Patric Niederhauser was competing in the final fixture of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Asia last weekend at Ningbo International Speedpark in China. The Swiss driver arrived with a realistic chance of winning the championship and with motivation at peak level.
Team-mate Nico Bastian prepared the ground well for Niederhauser in the title showdown by qualifying on pole for the first race. But the number 999 Mercedes-AMG GT3 was then taken out of the race on the first corner by an opponent.
The mechanics of the GruppeM Racing Team worked well into the night to repair the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the second race. Niederhauser finished fourth in Sunday’s qualifying, a reasonably promising position in the circumstances. After the bitter disappointment of the day before, his chances of taking the title had been severely dented but were nonetheless still intact. A race win accompanied by a couple of lucky breaks in terms of how his main rivals fared would have seen Niederhauser lifting the much-coveted trophy.
But once again, fortune did not smile on Niederhauser. After twelve laps, he had to park the Mercedes-AMG GT3 with a defective suspension, a consequence of the collision on Saturday. With this second DNF in as many starts, his chances of securing the title were gone. The only consolation that Niederhauser can take from the weekend is that he at least made it onto the championship podium in third place.
Pole position for the first race – there could hardly have been a better start to the final weekend. But then your team-mate got no further than the first corner. What happened there?
Patric Niederhauser : “What happened on the first corner was the turning point of the whole weekend. Unfortunately, Nico did not get off to the perfect start. He had dropped back to second by the time they reached first corner, but that in itself wouldn’t have been such a disaster. However, an opponent completely misjudged his braking point and more or less torpedoed Nico. That was the end of our race. The car was damaged, and our mechanics had to work well into the night to get it roadworthy for the second race.”
But then your bad luck carried over into Race 2…
Patric Niederhauser : “I qualified fourth, which was a decent starting position. We had a reasonable chance of winning the second race and still having a say in the destination of the title, even though we would have needed a bit of divine intervention. But that wasn’t to be. The rear left suspension gave way during the race. We are pretty sure that it was a consequence of the accident on Saturday. We simply had bad luck. It’s a pity, because we wanted to finish the season in style with a victory.”
How bad do you feel about missing out on the title?
Patric Niederhauser : “I’m sure I’ll come to terms with it eventually, but right now I’m disappointed. It was worse on Saturday night, because I knew after the frustrating DNF that we needed a minor miracle on Sunday. If everything had gone half as well as it might have done, I think we could have won the championship. But that’s motor racing for you, and there are certain things that you have no power over. We came here feeling fully motivated and knowing that our fate was in our own hands. We got the weekend off to an excellent start with our qualifying result, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
Are there any positives that you can take away from the weekend at Ningbo?
Patric Niederhauser : “Yes, we had consistently good pace, including in the free practice sessions, although that doesn’t show up in our results. We economised on tyres by using old ones in free practice. In qualifying, we showed our pace on fresh tyres. Nico claimed pole in his quali, and in the second session where you’re up against all the professionals, I booked fourth place. I would say that these were our best qualifying results of the year. The car was great and we had mega pace, so we had mega potential to be up there at the front.”
Press release Patric Niederhauser