial. The two safety car periods were a bit annoying, but I asserted my lead on the restarts. Rolf drove superbly well during the second stint. This win means a lot to all of us. We’ve all had a tough season, so it’s nice to see that things have worked out in the end.”

Rolf Ineichen: “It was a really great weekend for the whole team. Sunday’s race was mega. Franck was just terrific. Qualifying is extremely important here and he made a fantastic job of everything. It was just the same in the race where he got away to a great start and defended well throughout. He pulled out a nice lead for us and I just tried to do what I could during my stint. I focused on my pace, keeping my eyes on the track ahead. I’m very pleased about this win. Everyone at GRT Grasser Racing works really hard and the guys have certainly earned this success, for sure.”

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #16 (Clemens Schmid/Mike David Ortmann)
Qualifying 1: P17 – Race 1: P13
Qualifying 2: P9 – Race 2: P13

Clemens Schmid and Mike David Ortmann showed another steep rise in form in the ADAC GT Masters during this sixth race weekend of the season. 17th place in Q1 did not meet their expectations at first, but the two of them asserted themselves once again in the hard-fought midfield in Saturday’s race. Displaying lightning-fast reactions, Ortmann prevented an accident just as the race was getting under way by avoiding another competitor who had lost control in Turn 1. The 21-year-old German made up for his subsequent loss of position in the first stint and had moved up into the points before the time came to swap drivers. Schmid secured 13th place as things hotted up in an intense finish, making the best of a very tough day.

Buoyed by success, the Austrian was on really good form on Sunday. In qualifying, Schmid brought the #16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO home in ninth position. He was only five tenths of a second adrift of Perera’s pole position. However, his strong position at the start did not prove lucky for him during the initial scrum for position. He had to take evasive action on the first lap so as not to crash into a vehicle stricken in an accident and dropped back down to 17th position. The 31-year-old then made up ground closing in on the Top Ten before coming in to switch drivers, but Ortmann struggled to maintain pace in the second stint and ultimately took the chequered flag in P13.

Clemens Schmid: “I had a really good qualifying on Sunday, but things didn’t go as planned over the first lap of the race. I found myself right behind an Audi that had lost a tyre in a contact. It cost me a whole string of positions while swerving to avoid it. We then moved up again, but 13th place was not at all where we thought we ought to end up. The car was really good at Hockenheim once again and I felt very comfortable. Our pace was excellent and we could have done a lot more in both races.”

Mike David Ortmann: “The races were very intense, but unfortunately, we were out of luck this weekend. Somehow, we were always in the wrong place at the wrong time. The team did a great job and put a fast car at our disposal. Our speed was really good, so it was a bit annoying not to have finished further up the field. Fortunately, we still have a chance to improve at the Nürburgring. We want to confirm our form there and celebrate a good end to the season.”

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Tim Zimmermann/Hugo Sasse)
Qualifying 1: P12 – Race 1: P8
Qualifying 2: P28 – Race 2: P16

The second joint appearance at Hockenheim for Tim Zimmermann and Hugo Sasse in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with start number 82 was a bit of a roller-coaster. The two young drivers had a strong outing on Saturday with 25-year-old Zimmermann producing a solid performance by qualifying twelfth on the grid. He maintained the connection with the Top Ten in the race, but shortly before the pit stop, a rival driver ran into the rear of his car, resulting in the loss of many positions and damage to the car. The crew hit back in the second half of the race with the right strategy and a controlled stint from Sasse. The 17-year-old rookie crossed the finish line in eighth place after an hour’s racing to achieve his best result to date in the ADAC GT Masters.

On Saturday, though, the youngest driver in the Super Sports Car League was made to pay his dues and demands as an apprentice. While chasing a hot time in Q1, he skidded off track in Turn 1, damaging the car. He was able to return to the pits unaided after the incident, but further attacks were out of the question in view of the damage. In the race, Sasse made up for his mistake with a strong start. During the first half of the race, he worked his way up from the last row of the grid into the points. Zimmermann continued on his upward trend in the second stint and finished his charge through the field in 16th place.

Tim Zimmermann: “All in all, it was a pretty positive weekend after such a difficult season so far. The pace was pretty good and I was happy with my qualifying. The first race was looking promising until I had an incident in a scrap. Still making it into the Top Ten was not a bad way to end the race. Qualifying on Sunday dropped us back down, but still, moving up from last place to position 16 means that we achieved some measure of success, but of course, we had hoped for a better outcome.”

Hugo Sasse: “We were able to stay out of all the chaos on Saturday until a fellow competitor made contact with Tim. The resulting damage cost us quite a bit in terms of performance. The guys did all they could to fix it during a pit stop. Under the circumstances, P8 is a mega result. I unfortunately made a mistake in Q2. The tyres weren’t quite up to temperature and I pushed too hard. The race went well. We would have liked to have scored a point from the very back but we did not do enough. Still, I’m happy with the weekend. Even more might be possible for us if I minimise my mistakes.”

Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “It’s just incredible. We’ve been through a two-year spell without a win, have fought like crazy and tried everything. The team have experienced a time of intense change, but we never lost focus. We were forever optimistic, always believing in what we can do. What we have achieved this weekend means a lot to me. Such teamwork is only possible with the right people, and we’ve got them. These poles and victories prove that. Hard work always pays off at the end of the day and I can only thank everyone from the very bottom of my heart for making this success possible. I am immensely proud of our team spirit and of our drivers’ fantastic performance, for sure. They have all done an incredible job this weekend. At the Nürburgring finale, we intend to win the title that a team like this so richly deserves.”

Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Axel Weichert

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