Orange1 Team GRT lives through bitter-sweet déjà-vu at the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in Silverstone

Orange1 Team GRT’s second race weekend in the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Silverstone was bittersweet with a hint of déjà vu. Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti and his two team-mates Rolf Ineichen and Christian Engelhart took pole position in the field of 48 GT3 sports cars as they had done in the season opener at Monza. Once again, the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with start number 63 was robbed of an excellent chance of winning.

On a brighter note, the sister car bearing start number 19 driven by Lucas Mauron, Gerhard Tweraser and Arno Santamato qualified 13th on the grid and turned in a strong performance in an at times turbulent race. Their reward was eighth place in the overall classification and victory in the Silver Cup, which was a real boost for the three of them after narrowly missing out on the podium with fourth place at Monza.

Puncture stops car #63 while in the lead
Car #63 had a fantastic start into the Sunday. Italian driver Bortolotti topped the timing screen in the first qualifying session with an astonishing lap time. He was over half a second faster than the best of the rest on his fastest lap. Ineichen and Engelhart as well put in good performances in sessions two and three, enabling Orange1 Team GRT to secure pole position.

Engelhart maintained the lead at the start and held it confidently in the opening stages of the three-hour race, but a repetition of what befell the crew at Monza soon took place. The Lamborghini suffered a puncture to the left rear tyre shortly before the end of the first stint, which wrecked their chances of winning. Engelhart had to nurse the stricken car back to the pits for a whole lap at slow speed. Car #63 dropped back to last place. The deficit that ensued as a result of the puncture was ultimately too great and the connection to the front-runners could not be re-established. The car was ranked 36th after the stints put in by Ineichen and Bortolotti.

Christian Engelhart: “I’m extremely disappointed, for sure, because I felt that I drove a good stint and have everything under control. The tyre went without warning. We were well prepared. Rolf had good long-run pace and Mirko did a great lap in qualifying. It was all looking very positive for the weekend until the tyre damage dropped us back. Everyone in the team did an impeccable job and then that had to happen. The other guys afterwards went on a strong charge. I’m still disappointed, but we’ll have to analyse what went wrong with the tyre and look to the future.”

Car #19 wins Silver Cup after perfect race and dramatic final lap

The race went better for the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with start number 19 but was not without drama. After a strong qualifying, Santamanto took the first stint and maintained the connection to the Top Ten. A safety car period that came just at the right moment ensured that Swiss driver Mauron found himself back in contention for victory at the half-way stage. He stayed with the leaders until drivers were changed for the last time.

Car #19 was then heading for certain victory in the Silver Cup during the final hour. However, on the final stint, a drama began to unfold for Austrian driver Tweraser when the Lamborghini suffered a technical problem on the very last lap. He was going slowly as he crossed the finish line with a lead of just 0.013 seconds on his main rival in the Silver Cup to secure victory in class for GRT Grasser Racing.

In the overall standings of the Silver Cup, car #19 is in second place after two out of five meetings. The three drivers are only four points down on the leaders. Maurin, Santamato and Tweraser aim to take the championship lead in the next round at Le Castellet.

Lucas Mauron: “I took over the car from Arno in eleventh place. There was a safety car period that came just in time for us shortly after I went out on track. I was fourth after that, which was the key to success. I was able to keep up very well with the front-runners after the yellow flag period, and we were even in podium contention at times. I handed the car over to Gerhard lying in third position. I’ve been really pleased with everything this weekend. The car was great, the pit stops were excellent and Arno and Gerhard drove strong stints.”

Arno Santamato: “What a top job by the team! Our gearbox let go in the final turn, but we still managed to win the race by a couple of millimetres, which was absolutely amazing. I am very proud of our win in the Silver Cup. We had an almost perfect weekend. Everyone in the team did a great job and didn’t make any mistakes.”

Gerhard Tweraser: “I’m very happy that everything worked out so well. We were very strong throughout the weekend right from the start in practice. All three of us are on the same level in terms of pace, which is of course extremely important in endurance racing. I felt very comfortable in the car later on after initially struggling to find my rhythm, and it was only on the last lap that things got a bit too hectic for me. It suddenly became impossible to change gears and I had to just coast around the circuit for about half a lap but made it to the finish line, luckily, so I’m very pleased to have secured victory in the Silver Cup. Our goal for Le Castellet is to take the lead in the championship.”

The drivers of car #63 will get the chance to make up for their mistakes in the next round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Le Castellet on the weekend of 31st May/1st of June. But before that, the second race weekend in the ADAC GT Masters is on the schedule for GRT Grasser Racing. The team’s three Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVOs will go on the attack at Most in the Czech Republic, 17th – 19th May.

Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “Car #19 had a really terrific weekend. Victory in the Silver Cup was really good for the boys. They did a top job and had a perfect race. I’m very proud of them. Car #63 had a really mega quali. Mirko’s lap was incredible, half a second up on the rest. Rolf and Christian also had a great qualifying session. I was very pleased with them. The first stint was also very promising, but of course, the puncture was a huge disappointment. We went in a bit too aggressive with setup. It’s just too bad, because we deprived ourselves of a chance to finish on the podium. We were plagued by technical issues and other little incidents with car #63 over the past weekends. We’ll work to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. We feel optimistic about Most and hope that we can finally get in the right direction there.”