Following on from a fascinating first race of the weekend, Sunday saw another gripping contest in race 2 of the GT Masters/DTM double-header weekend as Corvette put on a masterful display to light up the Lausitzring. As a staunch Audi supporter, even I couldn’t help beaming along with the Corvette crew following this one. A defeat for your brand or chosen team isn’t always the worst case scenario when you look at the bigger picture. You don’t want runaway championship leaders.
Prior to the race, Daniel Keilwitz and Jules Gounon had finished 4th in race 1 to boost their points tally to 55 and leapfrog Sebastian Asch and Luca Ludwig in the drivers championship standings. This now meant they could realistically apply pressure to Christopher Mies and Connor de Phillippi who’d finished 6th on Saturday; the Audi pairing led the way with 68 points. The aim was there. The target was clear for Corvette, they just had to race the wheels off of the #77 to achieve it.
It was the #69 Corvette of Dominik Schwager that qualified quickest with a 1:21.613 (half a second quicker than the fastest time set in Q1). Race 1 winner Martin Ragginger qualified in P2 just 0.171 seconds behind, and Keilwitz’s #77 clinched P3 ahead of the impressive Rolf Ineichen and Christopher Mies.
As soon as the race started, Keilwitz shifted to the left, allowing himself the inside line for turn 1, Schwager couldn’t seemingly do anything to prevent his fellow Corvette driver’s lunge, but then because Keilwitz had compromised his turning angle to take the place, he overran the corner substantially, meaning he had to dive across the grass in order to keep his place in the lead. Small collisions occurred on turn 2, meaning the race 1 winner, Martin Ragginger spun and was forced into a very early retirement. Then, as turn 3 approached, Schwager managed to take the inside line again and regain the race lead. The mid-pack kfzteile24 Audi of Robin Frijns then ran very wide onto the gravel. The #5 Lamborghini was found facing the wrong way with gravel surrounding it on the track, the #67 of Daniel Zampieri also had a lap 1 retirement. It was an absolute mess and a truly hectic start to the race. Out came the safety car, following 4 or 5 different incidents.
Following that madness, we saw the #63 Lamborghini head into the pits along with the #24 Audi of Frijns for a tyre change. Meanwhile, Luca Ludwig in the #1 Mercedes has risen from 11th to 6th place.
Once the safety car had come in at the end of lap 5, Mies immediately lost 3rd place at turn 1 to the Lamborghini of Mirco Bortolotti. Already, a pack of 8 cars had established a gap ahead of Markus Winkelhock in his Audi.
Everyone on the circuit generally behaved themselves for a decent period of time, whilst Schwager and Keilwitz started to form a small gap ahead of the rest. The gap between them was 0.373 at the end of lap 9, with Bortolotti now a full second behind the second-placed #77 Corvette. Christopher Mies in 4th was a further half-a-second behind. By lap 12, Daniel Abt in the very good looking #7 Bentley had risen from 30th on the grid to 15th, a monumental effort so early in the race! Christopher Mies set the fastest lap of the race on lap 11 with a 1:22.569.
With the Corvettes in a league of their own at the front of the pack, Daniel Keilwitz was merely (said tongue-in-cheek) a frustrated passenger, lapping quicker than Schwager on laps 11 and 12, but simply unable to edge his way into the lead. Bortolotti would’ve been desperate to close the gap to the frontrunners, but had his own battle to contend with; Mies on his tail, lap after lap. Mies no doubt sensing that his top spot in the championship may well be in jeopardy unless he could squeeze his way past the Lamborghini and plot a charge on the leaders. He swept to the left on the start/finish straight at the end of lap 14, but decided against making the move. A wise decision, as he was just too far behind to make it. The gap from 3rd to 2nd grew by 0.5 of a second on that lap. Mies growing more agitated by the second, knowing that he was lapping quicker than the Italian just ahead.
The pit window opened at the conclusion of lap 17, but the whole top 7 elected to stay out.
On lap 19, Daniel Keilwitz attempted a move in the middle section of the circuit on Schwager but was unable to make it stick. The closest he got was being alongside, but on the outside of the turn as the lead car held on once more and the pair of them entered the finish straight. Keilwitz then tried to line up him at turn 1, but the #69 parked itself right in the middle of the track, nullifying any attempt the #77 may have made. Christopher Mies then came into the pits from P4 to hand over to Connor de Phillippi along with the #1 Mercedes of Ludwig from 5th.
Dominik Schwager pitted from 1st place at the end of lap 22 to hand over to Patrick Assenheimer, leaving Keilwitz out in front with the opportunity to run and try to build a lead. He’d been lapping quicker than Schwager, but of course, Schwager had been in defensive mode since lap 1 of the race. Bortolotti also came in from 3rd. Drama ensued as Luca Stolz left the pit-lane in front of Assenheimer. Both joined the action just in front of de Phillippi.
