Tactical masterstroke produces Top Ten finish in grand finale
It was the grand finale to a thrilling season. The elite field of ADAC GT Masters drivers gathered for one last time in 2017 to vie for honours. At the Hockenheimring, Patric Niederhauser and his Aust Motorsport team-mate Dennis Marschall once again had a Top Ten finish as their target.
For the Swiss 25-year-old, the Hockenheimring is the nearest thing to a home fixture. No other major track is closer to his home town of Kirchdorf near Bern. Consequently, there was an excellent turnout of family, fans and sponsors who had come along to cheer on their favourite. And they weren’t disappointed as he and his partner pulled off a tactical masterstroke to get themselves into the points.
In the final race of the season, you once again made it into the Top Ten. You must be pretty satisfied with that result...
Towards the end, it was a good race and a really strong performance from us, even if the start was inauspicious. Sunday’s qualifying session was very tight. I had been hoping to qualify among the Top Ten, but our brakes let us down. We had some difficulties throughout the entire weekend and were unable to identify the cause. Consequently, I only managed 15th on the grid. In the race itself, I did not get off to a good start and I dropped back to P17, because I didn’t want to risk getting into a collision on the first lap. But after that, I went on a charge. I overtook Pierre Kaffer and two other cars and then another opponent with a brilliant pit stop strategy.
Tell us about the tactical decision behind that...
My engineer had planned an undercut against the Lamborghini in front of us. I was of a different opinion, and discussed it with him. I was convinced that, if I could get an open track ahead of me, I would gain enough time on him to bring us out in front. When the Lamborghini eventually turned off into the pit lane, I made a split-second decision to stay out on the track. From that moment on, it was a case of pedal to the floor and getting the maximum out of the car. And just as I had planned, Dennis emerged onto the track ahead of the Lambo after the change of drivers. What’s more, he overtook yet another car, which put us into eleventh place. The race leader was handed a penalty, that enabled us to round off our season with a championship point. In such a narrow field as the ADAC GT Masters, it’s really quite an achievement to finish in the points from 17th on the grid.
Unfortunately, that eluded you in the first race on Saturday. What happened there?
We were lacking the necessary pace. Dennis did not have it easy starting from 20th. Our pit stop wasn’t perfect either, so I took the car over in P17, but I did manage to gain a few positions subsequently. The gaps in the field were already a bit too big for us to get any further forward at this stage, and P13 was the maximum we were going to get on the day. So all in all, it was a somewhat unspectacular race.
The season is now over. How would you sum it up?
We had a couple of really strong race weekends. For example at the Nürburgring, when we were up with the front-runners in fourth or fifth place in the two races. I also set the fastest race lap on that occasion. So I have shown that I am totally reliable and that I can keep up with the top drivers. Unfortunately, there were also a few tracks where things did not go in our favour. It was a season with ups and downs, in which we got ourselves noticed a couple of times. On a general note, I would like to bang the drum for Frank Aust. What he has done with his relatively small budget – certainly compared to other teams – is very impressive. At the beginning of the season, very few observers would have expected Dennis and me to produce such decent results. We surprised some people, and for that reason, I’m quite happy about the way the season has gone.