The season opener of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Monza was a roller-coaster of emotions for Orange1 Team GRT. Their delight at pole position for car #63 with Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen and Christian Engelhart was followed by disappointment over its retirement from the race.
Things were the other way round for car #19 with Lucas Mauron, Gerhard Tweraser and Arno Santamato. The three of them went on a great charge in the race after a mediocre result in qualifying, and there was a drop of bitterness in finishing fourth, just missing the podium in the Silver Cup.
Orange1 Team GRT will be back in action this weekend when they will line up within the context of the Creventic 24-hour series to contest the 12 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps as preparation for the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The season opener of the ADAC GT Masters will take place in the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben in two weeks’ time (26th – 28th April). The next race in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup will be at Silverstone, May 11th/12th.
Bitter blow as car #63 retires after producing top performance
Sunday could not have got off to a better start at Monza for GRT Grasser Racing. After taking victory at Sebring, Bortolotti, Ineichen and Engelhart secured pole position for the three-hour race in the afternoon. The start took place behind the safety car as the heavens opened. Bortolotti initially defended his lead when the safety car peeled off into the pit lane.
However, he had to pit with a puncture after about half an hour. But every cloud has a silver lining. As the field was under Full Course Yellow and travelling quite slowly, he was able to return to the track in second place. Bortolotti used the end of another Full Course Yellow period to surprise the race leader with an overtaking manoeuvre. He then posted strong lap times, pulling away from his rivals.
Bortolotti handed over the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO to Ineichen, who had to struggle on slicks, as the track did not dry out as expected. The last change of drivers took place about an hour before the end of the race when it was Engelhart’s turn to drive. But on Lap 62 came bad news for the German driver. The ABS had stopped working and he had no choice but to retire the car in the pits.
Mirko Bortolotti: “It was a pity as regards the end result. We absolutely deserved more. I kept the lead from pole during my first stint and extended it, but unfortunately, we were very unlucky later. Still, we can be very satisfied with our performance.”
Rolf Ineichen: “We hoped to be really successful at Monza. We were very well prepared and had a really good car. We showed in qualifying just what the team and the car are capable of. I drove on slicks in the second stint of the race, which was a mistake in hindsight, because conditions were very difficult and the tyres just did not build up enough grip. Unfortunately, we lost the ABS on the final stint and it’s not possible to drive without it at Monza in such conditions. All in all, it was an excellent weekend, showing how well the team can do. That gives us hope for the races to come.”
Christian Engelhart: ”It should have been a terrific weekend for us. We were extremely well placed and well prepared. We did everything right in qualifying and finished on pole in really tough conditions in the rain. We were very optimistic about the race. We had a strong car, but unfortunately, there was a technical problem and we were forced to retire.”
Car #19 narrowly misses podium in Silver Cup after strong charge up field
Santamato, Mauron and Tweraser steadily fought their way forwards in the rain at Monza from 29th on the grid in the overall field and P10 in the Silver Cup. Not even small setbacks such as loss of time during two pit stops could stop them. However, their charge up the field went unrewarded. They missed a podium finish in the Silver Cup by a mere 0.170 seconds. Still, the three of them could be very pleased with fourth place in the high-calibre Silver Cup field and P11 overall.
Lucas Mauron: “My stint went very well. I got into a good rhythm, overtook a lot of cars, moving forwards all the time, but unfortunately, we ran out of laps in the end, otherwise we would have finished on the podium. We were definitely on the pace and able to keep up with the leaders, so we can be satisfied overall.”
Arno Santamato: ”We didn’t make any mistakes despite the very tough conditions. We had everything under control at all times. I get on really well with my new team-mates, Gerhard and Lucas. We share the same will to win, so we’re well placed for the season.”
Gerhard Tweraser: “Qualifying was tough for us. The rain made conditions tricky and there were a few red flag periods, so we were unable to qualify higher than 29th. The race, though, was much better. The car was very fast and we were able to mount a strong charge. In the end, we were less than two tenths down on P3. There’s still a lot we can do to improve, so we are confident that we will be even stronger at Silverstone.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “Our weekend had its ups and downs. Still, there was a great deal that was very positive. Rolf, Christian and Mirko had a mega qualifying and showed the car’s potential. We were very optimistic about the race and Mirko’s first stint was great too. We were hoping for a podium result. However, he had already noticed ABS error messages cropping up on his stint. Things got worse for Rolf until finally, the ABS stopped working altogether for Christian. We had the problem on Saturday as well but couldn’t find the fault. We’ll have it fixed for the next race. Even though we failed to secure a great result, we don’t regard it as a negative. Our pace was amazing. We also see the race with our Silver Cup car driven by Arno, Lucas and Gerhard as being very positive. Their pace was very strong and they achieved the fastest time of any Lamborghini in the race, even though they had not had the opportunity to do any testing previously in the new Lamborghini. Well done, I say. I can’t wait to go racing with them again next time!”