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Stolz: HRT has “Good Shot” at Podium to Patch Tough Season

HRT’s No. 4 crew pushing for improved result at Nürburgring after luckless opening three races…

Photo: Patrick Hecq/SRO

Mercedes-AMG driver Luca Stolz reckons Haupt Racing Team has a “good shot” at fighting for a podium in this weekend’s 3 Hours of the Nürburgring to patch a challenging Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season so far.

Stolz told Sportscar365 that the German squad is optimistic of registering a points result at its home circuit, after failing to get off the mark in the three races held to date.

Punctures prevented Stolz, Maro Engel and Vincent Abril from capitalizing on their pace at the 3 Hours of Monza and the Paul Ricard 1000km, while “a combination” of factors including incidents thwarted their TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa bid last month.

Nico Bastian is driving the No. 4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo at the Nürburgring, in place Abril who is on DTM duty for HRT at the Red Bull Ring.

“It can’t be bad all the way,” said Stolz, who won the most recent GTWC Europe Sprint Cup race alongside Engel for Toksport WRT. “We are definitely aiming for a podium here.

“I think we showed that we always had the speed: we were leading at Monza and had a puncture. At Paul Ricard, we had some issues on the car and a lot of punctures.

“At Spa we were very quick in qualifying and fighting for the top ten all the race, but we had some issues again.

“So we have always had the speed but luck has not been on our side. If the luck is back on our side, we can definitely aim for a podium.”

Stolz explained that one of the No. 4 Mercedes-AMG’s main hurdles at Spa was its negotiation of backmarker GT3 cars. 

“We had a little bit of contact and it was really difficult to overtake slower lapped cars,” he said.

“Some ignored the blue flags so it was really difficult for our car where the top speed is not really high.

“We saw with the McLaren, BMW and Ferrari that it was much easier for them to run through traffic. But with our car it’s quite difficult, and you also lose quite a lot in dirty air.

“Eventually something broke on the car and we had to repair it, so we were out of the race basically.”

The German driver suggested that the prospect of fewer backmarker overtakes at the Nürburgring will give HRT a greater chance of challenging for a top-three result.

The Nürburgring race duration has been reduced from six hours to three since last year, when the No. 4 crew claimed HRT’s maiden Endurance Cup overall podium.

“I think all circuits suit our car really well, but it’s really tough to overtake,” said Stolz.

“That’s the only issue: if you’re running in dirty air and you can’t do the high-speed corners where our car works really well, then it’s really difficult to overtake after.

“The car is always really quick in qualifying, but towards traffic we struggle a bit more than other cars.

“Here you lap them once, so you don’t do it as often as at Spa. And you don’t have many restarts or lapped cars doing the restarts in between the field, so it’s a lot easier.

“I think if we start near the front or in the top ten we have a good shot at the podium.”

Stolz added that he’s so far enjoyed working with a new co-driver in Bastian, who has been drafted in from Pro-Am outfit GetSpeed Performance.

2019 Endurance Cup Silver Cup class champion Bastian is competing in the championship’s Pro category for the first time this weekend.

“I don’t think we’ve been on the same car, but we’ve known each other for a long time,” said Stolz. “He showed some great speed today and I’m happy to work with him.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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