The 2018 ADAC GT Masters season is now truly underway, the series kicking off, as usual, at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben. This year’s grid has seen a big boost, with over 36 cars travelling to the opening weekend, representing eight marques.
While the races weren’t necessarily classics, the variation in the two results has set up an intriguing championship fight which.
Two ADAC GT Masters newcomers caused a major upset in the season opener at Oschersleben last weekend. The Phoenix Audi pairing of Max Hofer and Philip Ellis scored a lights-to-flag victory from pole position in the first competitive outing of the series’ 12th season.
Finishing in the runner-up spot at the end of a thrilling race were the ORANGE1 by GRT Grasser Lamborghini duo of Mirko Bortolotti and Andrea Caldarelli, just 0.245 seconds behind the winners.
However, the Lamborghini was excluded from the race following technical scrutiny due to an infringement of the technical rules. Second place therefore went to Land Motorsport’s Kelvin van der Linde and Sheldon van der Linde, making it a 1-2 for Audi. It was a tough race for the duo, the car suffering a slow puncture late on, preventing them from fighting for the win.
“We weren’t expecting to win here today,” said Ellis. “We knew we had the potential to get among the front-runners, but we never thought that we had enough for the victory. Max put in a great performance both in qualifying and in the first stint and laid the perfect groundwork. It was really close towards the end, and I had to fight hard to defend the lead. There was a lot of pressure from behind, so I’m all the happier that I managed to hang on for the win.”
The best of the rest went to the BMW, the Team Schnitzer M6 GT3 pairing of former DTM-Champion Timo Scheider and Mikkel Jensen finishing on the final step of the podium, less than a second behind the struggling Audi.
Luca Stolz and Sebastian Asch’s Zakspeed AMG GT3 proved to be the best Mercedes team in fourth, finishing ahead of the Precote Herberth Porsche of Robert Renauer and Mathieu Jaminet which rounded out the top five.
Then in the second race, it was all Lamborghini, Mirko Bortolotti and Andrea Calderelli leading a 1-2 finish for the Grasser Racing team, the sister car of Rolf Ineichen and Christian Engelhart finishing 1.8 seconds behind in the formation finish. The two Lamborghini’s dominated, starting from the front-row spaces, they ran almost completely unchallenged for the entire race.
The only change in position came between the two Lamborghini’s, Bortolotti taking the lead off Calderelli shortly after the pit stops. The two Huracans then built a lead of over 10 seconds, before a safety car period was called to allow the marshals to recover the stranded #20 Zakspeed Mercedes.
“Finishing the weekend with a win is fantastic,” said Bortolotti, who now has three ADAC GT wins. “Christian Engelhart and I refrained from attacking each other so that we could distance ourselves from the field. Shortly after the pit stop, Mirko then took the lead. The strategy worked brilliantly. The track here is not an easy one, and you have to watch out for your tyres. In that respect, we were successful.”
Third place went to HB Racing’s Ferrari 488 GT3 of Dominik Schwager and Luca Ludwig, which failed to feature in Race 1. The result marked the car’s first podium In the series, on its debut weekend.
Fourth went to went to Robert Renauer and Mathieu Jaminet, the pair bookending a steady weekend with two good top five finishes to start the season. The HTP Mercedes-AMG pairing of Markus Pommer and Maximilian Götz meanwhile, crossed the finish line fifth.
The next round of the season is set to be held in the Czech Republic at Autodrom Most, on the 27-29 of April.
Photos courtesy of ADAC GT