Knittelfeld takes Florida, Part 2: After their amazing victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona in January, Orange1 Team GRT did it again this weekend. The green-orange Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo fielded by the team from Styria triumphed again in the second race of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship on Sebring’s famous circuit. And once more, it was the well-practised team of GT veterans, Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen and Rik Breukers, who stood on the top step of the podium in the GTD class.
At 10:40 local time, the engines of the 40 or so sports cars in the field sprung into life for the first time. The weather was rainy and conditions extremely difficult, but twelve hours later, GRT Grasser Racing had successfully covered some 320 nerve-wracking, exciting laps of the 6.02-kilometre Sebring International Raceway.The circuit with its infamous bumps is one of the most challenging on the entire race calendar. Man and machine are really pushed to the limits of endurance here, so it was important that the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo was again able to function without missing a beat.
Victory was the result of masterly driving and strategy by the entire team. GRT Grasser Racing laid the foundations for victory in qualifying on Saturday when they secured P4 on the grid, an ideal starting position for the race.The three drivers stayed up front throughout the twelve hours. Bortolotti, Ineichen and Breukers were among the Top Four for quite a while and even led for the first time towards the middle of the race. They lost some ground as things progressed. In the end, though, Bortolotti gained a whole series of positions thanks to brilliant driving during the last stint. The strategy of saving fuel for the final stages of the race also proved to be absolutely correct.So GRT Grasser Racing won their third overseas race in a row following success in the 2018 24 Hours of Daytona and in January, giving the outfit a win rate of 100 percent, as these were the only race outings undertaken by the Austrian outfit in the USA.
“What a race! Winning Sebring, one of the toughest races on the entire calendar, is just amazing,” said a delighted Bortolotti. The Italian will remember his final stint in particular for many years to come. “The last two hours were the toughest of my whole career. First off, I outbraked Andy Lally in the first turn, and then after that, he stuck to my bumper for an hour and a half until we reached the finish line. The slightest mistake would have been enough to lose us the win, and what’s more, I really needed to save fuel but wanted to secure victory more than anything. Hats off to everyone in the team! I’m really proud of every one of them.
“Team-mate Breukers added: “It had already occurred to us during practice that we had the potential to win here. Conditions at the start were very difficult but Rolf did a great job. Mirko followed him for his stint and won a couple of positions.” The team were then able to assert their lead in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo with the Dutchman behind the wheel. “We lost some ground after that but hit back as night fell,” he told us. “Mirko then did everything possible over the last two hours to try and get us back in the lead. The whole team were outstanding throughout the weekend and pulled off a masterly feat of strategy. We are delighted to have won this prestigious race.
“Swiss driver Ineichen also looked back with pride on Sebring: “It was a fantastic day for us. I can hardly believe what we achieved there. It was very rainy for the start of the race, reminding me a bit of Daytona. I knew that these conditions really suited us and was certain that we could make it crack in the race. The fact that we won was thanks to the mega job done by everyone in the team. As far as I’m concerned, the best moment of the whole race was when we came into the pits in third place after some six hours of racing and emerged in P1. That shows just how brilliant the team are and how hard our mechanics worked for the win. Mirko too impressed me greatly on his last stint with some terrific scraps.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “I’m simply lost for words. Our success rate in the American races is 100 per cent with three wins in a row. The race itself was extremely turbulent with many ups and downs. We extended our last three stints by a good margin and our drivers saved fuel where possible, which enabled us to stick to our strategy and we didn’t have to make another stop. I would like to especially thank Rolf Ineichen, who pushed incredibly hard, Mirko Bortolotti, who has no equal when he’s behind the wheel and Rik Breukers, who also turned in an impeccable performance. And, of course, the entire team deserves my utmost respect. For twelve hours, they did not make a single mistake. Every move was dead right and every stop perfect from start to finish. I am incredibly proud of the whole team, and last but not least, many thanks to Squadra Corse Lamborghini, who backed us wonderfully well at this demanding track right from the very first tests. The support we’ve received from Lamborghini is just awesome. Everyone worked well together in this thrilling race. Unfortunately, we’ve had to curtail celebrations, because we’ll soon be heading back to Europe where the first tests are scheduled for next week. As a result, the team won’t get a break, but of course, we intend to build on our successes overseas in Europe.”