Bad luck for Patric Niederhauser in season opener of 2017 ADAC GT Masters at Oschersleben
Patric Niederhauser made his debut in the Audi R8 LMS last weekend at Oschersleben. Aided by team-mate Dennis Marschall, the Aust Motorsport driver showed from the very first practice session the potential of both driver pairing and team in front of some 20,000 spectators during the whole weekend. The two of them were only five tenths of a second off best time. The Swiss driver excelled in qualifying for the second race. Niederhauser was even on pole for a time but had to be satisfied with grid slot six in the end.
Niederhauser and his team-mate did not have much luck in the races. The Audi R8 LMS left the racing line due to fighting hard for position and slid into the gravel bed. Niederhauser's team-mate resumed the race, but a better finish was no longer possible. When the Swiss driver took over in the cockpit for the second stint, he was able to match the times of the top drivers. The last race was also unfortunate. Niederhauser was in a promising position after making a strong start but ran a bit too wide in the hairpin and spun off track on a patch of oil. While Niederhauser came away from the season opener empty-handed, the potential of driver and team were obvious.
Patric, you no doubt thought that your race debut in the Audi R8 LMS would turn out differently...
It was most unfortunate. It all kicked off in the first race. Dennis couldn't do anything about it, but it didn't change the result, ultimately. He came into the pits for the driver handover with a one-lap deficit. My times were competitive right from the start, and I was able to keep up with the cars around me. I realised there was a problem with the car just before the end, because the handling fell off a cliff. However, I'd felt quite positive about my times up until that point.
You drove in qualifying on Sunday and were even on course to take pole position for a time. You achieved P6 on Sunday, your best result in qualifying for the ADAC GT Masters. Are you satisfied with that?
Our lap times were basically competitive from the outset, but of course, the qualifying result was special as far as I'm concerned – particularly after having had such a difficult time last year. The car felt great from the very first lap, and I think that even more might have been possible. I feel very comfortable in the Audi R8 LMS, and that also makes me feel confident about the upcoming race at the Lausitzring. We'll definitely do some more testing there before the next race weekend.
You got away well in the second race. How do you think it went?
I got a good start, immediately overtaking a Lamborghini in front of me. However, he made contact with the back of my car shortly after, so I came off the racing line and lost two positions. Getting the tyres up to temperature over the first few laps wasn't easy, but things settled down after a while, and my lap times improved tremendously.
And then came your retirement a little later. What happened exactly?
The car broke away a bit on the approach to the 'Triple' turn, causing me to run over the kerbs more than usual, and I caught the grass. I then spun and slid into the gravel bed. As I found out subsequently, another car had just lost a load of oil earlier at this point. Otherwise, things might have been different. It was a small mistake that had huge consequences.
You can put things right next time out at the Lausitzring (19th - 21st May)...
I really do hope that we can convert our potential into a good finish and a decent haul of points. The Lausitzring weekend is always something special. I'm looking forward to the joint meeting there with the DTM when we'll be racing in the company of the strongest national racing series. It's going to be a mega spectacle for all the fans at the track and in front of the TV at home.