Championship chances


still intact after tough weekend in Shanghai

This season’s Blancpain GT Series Asia is turning out to be more exciting than ever. Following the penultimate meeting of the year, GruppeM Racing Team driver Patric Niederhauser is embroiled in a hard-fought battle for the championship. Last weekend, he was competing at the Shanghai International Circuit, the Formula 1 circuit with the two famous ‘snail’ turns, lining up for a change with German driver, Nico Bastian. Having secured P10 and P5 in the two races, Switzerland’s Niederhauser is now in second place in the drivers’ standings. He’s got just twelve points to make up at the final showdown in Ningbo and can thus win this championship off his own bat.

Things were not looking good initially ahead of the weekend, because the layout of the 5.45-km Shanghai International Circuit with its long straights does not quite suit the Mercedes-AMG GT3. The fact that Niederhauser burned the fourth-fastest time in qualifying into the tarmac was therefore a major achievement.

He got a great start in Race 1 but dropped back in the first corner to avoid another car. He then went on a terrific charge. However, the 15-second mandatory break that race winners have to take in their next Blancpain GT Series race left the two of them trailing down the field.

Things looked even worse before the second round, as Niederhauser’s team-mate, Bastian, qualified ninth. After charging his way up the field in fine style, they finally finished fifth. In the circumstances, the duo did the maximum they could to limit the damage with their results.

The next race will take Niederhauser to Barcelona at the weekend with the Blancpain GT Series where he will contest the final round of the Endurance Cup for Reiter Engineering.

Patric, how would you sum up your weekend in Shanghai?
We had obviously hoped to do more. We acquitted well of ourselves in view of the fact that our car is not really able to deal with Shanghai’s track layout. What’s important is that I haven’t lost too much ground to the championship leader and still have every chance of becoming champion off my own bat.

The long straights in Shanghai were not really of any advantage to you...
No, unfortunately, we had a considerable speed deficit compared to our immediate competitors. We made the best of the situation. I was very satisfied with my qualifying, for example. A car spun in front of me on my hot lap, and the yellow flags came out. Of course, I had to immediately break off from my flying lap. I then hung another lap on to the end of that one, but the tyres had already peaked by then. Nevertheless, I qualified fourth on the grid. My time from the previous lap would definitely have been enough to put me on the front row.

One minute, you were up, the next you were down in the races...
My start was perfect in the first round, and I was soon next to the race leader as we ran through the first corner. However, he got pushed from behind and I had to run really wide, dropping back to tenth as a result. I then got the bit between my teeth and fought back, which was a lot of fun. Race 2 also went very well. I took the car over from Nico lying in seventh place. Ultimately, though, it was impossible to do better than fifth.

You are now about to have your first GT race at your favourite track...
Yes, and I’m really looking forward to it. Barcelona is such a fantastic track. Despite its new tarmac, it’s still real old school with its layout and buildings. The gravel traps do not allow for any mistakes. It’s enough to gladden the heart of all us racing drivers! I watched my first Formula 1 race there at the track as a child almost 20 years ago and said to my father: “Dad, I’d like to have a go at that!” I remember my words every time I drive past the grandstand. It’s really special to me, and in my book, is the most important circuit around. It’s a mega venue, to which I always love to return.