The third round of the exciting Blancpain Endurance Series marked the end of the first half of the 2015 racing season. The Paul Ricard HTTT (FRA) in the Provence hosted the 6-hour race over a distance of 1,000 km with a grid of more than 60 GT3 cars last weekend.
The very successful Grasser Racing Team, which is based near Red Bull Ring in Austria, is contesting the series with two Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Fully developed in-house at Automobili Lamborghini, this race car already claimed several podium finishes for the team.
With the regulars Andrew Palmer (AUS), Fabio Babini (ITA) and Jeroen Mul (NLD) at the wheel of car #19 and Giovanni Venturini (ITA), Adrian Zaugg (ZAF) and Mirko Bortolotti (ITA) sharing car #63, the team can rely on six strong drivers. Both cars contest the highly-competitive PRO Series.
The weekend in the south of France saw perfect conditions, and the team used them to their advantage in the free practice session on Friday afternoon. Claiming P1 (#63, Bortolotti) and P6 (#19, Babini) in the free practice and positions 1 (#63, Bortolotti) and 13 (#19, Palmer) in the pre-qualifying session, the drivers at the wheel of the Huracán set the stage for a strong performance throughout the weekend.
The drivers in the Huracán #63 repeated their fantastic performance in the qualifying session. Bortolotti scored the fastest lap (1:56.638) in Q3, taking the pole position for the race. Fabio Babini at the wheel of the sister car (#19) clocked a fastest time of 1:57.405 after six laps, which meant row 7 for the start of the race.
Dominating the start into the race on Saturday, Bortolotti left the two Bentleys and the Ferrari behind him. During the first lap, the Stewards decided to do a restart due to the fact that one car stalled at the start, causing a yellow flag period. The Italian could not defend his lead at the restart. After dropping down to P3, he quickly regained first spot and was able to fight off the constant attacks from the Nissan behind him. Bortolotti handed the car over to Venturini after a double stint, and Venturini successfully defended his position in the top group after the driver change. The car dropped down a few places after a drive-through penalty due to a violation in the pit lane. Adrian Zaugg took over for the final stint. The South African had to pit again due to a puncture with only eight laps to go. Back on the grid, he battled hard and regained a few places. With 171 laps completed, he claimed P5 in the PRO Cup, scoring crucial points in the championship.
Starting from P13, Babini at the wheel of the sister car #19 had a perfect start and quickly found his rhythm. His stint saw a few great battles which he won. Consequently, he gained several places. Palmer took over during the driver change but was unlucky with the race car in his stint. He had to retire early from the race due to a technical failure.
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “The weekend was almost perfect for us. We claimed the pole position for the Huracán and led the field for quite a while on a fantastic track with a lot of top drivers and cars. Unfortunately, we had some bad luck with Andrew’s (Palmer) car. He had to retire in lap 88 due to a failure. And car #63 received a drive-through penalty from the Stewards. Given the tight grid, this means you’re basically done. It definitely cost us the podium finish.
The new Lamborghini is a great car; it has repeatedly proved its potential. Automobili Lamborghini did a fantastic job. We are still at the beginning with the new GT3 race car and are constantly learning. We are working together perfectly. Everybody puts in a fantastic performance at the right moment. However, winning also requires a bit of luck.
We are already looking ahead to the next important event, the 24 Hours of Spa.”
The next round of the Blancpain Endurance Series is the legendary 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, which takes place at the Belgian Formula One circuit from July 21 to 26, 2015.
Source: Grasser Racing