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GRT strikes back with fighting spirit and strong pace in the Endurance Cup at Le Castellet

Rollercoaster ride for GRT at the first round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS. The Lamborghini Squadra Corse supported team from Austria competed in the first of five stops in the Endurance Cup on the weekend of 6-7 April. At the season opener in France, the outfit took on the high-calibre competition with two Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2s in the strong field of 54 entries. In the PRO classification, Lamborghini factory drivers Christian Engelhart, Marco Mapelli and Franck Perera impressed with their competitive pace. After an unlucky start to the race, the trio executed a strong comeback drive. In the Silver Cup, Hugo Cook, Mateo Llarena and Haytham Qarajouli gained valuable insights on their debut in the renowned endurance series of the SRO Motorsports Group.

In qualifying on Sunday morning, Perera in the #163 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 sporting the colours of MOUNTAIN WOLF and RAVENOL gave an example of Grasser Racing competitiveness with the fastest time in Q1. Mapelli and Engelhart followed on from their team-mate's strong work in the next sessions. In the combined result of qualifying, they secured an excellent starting position for the 3-hour race on the 5.791 km long Circuit Paul Ricard with fourth place. In the sister car, Cook, Llarena and Qarajouli qualified the #19 fourth in the Silver Cup.

Despite the good grid spots, the race start at 15:00 Central European Time did not go according to plan. In turn two, Engelhart spun in the battle of the leading group and subsequently dropped back to 48th position. After the setback, the # 163 crew worked their way through the field with fast lap times and determined overtaking moves. Engelhart made up 15 places in the first stint, while Mapelli overtook a further 17 rivals in the second hour. In the final stages, Perera matched the pace of the leaders. However, the large gaps did not allow for any major position gains. The GRT PRO line-up finished eleventh after their fightback.

The rookies in the #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 experienced an eventful debut on the former Formula 1 circuit in Le Castellet. Lamborghini Young Driver Mateo Llarena started the race from 31st place in the overall standings. The Italian had to master four yellow phases in the first hour due to incidents in the field. A 10-second time penalty for contact set the team back at the first driver change. Qarajouli and Cook then also completed two stints with hurdles. The youngsters finished eighth in the Silver Cup.

Christian Engelhart (GER) / Marco Mapelli (ITA) / Franck Perera (FRA)

#163 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2


Qualifying: P4 - Race: P11

Christian Engelhart: "The comeback drive was really great and showed that there was a lot in it for us this weekend. The team did a great job preparing the car and we were absolutely competitive from the very first session. We were in a good position with fourth place on the grid. Unfortunately, we made contact in the first corner and then spun. I'm really sorry for my team, it just went wrong in the close racing at the start. We had good pace afterwards and made the best of the race. Many thanks to the crew and my team-mates."

Marco Mapelli: "It was a bittersweet Sunday for us. Despite the contact at the start, the car was still really fast. The team really did a fantastic job. The pit stops were on point, the strategy was right, we prepared everything perfectly. The only thing we really lacked was luck. But we showed that we have everything we need to perform this season and fight at the front. That makes me optimistic for the upcoming races."

Franck Perera: "First of all, we can be proud because we showed strong pace in qualifying and in the race. The pit stops were quick and everyone in the team did a great job this weekend. It's a shame, because we could definitely have fought for the podium. But that's how it goes sometimes. We win and lose together. There were a lot of positives to take away and we will keep fighting."

Hugo Cook (GBR) / Mateo Llarena (ITA) / Haytham Qarajouli (KUW)

#19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2


Qualifying: P4 - Race: P8

Hugo Cook: "I really enjoyed competing on a race weekend with GRT for the first time. We had good preparation for the season and I got on well here straight away. I felt really comfortable, especially in qualifying. I was 16th overall in my qualifying group, which is definitely a nice achievement in such a strong field. In the race, however, I could have done even better. I now know what I need to work on and I'm looking forward to the upcoming events."

Mateo Llarena: "My first race weekend in the GT World Challenge Europe brought many positive insights. Considering that it was the first start for all of us in this strong championship, we did a lot of things very well. On the other hand, we also realised that we still have some areas to improve. There were a few small mistakes that we want to rectify at the next race weekend."

Haytham Qarajouli: "I'm pretty happy with my debut in GT3 racing. Practice and qualifying went well. The pace in the race was also good, but unfortunately we were stuck in traffic for too long. I lost too much time when overtaking. We always made up ground in free air, which felt good. It was important to finish the first race. We want to build on that, because there is still room for improvement."

Gottfried Grasser, Team Principal of GRT: "In general, we are very satisfied with our performance. Without the incident on the first lap, we would have had every chance of getting into the fight at the front. To move this far up from the back of the field was sensational. That alone showed how fast our car was here. The team delivered a superb performance overall. The pit stops were mega and a clear improvement on last year. It was good preparation for the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps for our crew and the drivers in the #163. Our rookies also gave us a reason to smile with their finish. It was important for them to gain experience here. The GT World Challenge Europe was completely new territory for the line-up. We will analyse the weekend together and correct the small mistakes, so next time out they will get the result that is possible with their pace. We are already looking forward to attacking with this strong team at the season highlight in Spa."