Patric Niederhauser could not resist the call of the Blancpain GT Series. Having already driven in what is perhaps Europe’s most competitive GT series in previous seasons, the Swiss 26-year-old was only too pleased to accept the invitation extended by the Reiter Young Stars Team. In his guest start on the Formula 1 circuit at Monza, he was up against the crème de la crème of the touring car scene on a grid made up of 50 super sports cars. Niederhauser was sharing a cockpit with Lennart Marioneck from Germany and Mads Siljehaug from Norway.
Niederhauser immediately adjusted to the Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX and clocked the best time of the entire weekend in qualifying. However, the grid position in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup is determined by averaging out the times of the three drivers in their separate qualifying sessions. Consequently, the Young Stars Team were not on pole position but in fourth.
Niederhauser took the first stint and got off to a good start. He consolidated fourth place and kept within striking distance of the Top Three. Unfortunately, the driver changeover did not work out as planned, and the team fell behind on the pit stop. A problem with the air jacks – the integrated hydraulic system in GT3 cars -cost them a bit of time. Despite a subsequent drive-through penalty and various other setbacks, the trio still managed a P16 finish in the general classification and fourth place in the Silver Cup. A respectable result considering that there were 54 supercars on the grid for the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.
Next up for Niederhauser is the guest start in the Central European GT4 Series at Most (28th – 29th April) partnering his girlfriend Marylin.
Patric, how much does it mean to you to have set the best time of the whole weekend?
“Of course, this is balm for the soul. Especially as it is extremely difficult to get a clean lap with so many cars on the track. But on this occasion, I had luck on my side. I had an open road and was able to extract the maximum from the Lamborghini. I’m obviously really proud to have done that, especially as the starting line-up was packed with endurance racing champions, DTM drivers and even some ex-Formula 1 stars.”
You were first out for your team and defended your grid position. How did your stint go?
“The start went brilliantly. I got off the line well and held on to my position. I even put the Top Three under a bit of pressure. Over the course of the stint, I matched the trio of front-runners for pace, but it was difficult to close the gap. Unfortunately, the advantage we had on the straights was cancelled out by the deficit in terms of cornering speed. When the time came for the change of drivers, I handed over the car in a clear fourth place.”
But then the three of you fell behind. What happened there?
“There were two problems that caused us to lose ground. For one thing, the pit stop did not work well. We had trouble with the air jacks trying to jack the car up. That cost a bit of time. Unfortunately, due to a subsequent drive-through penalty, we fell further behind. But there are definitely positives for me to take away from the weekend, namely that we finished 16th in such a strong field. This is a great achievement and a good result for the whole team. I would also like to thank Reiter Young Stars Team for this great opportunity and of course my two team-mates for giving me a good time.”
Press release Patric Niederhauser