Season opener at Oschersleben ends with podium and P2 in the championship

The ADAC GT Masters season opener could hardly have gone better for series returnee Patric Niederhauser. The 27-year-old Swiss and his team-mate Kelvin van der Linde produced an impeccable performance in both races to impress the 25,000 spectators who came through the gates at the weekend.

The HCB Rutronik Racing duo gave their team its first ever podium in the ADAC GT Masters on Saturday. At the same time, it was also a hard-earned first appearance on a winners’ podium for Niederhauser,
not least in the Super Sports Car League. A P4 in Race 2 of the campaign on Sunday rounded off an outstanding debut for the driver partnership. The HCB Rutronik Racing pairing are currently second in
the drivers’ championship on 33 points, two behind the leaders.

Patric, your first ever podium in the ADAC GT Masters, and what’s more, in the first race following your return to the series. Congratulations!
Many thanks. I’m delighted. We exceeded our own expectations with this podium. The fact that we finished in the Top Three in the first race of the season and in such a highly competitive field is simply fantastic. The mood at HCB-Rutronik Racing was absolutely buoyant, even before the season opener. The chemistry between us all is just right. Clearly, when you’re a new team in the series, there are going to be doubters. But I had a very good feeling right from the start, and I feel really at home in this great outfit. The team is highly motivated, but at the same time, everyone treats the challenge of the ADAC GT Masters with the due level of respect. That’s because the world’s top GT drivers are on the grid.

You laid the foundation for success with an impressive qualifying performance...
We were happy with third place in qualifying, but there was no element of luck there, in fact quite the opposite. I was going even faster on the last lap when, all of a sudden, another car spun in front of me and I had to break off the attempt. My fastest lap wasn’t ‘magic’ either, because the next one was even better, but I had to stop because the red flags came out. The car was fantastic, and I’m happy with the job I did. Qualifying was undoubtedly the key to success on Saturday.

You got off to a good start, but how was the rest of your stint in the first race?
I found the race itself a bit harder going than the quali. I realised early on that I couldn’t match the two leaders for pace. At the same time, my pursuers were applying major pressure, and we were completely at the limit. It was important not to make any mistakes in that situation, which I managed to do. As regards the second stint, I knew that, in Kelvin, we had a stronger driver than the two cars in front of us. I’m very happy with my stint, even if the race pace wasn’t quite 100 percent. The start went well, but the Corvettes behind me were in a different league in terms of horsepower, and one of them succeeded in slipping past.

On Sunday, you started the race from eighth place. How did you convert that into a P4 finish?
When I woke up in the morning and saw it was raining, that put me in a positive frame of mind, because Kelvin and I are usually very strong in the wet. But I was also a bit nervous because, in a qualifying session held under these conditions, anything can happen. However, Kelvin did a really good job and was right in among the front-runners from the off. Eighth on the grid was OK, and I felt sure that we could get a lot out of this starting position in the race. But to have finished fourth – well I certainly hadn’t been counting on that. Kelvin made an absolutely mega start and was up to fourth by the end of the first lap. In my stint, I pushed hard again and almost got past the Lamborghini in front of me. This season has started fantastically well for us. The hard work put in by us drivers and by the entire team has taken us to a deserved P2 in the championship.

This coming weekend, you’ll be at Brands Hatch for the second round of the GT4 European Series. What are your expectations?
I’m really looking forward to it, because the track is just fantastic. I competed there in 2016 and got to know and appreciate the circuit. The layout at Brands Hatch should suit our KTM X-Bow better than the high-speed track at Monza. Balance of Performance permitting, I expect us to be contenders for the win.