Engelhart is returning to his roots in the ADAC GT Masters this season. After four years at the wheel of the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 prepared by GRT Grasser Racing Team, Engelhart will be back in a Porsche with newcomers, SSR Performance. He made his successful Super Sport Car League debut at Spielberg in 2011, driving the sports car from Stuttgart and continued to campaign a '911' in subsequent years. He finished third overall in 2012, having taken the most wins that season, and had notched up a total of six victories with Porsche by 2015.
How did the switch of teams come about?
Christian Engelhart: "I first made initial contact with the outfit towards the end of 2019. I found out all I needed to know about the project and the team of people behind it and was mightily impressed. Also, I've been to SSR Performance's new High-Performance Automotive Centre in Munich a couple of times now, which is totally amazing, plus, Porsche has always been a brand that I've felt really drawn to. It's an awesome project. I'm looking forward to it."
You could say without fear of contradiction that your departure from GRT Grasser Racing is like the end of an era for you...
"Yes, definitely. We've had four really great, very successful years together, and of course, that's forged a terrific bond between us all – Rolf Ineichen, Mirko Bortolotti, Gottfried Grasser and me. I know we'll remain good friends even though we're going our separate ways."
Having taken twelve wins in all, you are the second-most successful driver since records began in the ADAC GT Masters, added to which, you've already come second and third in the championship previously. The only thing missing now is the title, but maybe you see 2020 as a year of learning as you go, so to speak? After all, this will be the first season ever for SSR Performance.
"Of course, as I see things, being back with Porsche is certainly something very special. I've taken six of my twelve wins in the ADAC GT Masters with Porsche, and of course, would love to add more! As far as I'm concerned, winning the title has got to be the goal. I got close in 2012 until I damaged a tyre, and we had a lot of bad luck last year in the first half of the season. However, we got more points in the season second-half than the crew who eventually won the championship, which really serves to emphasise the fact that you cannot control everything in motorsport. Of course, we're now busy trying to ensure that we are as well prepared as possible to give us the best chance of success this year, and then as the season progresses, we'll just have to try not to make any mistakes and pull out all the stops. After that, we'll have to wait and see whether things have worked out for us, as there are always so many factors at play."
Do you think that you will need to get accustomed to the 911 GT3 R again initially after four years in the Lamborghini?
"No, because I practically grew up with rear-engined Porsches, and so, am very used to them. The new car is, of course, different to its predecessors, but I was able to rekindle my love for it during our first test outings. It's really come on and feels excellent even when compared to the many other GT3 cars I've already tried. Porsche's engineers in Weissach have certainly thought long and hard about its design, for sure!"
You are joining forces with Manthey Racing, who will be supporting SSR Performance in their first year. How will they be assisting?
"As SSR are a completely new outfit, we needed a strong partner with plenty of experience to mentor us so that we can quickly grow our fledgling team. You see, we aim to compete up front, so our team will consist of people from SSR and Manthey."
Your team-mate, Michael Ammermüller, is an old friend of yours. You've been opponents for many years now, especially in the Porsche one-make cup…
"We're well acquainted as adversaries, but this will actually be the first time that we've been in the same team. I've often driven behind him in races, and he has had to follow me a fair few number of times. So you see, I know just what he can do. We complement each other quite well as far as racing goes and are already in tune with one another after the first round of testing. I really rate him and am proud to have him as my partner."
The situation we find ourselves in at the moment is affecting all walks of life. How are you preparing for the season ahead?
"I'm keeping fit and doing a lot of cycling. I'm currently spending more time with my family than ever before and am doing a lot of things with the kids, which is nice, but of course, I'm missing racing, because motorsport is my life. I didn't go racing this winter for the first time in ten years, so the break has been extremely long. I sincerely hope that things will get back to normal again very soon."