Third place in Blancpain GT Series Asia for Patric Niederhauser
on Suzuka race debut
After the two European races that form part of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, 26-year-old Patric Niederhauser headed back to the Far East for last weekend’s third meeting in the Blancpain GT Series Asia. He was especially looking forward to this particular fixture, because he was about to have his first outing at Japan’s Suzuka Circuit. Niederhauser and team-mate Markus Pommer finished fifth and third in the two races at the historic, technically extremely demanding circuit. Now on 75 points overall, he is only 19 points behind the two leaders in the drivers’ standings of the Blancpain GT Series Asia.
Niederhauser did well at the 5.80km track from the very first session onwards. GruppeM Racing had a very good showing last year at Suzuka with a win in Race 2, and it was up to Niederhauser and Pommer to build on that success. After securing third place in qualifying, the two drivers had some bad luck in the first of the two races and Niederhauser crossed the finish line in fifth position. They had better luck in the second race, moving up into P3 from sixth on the grid.
The second half of the Blancpain GT Series Asia season gets underway 21st - 22nd July with the Fuji Speedway race weekend.
Patric, how was your first race outing at one of the world’s most legendary circuits?
It was amazing. I had some pretty high expectations as I headed to the track but was still left feeling a little bit surprised at just how fantastic the whole thing is. There are many circuits that are referred to as being ‘old school’ and yet have huge run-off areas. Suzuka is very different in that respect. It’s all quite narrow, not very wide at all. The gravel beds are unforgiving and don’t allow for any mistakes no matter how small. After just one race weekend, I think the Suzuka Circuit is now my new favourite track.
You showed that the track is very much to your liking by turning in a brilliant performance...
We drivers and the team were well prepared. We were really on form right from the very first practice session. I took the wheel in second qualifying and posted the third-fastest time despite having more weight on board. Unfortunately, my time was voided after the quali for exceeding track limits. Had I received the penalty while qualifying was still running, then I would have gone out on another run to qualify higher up the field. As a result, we only managed to secure sixth place on the grid, unfortunately.
You battled your way up the field in the second race and onto the podium. How did that come about?
That was a crazy race. Mad! I got off the line well and gained a position. I then had the championship leader in front of me and put pressure on him for the entire stint. I also knew he had to serve a five-second penalty and that if I stayed behind him, we would be able to overtake him in the pits. Also, two slightly slower drivers were behind the wheel in the second stint, whom Markus could certainly overtake. There was an accident up ahead of us just before the pit window opened. We took advantage of the safety car period that followed to pit immediately. Markus then rejoined the track in fourth place. The safety car came back out on track again towards the end of the race. For reasons unknown, the race leader suddenly headed for the pit lane just as the race was about to restart. The result, of course, was that he dropped way down the field, and we managed with a bit of luck to finish on the podium.
Fortune favours the brave, as I hope you will find again next time out...
I hope so too. I’ve never driven at Fuji before but am already looking forward to the circuit. It’s going to be mega! The track is altogether a bit more modern and should be a lot of fun into the bargain. I’m going to spend the next two weeks in the simulator to get well prepared for the race. I think in general that the circuit should really suit our Mercedes-AMG GT3, which will be another important factor in our fight to continue to race up there with the front-runners and be a thorn in the side of the championship leader.