Brilliant debut weekend in the Blancpain GT Series Asia
Switzerland’s Patric Niederhauser not long ago announced his intention to contest the Blancpain GT Series Asia. The Asian adventure began last weekend with the season opener on the former F1 circuit at Sepang in Malaysia. It was a debut that could hardly have gone better for the 26-year-old from Kirchdorf near Bern.
He and team-mate Nico Bastian won the first of the two races from third on the grid. In the final stage of the race, Niederhauser was locked in a thrilling duel for the top rung of the podium.
Unfortunately, the GruppeM Racing duo were out of luck in the second race. In his first qualifying session in the new series, Niederhauser secured a highly respectable sixth place on the grid. But at the start of the race itself, his Mercedes-AMG GT3 was caught a glancing blow on the rear tyre by an opponent’s car. The resultant puncture brought an early end to the race for the previous day’s winners.
With a points haul of 25 from the weekend, Niederhauser and Bastian take fourth place in the championship. Only 15 points separate them from the current leaders.
Before Niederhauser travels to the second round at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand (12th 13th May), he has two more engagements to attend to. Next weekend, he will be competing as a member of the Reiter Young Stars squad in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza (20th - 22nd April). One week later, he has another big date in his diary – the season opener of the GT4 Central European Cup at Most (28th 29th April) when he will share a cockpit with his girlfriend Marylin Niederhauser for the first time.
Patric, congratulations on winning your first race in the Blancpain GT Series Asia!
Many thanks. It’s an incredible feeling to have won the opening race in such a strong series. The whole team worked incredibly hard, and I’m delighted to be driving for GruppeM Racing. They are a highly professional outfit. It’s no wonder they won the title last year. I was immediately made to feel very welcome – the atmosphere in the team is like that of a family. I also get on exceptionally well with Nico. With his experience of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, he was able to give me valuable tips for my first race weekend.
You drove the second stint and took over the car in second place. How did your race go?
After taking over the car from Nico, the gap to the leading Lamborghini was about five seconds. I closed that gap in the first few laps. But with the top speed deficit of our Mercedes-AMG GT3, it was incredibly difficult to overtake the car in front. The battle was drawn out over several laps, and all the while I was observing what the Lambo driver was doing. In the double right turn, I pressured him into making a mistake and pulled past him on the outside. That was a really powerful manoeuvre. After that, I drove a fairly steady race and brought the car safely across the finish line. At this point, I’d like to say a big thank you to the whole crew at GruppeM Racing.This victory was the result of perfect teamwork.
On Sunday, you achieved a perfectly respectable P6 in your first quali in this series. Unfortunately, you didn’t finish the race. What happened there?
I am very satisfied with my flying lap in the quali. The field is incredibly strong, which puts any grid position in a different light. The start was pretty good, but on the first corner, an opponent caught me a glancing blow on my rear tyre, which caused a puncture. I managed to get the car to the pits, but obviously that effectively spelt the end of our race. Despite that, the impression that persists is one of joy at our race victory and our respectable position in the drivers’ championship. Nico and I are currently fourth, so there’s a lot to play for after the season opener.
Your diary for the next few weeks is full...
Yes, as a dedicated racer, you really want to be out there competing every day. The second weekend of the Blancpain GT Series Asia at Chang in Thailand is still some way off in the future. Until then, I’m looking forward to making two special guest starts. One of them is coming up next weekend when I’ll be driving for the Reiter Young Stars team in the context of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza. My team-mates will be Lenny Marioneck from Germany and Mads Siljehaug from Norway. The weekend after that will probably be the most special race of my career so far. For the first time, I will be sharing a cockpit with my girlfriend Marylin Niederhauser in the GT4 Central European Cup at Most. I can’t imagine a better way for my race year in 2018 to have started.