Rollercoaster ride for GRT at the last stop of the ADAC GT Masters at the Hockenheimring. For the final weekend from 20 to 22 October, Benjamin Hites and Marco Mapelli gave their all once again in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 of the Austrian Lamborghini Team in front of 88,000 spectators. On Saturday, the teammates delivered a flawless performance with pole position, victory and fastest race lap. In the second race, however, they were unable to turn their strong pace into another top result due to an early retirement. After a season of ups and downs, the GRT duo finished the championship in fourth place in the drivers' standings.
For GRT, the only thing that counted at the sixth round of the season was victory and team principal Gottfried Grasser's squad matched their ambitions right from the start on Saturday. With a phenomenal lap, Benjamin Hites put the #63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 on pole position for the first race on the 4.574 km long Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg. The 24-year-old achieved the feat for the third time in his rookie season in the ADAC GT Masters. For Grasser Racing, it was the 21st pole in the league of super sports cars.
The first race over 60 minutes plus one lap was determined by a two-way battle for victory. Hites maintained the lead at the start and drove the fastest lap of the race in the first stint, but his pursuer kept with him in his slipstream. At no point was the lead more than a second. After the driver change on lap 21, Marco Mapelli was initially at a disadvantage on cold tyres and lost the lead to his rival. However, the Italian was also able to call on the strong race pace of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 shortly afterwards and regained first place within three laps. After 37 laps, he was the first over the finishing line.
GRT's second win of the season and 14th success in the ADAC GT Masters put the driver duo in a promising position for the final race on Sunday. With a deficit of only ten points in the overall standings, Hites and Mapelli went into the twelfth and final race of the year with a chance on the title. In the second qualifying session, the 36-year-old Lamborghini factory driver again secured a perfect starting position with second on the grid and thus further reduced the gap in the overall standings by scoring two bonus points.
However, hopes for another success and a possible title win were dashed on the very first meters of the second race. Mapelli defended himself on the way to the first corner against a competitor who had jumped the start and then made contact with the GRT driver in the process. The Italian had to retire the car in the garage due to the damage he sustained, which led to an early end to the race for him and Hites.
Benjamin Hites (CHI) / Marco Mapelli (ITA)
#63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2
Qualifying 1: P1 - Race 1: P1
Qualifying 2: P2 - Race 2: DNF
Benjamin Hites: "We came to Hockenheim with a chance on the title, even if it was only a small one. With the three bonus points for pole position and the win on Saturday, the fight was really on. Marco did the job in the second qualifying, but unfortunately we were taken out right at the start of the race. It's a great shame, because we would have liked to fight for the championship until the chequered flag. Nevertheless, I am happy with the season. I really enjoyed the year with Grasser Racing. We had a fantastic car every weekend and the whole team gave their best. I am very grateful for that. We will take the good moments of this season with us and are already looking forward to next year."
Marco Mapelli: "Actually, we had a very good weekend. The car was excellent and really fast, as it has been on pretty much all the circuits this year. The team did a really great job preparing for the race. On Saturday we got the maximum out of the car and we were in a good position for the second race. It's disappointing that it turned out like this for us, but we can still be proud of what we showed. We made a few mistakes over the season, but overall we had the best car this year and that is worth a lot for the future."
Gottfried Grasser, Team Principal of GRT: "It really was a dream Saturday, where everything went absolutely according to plan. Benja, Marco and the crew put us on course for the championship with a fabulous performance and it hurts that we didn't get to fight this battle to the end. To be taken out right at the start is really frustrating, but that's the way the sport goes sometimes. Setbacks like this remind us how hard we have to work for our successes. As far as that is concerned, we can look back on a great season as a team. It was a learning year with Benja as a rookie and he showed a really fantastic progress. In the second half of the season, he and Marco were always fighting at the front of the field for good reasons and we are very proud to have made such big steps with the new Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 and a new driver in the ADAC GT Masters."