Patric Niederhauser succeeds despite Zandvoort setbacks and extends lead
in ADAC GT Masters championship
The ADAC GT Masters’ summer break finally came to an end last weekend at Zandvoort, which meant that Patric Niederhauser was now back in the cockpit of his Audi R8 LMS GT3, driving for HCB-Rutronik Racing. He and team-mate, Kelvin van der Linde, travelled as overall leaders in the standings to the fourth meet of the 2019 season on the Dutch North Sea coast. The weekend was turbulent, but the pair of them successfully extended their lead in first place in the championship despite failing to score points on Saturday.
In Q1 on Saturday, Niederhauser had an excellent showing in the wet, qualifying second in the field of 31 GT3 cars even though in practice on the previous day, he and van der Linde had been unable to find the right balance for their Audi. The race did not go according to plan despite their promising position on the grid. Niederhauser dropped out of the points after his team-mate spun. Also, the safety car came out at an inopportune moment. After six points-scoring finishes in a row, they came away empty-handed for the first time this season.
They made up for this setback to some extent in the second race on Sunday. Van der Linde qualified the car in grid slot twelve. In a clean, error-free race, he and Niederhauser worked their way up into ninth place, taking eight points. As a result, they left Zandvoort with a lead of 18 points on their nearest rivals and the title of ‘half-time’ champions.
However, there is no time now to bask in their glory at the top of the table after racing in the Netherlands, as the next ADAC GT Masters race meet with Races 9 and 10 in the Super Sports Car League is scheduled for this weekend at the Nürburgring (16th-18th August). In the Eifel, Patric Niederhauser intends to repeat his fine form from the first races of the season and underline his title ambitions with more top results.
Patric, you successfully defended your lead in the championship, but things could have gone even better...
FP1 in the rain was excellent, but then the track dried out, and we suddenly found ourselves down on pace. The team spent the whole night, going over the car with a fine-toothed comb and dismantled it bit by bit. The guys didn’t get a wink of sleep, but then fortunately, rain fell on Saturday in qualifying, so I was able to qualify in P2, which was obviously great. I’d not driven in the rain for ages in a GT3 car. I didn’t see a single drop of rain last year while racing in Asia. The car was excellent in the wet, but conditions were dry once again for the race and then we had a bit of bad luck into the bargain.
Your team-mate ran wide briefly, but that was not your biggest problem, was it?
It was just not our day. Some of the other drivers also went off at the place where Kelvin had spun into the gravel trap. It was very slippery there. But then the safety car came out and bumped us even further back down the field. We dropped out of the points because of the pit stops. After that, it was impossible to do anymore. Kelvin is a racing driver through and through. He felt really annoyed with himself after his mistake and continued to fight hard, but our chances of a points-scoring finish had long since disappeared.
Race 2, though, went much better and you scored some vital points.
Yes, absolutely! At least we got some points there. Sunday’s race was not bad. It would probably have been even better had we been a little further up the grid. We all know how difficult overtaking is at Zandvoort, but Kelvin’s twelfth place in qualifying was a good starting position, nevertheless. We soon realised in the race that we were back on track again as regards setup. The car’s balance was much better than it had been previously. The team did a great job of sorting things out. We can be very pleased with ninth place.
Well, the main thing is that it enabled you to extend your lead in the championship and secure the title of ‘half-time’ champion.
That’s not really an actual title, but nevertheless, means a lot to me, because it shows that we’re still in the lead. It’s great to be in first place after the first half of the season with a new outfit still in its first year with these particular team members. That in itself really shows how much we’ve achieved in recent months. I hope we can go on working like this. It’s amazing that we still managed to extend our lead on such a weekend.
Well, you’ll get the chance to put Zandvoort behind you in a week’s time and repeat your good form from the first races of the season.
I have high hopes for the Nürburgring races. The cars will be very close together there in terms of performance, but I also think that the track really suits me. I’ve had some great weekends at the Ring in the last few years, especially in my first year in the ADAC GT Masters with Audi, but we mustn’t underestimate the others, definitely not. Some teams simply had a bad start to the season, but if they continue like they are doing, they’ll be tough nuts to crack in the fight for the championship. We hope to have a better weekend again at the Nürburgring.