Orange1 Team GRT are brilliant at mastering tricky 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

Orange1 Team GRT contested the season highlight in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup last weekend, the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Team Principal Gottfried Grasser lined up for a fifth time to compete in the well-established race in the Ardennes, Belgium.

Weather conditions were extreme, presenting all participants in the 71st edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa held at the 7.004-km Formula 1 circuit with a tough challenge which Orange1 Team GRT mastered brilliantly. Unfortunately, a red-flag period ruined the team’s chances of a finish up front.

There is just one more race left on the programme in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, the 2019 season finale which will take place 28th /29th September in Barcelona. The ADAC GT Masters weekend at Zandvoort, 9th-11th August, is next up on Orange1 Team GRT’s calendar.

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 (Mirko Bortolotti/Christian Engelhart/Rolf Ineichen)

The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63 prepared by GRT Grasser Racing was in first place when the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps was red-flagged for several hours at 5.40 am on Sunday morning due to heavy rain. Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen had consistently worked their way up the field in the extremely tricky conditions, having started out from 24th on the grid.

Unfortunately, the race stoppage came at an inopportune moment for the crew of three, as the team had not completed the mandatory technical pit stop scheduled to last at least five minutes. There was not much time left after the restart at 11.15 am to complete the stop and make up for lost ground, so Engelhart, Ineichen and Bortolotti had to settle for 16th place overall in the end.

The drivers got nine bonus points for second place after six hours of racing, plus another four for P6 after twelve hours. Consequently, they came away with some points despite not finishing in the Top Ten.

The result was a foregone conclusion to some extent, because after qualifying, their aggregated time from all their sessions meant that they missed progressing through to the Superpole for the Top Twenty drivers by just 0.033 seconds. Bortolotti had amply demonstrated the pace of their Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO with second place in qualifying, and car #63 had another good showing with P3 in the night training session.

Christian Engelhart: “Many thanks to the mechanics for preparing our car really well. They gave us a fine tool, with which to fight for the win. I drove the first triple stint. The track was wet at first and then dried off, so I trod carefully, because you don’t win a 24-hour race at the first corner. I made a good start and we had a great pit stop that gained us a few more positions. Mirko then took over and moved even higher up the field. The weather was very variable all the time, even when I went back out. We constantly had to change from slicks to full wets. My second triple stint went well. I kept pushing forwards. We made all the right tactical decisions. We were in contention for a place in the Top Five for half to two-thirds of the race. The rain became torrential when I was in the cockpit for the third time and conditions were some of the toughest I’ve ever driven in. We were in the lead when the race was stopped. Unfortunately, the red flags came out at the most inopportune moment for us. Also, the long break denied us the opportunity to make up for our bad luck. We had to fight over the few hours that remained to get back to the front. We tried to attack by taking a gamble with tyres, but that didn’t pay off. I’m very proud of the team. Everyone did an excellent job, produced their very best work and we were contenders for victory for quite a long time.”

Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 (Arno Santamato/Gerhard Tweraser/Lucas Mauron/Andrea Amici)

The crew racing the team’s second Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO were contesting the Silver Cup and finished fifth in class. The regular drivers – Arno Santamato, Gerhard Tweraser and Lucas Mauron – came away with 18 points and booked third place in the overall standings for Silver Cup drivers ahead of the season finale of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. GRT Grasser Racing are ranked third in the Silver Cup team competition.

The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #19 started out from 42nd on the grid to tackle the 24-hour race at Spa. The four drivers moved up to 33rd overall during the turbulent race. They had the potential to do more on their charge up the field but were prevented from doing so, as a number of incidents and spins came at unfavourable times for the team.

Gerhard Tweraser: “Weather conditions were tough. It was extremely hot initially with temperatures of 41 degrees, and then the opposite with heavy rain and fog. Visibility was limited especially at night. We drove an almost faultless race. Unfortunately, we were unlucky with some of the safety car periods and full-course yellows, which cost us a possible podium finish in the Silver Cup. Nevertheless, the whole team can be proud. Finishing a 24-hour race is never a foregone conclusion.”

Andrea Amici: “Visibility was not so good for my night stint, and finding the right pace was tricky, but our pace was good in the daytime. I enjoyed driving in these changeable conditions. I overtook a couple of cars and am satisfied with my personal performance.”

Arno Santamato: “I’m very pleased that we made it to the finish in this tough race. The team impressed me the most. Everyone did an incredible job.”

Lucas Mauron: “It was an amazing experience. I’m satisfied, generally speaking. We achieved the maximum. We were third in class for quite a time thanks to the team’s excellent performance. Unfortunately, the race turned out a bit unlucky for us overall.”

Team Principal, Gottfried Grasser: “We were having an excellent race until it was red-flagged. We moved quite well up the field with car number 63 and had incredible speed. Despite the conditions, our pace even made it possible to be among the front-runners. However, the red-flag stoppage came at the worst possible time. Our car was two minutes away from coming in for the technical pit stop which we were unable to complete until the race had restarted. That cost us a lot of positions, as we lost the advantage we had built up previously because the whole field was bunched up together once more. That’s the painful part of racing, but it’s something we all have to go through. To sum up, it was another Spa 24-hour race, in which we had the potential to finish up front, but unfortunately, the red-flag period put a stop to our race at a tactically very inopportune moment. What’s positive from my perspective is the performance of car number 19, as the guys were all newcomers to Spa but did a mega job of getting the car across the line in the tricky conditions. Their just reward is third place in the overall rankings of the Silver Cup. They still have the chance to finish championship runners-up at Barcelona and will keep on fighting until the end.”