Keilwitz came in at the end of lap 23 to hand over to Jules Gounon, and following the driver change, as the #77 Corvette lumbered towards the pit exit, Luca Stolz could be seen crossing the start line. It was going to be very, very tight leading into turn 1! The Lambo was moving at race speed and of course, Gounon’s Corvette had to accelerate from pit-lane speed…
Gounon gave it everything he had though and made it. 3 lengths clear and almost all credit to Daniel Keilwitz for his mega lap prior to pitting.
A safety car was then introduced as Steve Feige in the #22 Nissan went off, losing control on the middle section of the circuit before beaching. In a slightly comical moment, the safety car itself came out and mistimed its lunge into the action, as it didn’t manage to get in front of Gounon, but instead nearly swiped into second-placed Stolz. Ronald Dobmeier in the SC elected to slow down and wait to jump in front of Gounon at the start of lap 27 instead.
With safety car order resumed and everybody bunched together, it was always possible that the restart could have been interesting. In it came at the end of lap 28 and Gounon immediately set about building a lead. Take a look below at the lead he built up over a sequence of just 3 or 4 corners!
Leading into turn one, 1.744s was the lead… but from which car?
The #69 Corvette of Patrick Assenheimer took the inside line into that first turn which provided so many overtaking moves over the weekend and edged itself into 2nd. We now had a Corvette 1-2 and with that, de Phillippi in the #29 Land-Motorsport Audi was right on Stolz’s tail leading into turns 2 and 3! He had a peek at the inside on turn 6 but decided against making the move. He then made a move up the inside as the cars rejoined the oval towards the end of lap 30 but was unable to make the move stick as Stolz accelerated out of the corner. The Audi R8 LMS’ weakness in a straight line exposed as it failed to complete the move which for all intents and purposes looked done!
Meanwhile, Sebastian Asch in the #1 Mercedes was pressing on the tail of the best-placed Audi, whilst under pressure from the Porsche of David Jahn. The commentary team claimed de Phillippi had lost a place leading back off the oval, which was nonsense as he clearly held on. Albeit not by much as 4th, 5th and 6th were all over each other leading back onto the middle section of the circuit.
With all the action going on behind him, Jules Gounon began to pull away and build a 4 second lead at the front, ahead of teammate Assenheimer.
10 minute left and the start of lap 35 saw the Porsche of David Jahn attempt a very ambitious overtaking move around the outside on turn 1 on Sebastian Asch, but the latter defended his position into turn 2 expertly and Mercedes stayed ahead of Porsche in 5th place for the time being. Battles happening all over the grid though and that little attempted manoeuvre by Jahn actually help de Phillippi in the Audi as he was in turn relieved of the pressure Asch was applying to the rear of his car. The good work was soon undone by Asch though as he spun following that pressure from Jahn and ended up on the grass, allowing Jahn and a good few other cars past! It was no longer a competitor in the race and subsequently retired. The spin was caused by damage to the rear suspension as the #17 of Jahn gave it a fair whack leading out of the previous corner. The #3 Lamborghini of Patrick Kujala and Milos Pavlovic jumped into 6th. It had started in 19th!
Come lap 38, Luca Stolz in the 3rd placed Lamborghini was now lapping at a similar speed to Gounon, but was 6 seconds down with 6 minutes remaining. Just to make matter worse, that car was then handed a drive-through penalty for breaking pit-lane conduct during the driver changes earlier on. Stolz had essentially tried to slow down in front of Assenheimer to ensure that the car served the minimum pit time (65 seconds) whilst still gaining that place in the pits. This now meant Connor de Phillippi would hop into the final podium place! Only something spectacular could prevent the Corvettes stealing a majestic 1-2 now.
Having gotten the #7 Bentley into 9th position and into the points, from 30th on the grid had a spin with just 2 laps remaining after being nudged by the #32 Lamborghini of Florian Spengler. The Audi driven by Markus Pommer in 8th had been suffering bodywork damage from the very close attentions of Jöns prior to this incident and will no doubt have felt karma had been served!
That #32 then attempted to complete lap 41 whilst on fire. It managed to get into the pit-lane successfully without blowing up!
It was all about the Corvettes though as they locked out the first two places. Gounon leading Assenheimer home with Connor de Phillippi taking the final podium spot.
Corvette’s immense domination of this race and the excellent driving of all 4 drivers in those 2 cars lit the weekend up. Race 1 was good, race 2 was fantastic. Well done to Corvette, whose drivers of the #77 car are now just 3 points behind de Phillippi and Mies in the championship. The Audi drivers are on 83 points as the ADAC GT Masters looks forward to round 4 at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, in late-July.