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ADAC GT MASTERS TITLE ELUDES GRT GRASSER RACING TEAM AFTER NO-FAULT CRASH

Last weekend’s final round of the 2021 ADAC GT Masters was full of ups and downs again for the GRT Grasser Racing Team. Following their double victory at the Hockenheimring, the squad led by Team Principal Gottfried Grasser travelled to the Eifel as favourites to take the team title with their four Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs, but extreme weather conditions and two extremely hard-fought races turned the last International German GT Championship race meeting of the season into a major ordeal.

Initially, the team looked to be on course to win the championship thanks to Saturday’s strong qualifying by Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti. However, a driver from an opposing team shunted into the Italian’s car as Race 1 was getting under way, putting him out of contention and causing GRT to lose the overall lead in an incident that was not their fault. The Austrians gave their all once again on Sunday and won through against their immediate competitors with a strong team performance.

Lamborghini works ace Franck Perera and Silver class driver Rolf Ineichen took third place on the 3.62-km short version of the Nürburgring and with it, the team’s seventh cup in this year’s ADAC GT Masters. Bortolotti rounded off an epic showing in the second race with an impressive charge up into fourth place. After going on the attack for one last time, GRT Grasser Racing were able to reduce the points deficit once again but ultimately missed victory overall by a mere six-point margin.

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Marco Mapelli)
Qualifying 1: P3 – Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P9 – Race 2: P4

The crew of the #63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO had finally thrown off their shackles in the ADAC GT Masters with a win in Saturday’s race at Hockenheim, and 31-year-old Bortolotti was now able to repeat their top form during Q1 at the Nürburgring in an impressive display. He qualified third in the field of 25 GT3 cars in freezing temperatures. However, they had no luck in the race later that afternoon despite being well placed on the grid. Bortolotti got away to a brilliant start, attacking the pair in the lead. However, a few metres further down the track, he was rear-ended by a driver from another team in Turn 1 and spun around. He subsequently had to retire the car as a result of the contact.

A nerve-wracking qualifying then followed on Sunday. The session started almost two hours late due to thick fog and turned into a real bun-fight on the wet track. Mapelli acquitted well of himself with a very respectable ninth place. The start of the race was full of drama when another driver had a big accident. Mapelli remained calm and collected in this tricky situation but lost position in the ensuing mêlée. The Lamborghini works driver came in early for the handover after the restart. Bortolotti delivered a brilliant performance in the second stint, fighting his way up from twelfth to fourth position. Lamborghini ace Bortolotti ended the season fifth in the drivers’ championship after his strong performance during the finale.

Marco Mapelli: “Mirko did great in qualifying as usual. Unfortunately, we were taken out at an early stage in the first race, which was most annoying. We could have finished on the podium or maybe even won, for sure. The car was perfect. Saturday’s quali was a real challenge. I had a good lap but made a mistake on the final sector that cost me a quite a few positions. I couldn’t gain ground at the start of Race 2, which compromised my stint. We then stopped early and Mirko was fantastic in the fight back once again. Many thanks to the team for doing a top job in this weekend’s tough conditions.”

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Rolf Ineichen/Franck Perera)
Qualifying 1: P10 – Race 1: P7
Qualifying 2: P8 – Race 2: P3

Perera and Ineichen continued on their upward trajectory at the Nürburgring after taking a win two weeks earlier. Swiss driver Ineichen laid the foundations for another strong result with a fabulous lap during qualifying on Saturday morning, putting the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with start number 19 on the fifth row of the grid. He was only two and a half tenths of a second down on pole position. His reactions later on during the turbulent period at the start were just perfect, enabling him to move up from tenth to sixth position in the course of his first stint. He and Perera lost a position at the pit stop, so the Frenchman crossed the finish line in seventh place.

37-year-old Perera had everything under control once again in Q2’s difficult mixed conditions. He was looking good for pole position during the session and eventually achieved a solid basis for Race 2 by qualifying eighth. He made full use of all his skill and experience at the start, taking P4 in the midst of the chaos. He then went on to deliver a strong first stint. After the driver change, the pressure was then on Ineichen, who pulled out all the stops in the battle for the podium and fought brilliantly against the competition. He was only half-a-second down on P2 as he crossed the line.

Franck Perera: “Finishing the season on the podium feels really great. I’m very proud of the team and of Rolf. Seventh place in the championship is a fantastic result for us. Rolf and I are like a fine French wine that gets better with age. The last few races have been something of a relief after all we’ve been through this season. I’ve had a lot of setbacks this year, which could easily have dented my self-confidence, but I kept on working and believing in myself. I showed in the end that I’ve still got what it takes and can even achieve more than ever before. We now want to round off the year with success again in the IMSA finale.”

