GRT celebrated a successful start to the 2023 season last weekend in Italy. For the Austrian Lamborghini team, the opening round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup Powered by AWS was up at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on April 22 and 23. On the iconic circuit just outside Milan, 55 entries took to the first test of strength in the prestigious endurance series. For Grasser Racing, the race debut with the new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 proved a success with a podium in the Silver Cup.
Fabrizio Crestani, Ricky Capo and Sam Neary finished third in the classification after the race distance of three hours. Kay van Berlo, Benjamin Hites and Clemens Schmid in the sister car were denied the deserved reward for their strong performance. They had to retire after a collision through no fault of their own. GRT holds third place in the standings of the Silver Cup after the first of five stops on the calendar. For team boss Gottfried Grasser's squad, the next event of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup will take place on June 3 and 4 in Le Castellet, France.
Ricky Capo (AUS) / Sam Neary (GBR) / Fabrizio Crestani (ITA)
#58 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Qualifying: P2 - Race: P3
The trio of car number 58 entry already secured the first small achievement in this year's GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup before the race. In the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series, which is run on the racing simulation Assetto Corsa Competizione, real championship points were at stake on Saturday evening. Fabrizio Crestani scored the first two points for GRT's account in the virtual battle. The morning after, he and his two teammates set the course for a successful Sunday by qualifying second in the Silver Cup.
As the starting driver, Crestani mastered the nerve-wracking opening stage on the 5.793 km-long Grand Prix circuit of Monza. The Italian held second position in his classification until the first driver change on lap 31. In the second stint, Ricky Capo maintained his position in the top three with consistent pace. The Australian handed over to Sam Neary for the final stint. The Briton pushed relentlessly and engaged in a thrilling chase with the second-placed car. After 93 laps he took the checkered flag in third place, less than a second behind his rival.
Ricky Capo: "I’m really happy to be on the podium in my first race with the Grasser Racing Team. We had good pace and our strategy paid off too. With the data we gathered from the weekend we’ll keep getting stronger, so I’m already looking forward to our next round at Circuit Paul Ricard where I hope for even more success."
Sam Neary: "I'm really happy with the result for the whole team! A podium at Monza is a great way to start the season. We knew we had more pace, but the disadvantage in straight-line speed made overtaking difficult for us. But Monza wasn't the easiest track for us, so third place is a great result. Many thanks to the whole Grasser Racing crew. The car was faultless, and the pit stops were mega! Roll on Paul Ricard."
Fabrizio Crestani: "It definitely was a solid start to the season with good points scored. Unfortunately I couldn't qualify in Q3 due to the technical issues of the racetrack, otherwise we could have started further up front. In any case, the car was very strong. It's a shame I got stuck in traffic so I couldn't show our true pace on the first stint. Overall it was a good weekend though. I love the people and the atmosphere within the team and I have to thank everyone for providing me such a good car. I'm sorry for what happened to the #85 entry, they deserved a strong result as well. But this was just the starting point and I'm sure we will come back even stronger in the next rounds. It’s an honor to drive for this amazing squad!"
Clemens Schmid (AUT) / Kay van Berlo (NED) / Benjamin Hites (CHI)
#85 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Qualifying: P3 - Race: DNF
For the sister car, raceday had also started promisingly. In the second part of qualifying, Benjamin Hites set the fastest time in the Silver Cup, which meant third place on the grid in class. The cancellation of Q3 due to technical difficulties at the circuit thwarted an even better starting position. In the race, Kay van Berlo got off to a rocket start from the 15th row of the grid. He made up nine positions on the opening lap and took the car to the top of the Silver Cup. He then remained the undisputed leader in the fiercely contested early stages of the race.
The season opener then came to an unexpectedly early end for the crew on lap eight. On the approach to the first corner, van Berlo was involved in a collision through no fault of his own. A competitor driving right behind him braked too late and made hard contact with the right side of car number 85. The resulting damage to the tire and suspension meant that he could not drive back to the pits. Out of a promising position, the Dutchman had to park on the spot, thus ending his only scheduled race with GRT this season. In Le Castellet, his brother Glenn van Berlo will take over his seat in car number 85.
Clemens Schmid: "I'm really at a loss for words after this Sunday. We had a fantastic pre-season, the team did a mega job. To not even get ten laps in is just disappointing. We were already very unlucky in qualifying that Q3 didn't take place. That robbed us of the chance of an even better grid position. Kay's great start put us well in the race, but unfortunately the drivers behind him showed no discipline. The accident was unnecessary and the result is very frustrating. A big thank you to the whole team for a strong performance this weekend. We keep our heads down and we will fight back."
Kay van Berlo: "The pace was very good in practice and we were optimistic for the race. It was a matter of staying out of trouble at the start and getting into the rhythm. I got away well and was able to gain a few positions right away. It felt good to be in the lead in the Silver Cup, but unfortunately that didn't last long. The driver behind me was several car lengths behind and overshot it completely. He made a dive into the chicane and took me and another Lamborghini out of the race. There's no excuse for mistakes like that. Something like that shouldn't happen at the high level in the GT World Challenge. It is very disappointing, because I am sure we had a shot at the victory in the Silver Cup. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the weekend with the team. It was great fun and I would be happy to drive for GRT again one day."
Benjamin Hites: "The whole team worked really well. Our performance was on point, and the car was flying both on qualifying and race pace. We were very confident that we could get a good result. Qualifying went well and the fastest time in the Silver Cup gave me a good feeling, also in terms of confidence for the upcoming races. The outcome of the race is disappointing. The driver who caused the incident really didn't look good in this situation. All that's left for us to do is look ahead to Le Castellet. We have a lot of potential and will keep pushing."
Gottfried Grasser, Team Principal of GRT: "We leave Monza with one eye laughing and one eye crying. We can be proud of our team performance. The whole crew did a fantastic job in the pre-season and at the weekend. Our package was competitive, although it was difficult to attack up front in the race with the disadvantage in straight-line speed. Third place in the Silver Cup is a well-deserved reward for the effort. Fabrizio, Ricky and Sam raced together for the first time and showed a flawless performance. I'm sure they'll be even stronger in the future. For the sister car, on the other hand, it was a great shame to retire so early. Benjamin showed a really strong pace in Q2 and Kay filled in for his brother superbly. His start was mega and to be taken out of the race like that is a big disappointment. It was particularly bitter for Clemens, as he didn't get to drive in either qualifying or the race. The boys were robbed of the chance of a strong result by an unnecessary move of a competitor."