As the five red lights on the starting gantry went out, 28 GT3 cars were unleashed up the hill towards turn one. The pristine silence of the Spielberg valley was shattered with the sound of the ADAC GT Masters. The wildlife bolted left right and centre as the #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini emerged out of the first corner in the lead.
Christian Engelhart secured pole position for the Austrian based team in the second qualifying session earlier on, now it was up to him to sprint away from the chaos behind. And that’s exactly what he did as the bright green V10 roared out of turn two maximizing all the horse power he had in the back of that Hurucan.
From there, the #63 controlled the pace of the field leading throughout the one-hour race. Rolf Ineichen jumped in at the pit stops and brought the car home to the finish. While team owner Gottfried Grasser struggled to contain his excitement of another race win, Ineichen ended up grounding to a halt on the exit of turn one, and the race winning Lamborghini needed a tow back to parc ferme. But that wasn’t going to drown the Grasser Racing team’s celebrations- The cherry on top for them is this being their home race, family and friends chanted while the duo stood on the top step of the podium.
Behind the #63 car, things weren’t as glorious. It was an all-out brawl for the final steps on the podium right the way through the 60 minutes and even on the cool down lap. Three Mercedes’, a BMW and one of the Callaway Corvette’s all duked it out for the remaining trophies. In the end, Mucke Motorsports grasped the second place silverware, crossing the line just four seconds behind the GRT Lamborghini. Sebastian Asch drove alongside Gerhard Berger’s nephew, Lucas Auer in the BWT “pink panther” Mercedes AMG GT3.
The pair executed an outstanding race with Asch making up a number of places on the opening lap. The bright pink livery doing it justice as the car was hard to miss in the oppositions’ mirrors. When Asch brought the #26 car into the pits to hand over to Auer, the AMG was sitting in 3rd place. Once the second place car of Maximilian Götz came in to swap over to Patrick Assenheimer, a thrilling battle erupted between Assenheimer and Auer. The #84 HTP car re-joined just in front of the #26 BWT Mercedes and Auer threw everything he had in the fast locker at Assenheimer. The pair of them squabbled for a number of laps until Auer in the BWT car got a fantastic run out of the final corner and dragged up alongside Assenheimer on the main straight. The two AMG’s were side by side as Assenheimer forced the pink Mercedes right to the pit wall. Auer didn’t even consider lifting and kept his foot in it to take the inside line for turn one and ultimately pass Assenheimer for second place.
While all this drama was unfolding, Jules Gounon in the Callaway Competition Corvette (who had taken over from Daniel Keilwitz) was catching up to them in 4th place. As Auer cleared off ahead, Assenheimer fell into the clutches of the #77 Corvette, which had made its way past Phillip Eng in the Schnitzer BMW and Luca Ludwig in the Zakspeed Mercedes. Gounon who was currently at the wheel, put unprecedented pressure on Assenheimer making several dive bombs and at one stage over shooting an attempted pass and taking to the run off area at turn two. But nothing was going to dowse Gounon’s spirit, the French driver lunged to the outside of the Mercedes at Rauch corner and used all the power of the “Mighty Corvette” to drive around the outside and complete the move at the left hander of turn five. The move accomplished on the penultimate lap of the race.
Lurking in the background of this tremendous battle was Ricky Collard in that Schnitzer BMW M6 GT3. Collard who had taken over from Eng enjoyed the action ahead of him coming across the line in 5th.
The most popular brand in the top ten was the one from Affalterbach in Germany. A total of four AMG’s finishing in the top ten out of the five on the grid. A phenomenal effort from all the Mercedes teams with the Stolz/Ludwig Zakspeed car coming home 6th and the Mann Filter Mercedes just behind in 7th place. The other Zakspeed car finishing on the boundaries of the top ten in 15th.
On Saturday it was looking like a promising weekend for the Nurburgring 24hrs winning team. Instead Wolfgang Land’s crew packed up early with a two car retirement in the second race. Both R8’s suffering from a terminal gremlin forcing the Montaplast by Land boys to retire both Audi’s.
So onwards and upwards for Grasser Racing and the #63 crew. The unmistakable green Lamborghini has somewhat dominated in other parts of Europe so far this year and is this another representation of their strong form. Either way, the GRT guys are delighted to taste champagne at their home race with the factory just a few k’s down the road from Spielberg.
Race winner Rolf Ineichen (GRT Grasser Racing Team, Lamborghini Huracán GT3):
“We are very happy and very grateful. The car was really perfect today; it could not have been better. The team did a superb job. Thanks a lot for this. We were lucky to have reached the finish line at all. In my stint, the car kept misfiring, which is why my lap times fluctuated quite a bit. The last lap was consequently very difficult. That’s why we decided to park the car immediately after taking the chequered flag.”
Lucas Auer P2 (BWT Mücke Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3:
“Sebastian made a mega start – just incredible! From sixth up to third, which is the position he handed over to me in. I then gained another place and we finished second. That feels mega. I am absolutely delighted, because it was also a first ADAC GT Masters podium for the Mücke team.”
Patrick Assenheimer P4 (Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3):
“We set our expectations relatively low, because straight-line speed is very important here. We therefore opted for a setup with very little downforce, and that worked out well for us. Fourth place is our best result so far this year. We can see that we’re on an upward trend, and this is very important. It would obviously have been nice to get on the podium, but the other teams simply drove a superb race.”
From the Red Bull Ring the ADAC GT Masters heads off to Zandvoort in the Netherlands. The tight and twisty 4.3km circuit hosting the 4th round of the championship from July 21- 23.
All images used with permission from ADAC GT Masters