Gain of 20 places: Mega charge in Spa classic
Successful debut in Belgian endurance classic! Patric Niederhauser caused a stir on his first start in the legendary Spa 24-hour race at Spa. The official Lamborghini GT3 junior and his team, Attempto Racing, stepped hard on the throttle after a tricky qualifying. With consistency and a keen sense of how the tyres were holding up, Niederhauser and his team-mates fought their way towards the front of the field of 65 GT3 racing cars. During the race, the three Lamborghini drivers gained 20 positions, crossing the finish line in 14th place.
Patric, you made a magnificent charge up the field from 34th on the grid to finish 14th. Are you pleased with the result?
Basically, yes. Of course, I would prefer to finish every race further up front, for sure, but ultimately, I'm pleased to have got through the 24 hours. That's definitely a big achievement in itself. Qualifying and the race didn't run very smoothly. I'm satisfied with 14th place in view of that, especially when you take into account the strong field with quite a few DTM drivers taking part.
Why didn't you qualify higher up the field than 34th?
We played around with setup, but unfortunately, couldn't find the right one for qualifying. It was too late in the end to improve our position once we'd discovered what the issue was. We managed qualifying in such a way that the focus was on the driver. My team-mate Daniel Zampieri had the most experience on fresh tyres, so the team focused on him in qualifying. I used my laps to work on race setup.
You had a lot of track time in the race. How did your stints go?
I put in four double stints and a single, which equates to almost ten hours in all behind the wheel. It's essential to manage the tyres carefully in an endurance race like the 24-Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. My previous experience at Le Mans and my time in GP3 helped with that. I succeeded in posting consistently good lap times and there was no drop-off in my performance towards the end of my stints.
You also managed to keep well away from all the skirmishes that were going on...
Yes, I had a clean race and not one single contact with another car. My night stint was really tough. I didn't ease off the accelerator at all, but the darkness made driving very difficult. The next morning, though, race stewards handed me a drive-through penalty, unfortunately. There was just a warning initially, so I reined myself in and made a conscious effort to stick to the track limits.
So was the drive-through penalty completely unexpected?
Absolutely! The penalty came half-an-hour after I got the warning, which I couldn't understand at all. Sebastian Vettel once said that circuits should be built so that you're faster on them than off them. I made one mistake in Eau Rouge where it's a battle for survival every time anyway. If you get oversteer there, then you try to correct it, but the car just goes straight on. I took particular care not to let it happen again, and to my knowledge, didn't shortcut through the turn again either.