Starting its first full season at the ADAC GT Masters with a win was a little surprise even for GRT Grasser Racing Team itself. But Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen in their Lamborghini Huracán GT3 number 63 took the chance given to them at the Sunday race at Oschersleben to celebrate an unexpected victory in the end.
Especially Ineichen was praised with a lot of enthusiasm by his team for withstanding enormous pressure towards the end of the race after two safety-cars, the re-starts and the following laps with the tight field close behind him.
Even Ex-F1-driver Ralf Schumacher as a TV pundit was impressed: “That shows how much of a performance also a gentleman driver can deliver. Not to crack under pressure and taking the win, that´s great stuff!”
Ineichen did not cross the finish line first, but at the moment he did, he was already confirmed as race winner, while leader Sebastian Asch was given a 30 second time penalty for keeping too much of a gap behind the safety car. A similar offence did cost Sebastian Vettel a Formula 1 win at Hungary some years ago.
Before the podium ceremony which Ineichen had to go through alone as Christian Engelhart was already on his way to his next race at Oschersleben in the Porsche Carrera Cup, the Swiss was celebrated by the complete Grasser Team.
But he immediately returned the compliments: “First I want to thank my GRT Grasser-Racing-Team and my teammate Christian. Without his great work in the first stint this fantastic win would not have been possible at all. When I was in second position during the last laps, I really had to give it all to defend my position against Connor De Phillippi. The slightest mistake from my side would have meant him overtaking me. Of course the late safety car period helped us a little bit. I heard about the penalty against Sebastian Asch and our resulting victory by radio only after crossing the line. To be able to take the win in such a high class series as the ADAC GT Masters really makes me proud.”
Christian Engelhart, later being able to finally visit the podium as second placed in the second Porsche Carrera Cup race, had to overcome some critical moments at the start of the race. “I had a very good start, managed to get through on the inside. But then one of the Corvette drivers obviously did not see me and just turned in. It was a bad situation for everybody. So the first half of the race had some ups and downs. After the collision I managed to improve a few places. I was quite content with fourth place while coming in for the driver change.”
Due to a good strategy of the team Ineichen resumed the track in second, which turned out to be decisive for the later success. “A sensational win, I never expected that”, Engelhart was more than happy. “Compliments to Rolf who showed such a great performance already at his first weekend in ADAC GT Masters. Of course the safety car and the penalty for Asch/Ludwig slightly helped us. I was really worrying until the end – but it was worth it.”
The first race on Saturday the two Sunday winners had finished in eighth position, even as qualifying did not go well at all for Ineichen, which resulted in him having to start from only 16th on the grid. But a well planned strategy with a rather early driver change, a safety car, “which I really valued, as it helped me closing the gap” and a few strong overtaking actions by Engelhart brought not only eighth place, but also the win in the Trophy, the former gentleman category.
Already then Ineichen had been quite content: “I did not expect my first race in the ADAC GT Masters to go so well. U was a bit careful at the start, did not risk too much, but later I had a few nice fights with some Audis. And then Christian brought the car home with a great result.”
There was not so much luck though for car number 16. Things still looked quite promising on Saturday for the two Lamborghini juniors, when Luca Stolz managed to advance from 11th on the grid. A Top Ten position seemed to be in reach, but a little “off” onto the grass of Gerhard Tweraser meant dropping back to the end of the field, as the Lamborghini has gotten a little bit damaged. An Sunday the two youngsters had to start from quite far behind, but at least still could climb up to 13th during the race.
Team principal Gottfried Grasser was beaming after the win of his top car: “During practice we realised that the pace was not completely there. So we started to work really hard – and it paid off. That was an absolutely top performance of our drivers. I am really proud of this result, especially as we managed to fight back due to great teamwork. Victory would not have been possible on our own, but a place on the rostrum would have been well deserved anyway.”
Looking at the general resume of his team at ADAC GT Masters put another big smile onto Grasser´s face: “Two ADAC starts, two wins, 2015 at Red Bull Ring, when we did a guest start, and now here – that´s statistically unbelievable. Now we would like to carry this momentum to Monza. Already on Wednesday we will go there for the start of the Blancpain Endurance Series, a race we are really looking forward to. There we are also aiming for a podium.”