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Grasser: “We’re the Qualifying Race Champions of the Season”

Sportscar365 catches up with GRT team boss Gottfried Grasser…

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Photo: Vincent Wouters

Grasser Racing Team has been one of the revelations in the Blancpain Sprint Series this season, with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Hari Proczyk scoring four wins in their black and gold Lamborghini Gallardo so far and currently second in the drivers’ standings.

While the small Austrian team operates on a fraction of the budget of teams like WRT and HTP Motorsport, their main rivals in the championship, the Gottfried Grasser-led squad still manages to revel in this David vs. Goliath scenario.

“Our crew is three people per car and that’s it. These guys are working day and night to obtain this success,” Grasser told in the Zolder paddock last weekend.

“Everybody in the team knows very well what he’s doing. We are a small family and I think this is a bit of our secret.”

After narrowly missing out on last year’s Pro-Am Cup title in the FIA GT Series with Hari Proczyk, the latter convinced his backers to return to the series and sign Jeroen Bleekemolen to fight for the overall silverware.

“Last season he had a teammate with almost the same speed, but with Jeroen it is a step forward,” Grasser continued.

“Hari is a very professional and good race driver, but he always keeps the budget in the back of his mind… When he doesn’t have to risk anything, during free practice for example, he risks nothing and doesn’t push so much.

“But he knows very well when he needs to deliver a result. He has a switch that turns off the budget situation and he starts driving like hell.

“So we use the free practice time more or less with Jeroen to bring the car up to speed. We need to do it like this, because this is the only time we have this good guy in the car.”

The budget situation forces the team to optimize every moment with its Platinum-rated driver and every minute of track time that is available during the race weekends.

“Our whole testing program with him (Bleekemolen) this year was just a couple of hours of track time at Brno, and that was it,” Grasser said.

“We only have the budget to do the races. There’s no money to test or any other extras.

“For example, this weekend we were really not on the pace in on Friday; we were around eight-tenths off the fastest cars and today we were up there, second fastest. We managed to find quite good performance on the car overnight.”

The team has managed to outperform its supplier, Reiter Engineering, on almost every occasion this season, which underlines GRT’s performance even more.

“We are working together with them, exchanging our findings, helping each other and sometimes we run the same setup,” he said.

“Still, I’m not comparing our results with theirs, as we are here fighting for the championship.”

After last year’s WRT and Audi dominance, it quite soon became clear that it would become a two-way fight between the HTP Mercedes of Götz and Buhk and the GRT Lambo this season.

The No. 28 car has won four races so far, but with three of them being Qualifying Race wins, only paying one-third of the points on offer in the Main Race, Bleekemolen and Proczyk missed out on some important points on Sunday afternoons.

“You could say we are the Qualifying Race champions of the season; the problem is we are only winning the wrong races,” continued Grasser.

“We had two big failures this year. We had a crash at the start at the Slovakia Ring where we lost minimum 12 points and we had contact with a WRT car in the Nogaro Main Race.

“HTP Motorsport just gets the points every race and that’s always the key to secure a championship. We didn’t manage that.”

With Götz and Buhk somewhat surprisingly scoring their third Main Race victory in Zolder last weekend, Proczyk and Bleekemolen now face a 27-point deficit with only 34 points up for grabs in Baku next week.

“We’re not giving up,” Grasser said. “Baku should suit the Gallardo better than the Mercedes SLS and HTP knows that.

“It’s also a bit harder at Baku because there will be a lot of guest starters scoring points, but that could also play to our advantage.”

Looking forward to 2015, Gottfried Grasser is optimistic his team will continue to shine on the international scene.

“Right now I can’t say so much about next year, but it will be a good program,” he said. “For sure, we will do the Blancpain GT Series, so we plan to do endurance also. We hope to announce something soon.”

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

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