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #16 (Clemens Schmid/Mike David Ortmann)
Qualifying 1: P14 – Race 1: P16
Qualifying 2: P16 – Race 2: P14

22-year-old Ortmann qualified on the seventh row after launching a last-minute attack in Q1. It looked like another finish in the points was on the cards for the German and team-mate Schmid. However, Saturday’s race began with a major setback for the duo. Ortmann was in the wrong place at the wrong time at the start and was slowed down massively when all hell broke loose in front of him. He found himself in last position after the first lap. Ortmann and Schmid gave it their all as the race progressed, but ultimately, their charge up the field into 16th place did not bring them the points-scoring result that they had hoped for.

Points came later on Sunday, but in a dramatic turn of events. In qualifying, 31-year-old Schmid took 13th place on the grid for the second round. But in Turn 1, the Austrian was one of those made to suffer in the relentless jockeying for position. The suspension on the #16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO was badly damaged in a no-fault contact. GRT’s mechanics used a race stoppage caused by another incident between two other drivers to repair the car in time for the restart. Schmid and Ortmann chased after the field from last place and took two points for 14th place.

Clemens Schmid: “Our car was very fast again this weekend. We definitely had the pace to be in the Top Ten, but unfortunately, many things conspired against us once more. I had a problem with the radio on my qualifying, which badly affected strategy. The Turn 1 accident was extremely annoying, but our mechanics did a great job and got the car ready for the restart. Absolutely amazing! We’ve had a lot of bad luck, but I would still say that the season has been very positive for us. I want to thank Gottfried and the team for a great year and I’m already looking forward to 2022!”

Mike David Ortmann: “We had a solid weekend, even if we were very unlucky. Our pace looked good and we made it into the points once more against all the odds. I would like to thank everyone in the team, especially for the second race. What the guys did there was just mega. Being able to race again after all the damage we suffered was just amazing. The season has been very intense, but I’ve been very satisfied with it in general and am excited to see what the future holds.”

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #82 (Tim Zimmermann/Hugo Sasse)
Qualifying 1: P11 – Race 1: DNF
Qualifying 2: P13 – Race 2: DNF

The finale of a difficult season for car number 82 got off to a promising start thanks to a strong qualifying from 25-year-old Zimmermann. He qualified eleventh on the grid for Race 1 in frosty conditions at the Ring. Unfortunately, he was one of those who fell victim to the lack of discipline at the start and was shunted out of the way by an opponent in Turn 1. It then became apparent a little further down the track that his car had been seriously damaged, leaving him with no choice but to head for the pits and end his race early.

17-year-old Sasse started the day well again on Sunday. He qualified on the seventh row of the grid, demonstrating during this final race weekend that he is making excellent progress despite the fact that this is still only his first season and he is the youngest competitor in the ADAC GT Masters. However, he and Zimmermann were out of luck again in Sunday evening’s round. As had happened on the previous day, there were a number of collisions in the field at the start, during which the car of the young two-man crew suffered so much damage that it was impossible to continue.

Tim Zimmermann: “Preparations on Thursday did not go as they should have because of Hugo’s minor shunt. Qualifying was not too bad when you take into consideration the fact that I’d had hardly any time to practise. I was very pleased to be just two tenths of a second down on the leaders. What a pity about our race results, but unfortunately, it was par for the course in a season that appears to have been jinxed. I’ve learned a great deal despite everything and have gained vital experience, from which I will certainly benefit in the future. I would like to thank everyone at GRT Grasser Racing as well as my sponsors and supporters for their much appreciated support this year.”

Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “Saturday’s accident determined the course of our weekend. Our squad really deserved to win the team title. To be shunted off track and see any chance of success evaporate as a result is a real shame. We were only six points adrift, and Mirko and Marco could easily have made up that deficit on Saturday. At least we ended the season with a strong showing on Sunday. Rolf was incredibly fast again and put up a terrific fight. What a mega result for him and Franck to finish on the podium! And Mirko drove an outstanding race too as always. He picked his way relentlessly up through the field, which was a delight to watch. The crew worked their magic again on Clemens’ and Mike David’s car. We thought it was all over after the crash at the start, but the guys achieved the impossible during the race stoppage. All in all, we are extremely satisfied with our season in the ADAC GT Masters. The way the entire team have performed during these last few races of the season has been mega. If we’d shown this form right from the start, anything would have been possible, but on the other hand, we have to be honest with ourselves. We also made mistakes and deserving champions never fail, and so therefore, we would like to congratulate Land-Motorsport on winning the title.”

Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Axel Weichert

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