Second place at Oschersleben: Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen Photo: ADAC GT Masters
Second place at Oschersleben: Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen Photo: ADAC GT Masters

Christian Engelhart: Positive conclusion to year

Lamborghini driver happy with 2018 season despite setbacks

One pole, two second places and the second-highest total of laps spent in the lead. Christian Engelhart can be satisfied with his ADAC GT Masters season.

Christian Engelhart and Swiss driver Rolf Ineichen lined up in the ADAC GT Masters for Team GRT Grasser Racing for the third time in a row. Once again in 2018, the duo fought for the win in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3, coming close on several occasions but just missing out each time, unlike in the previous two years. Nevertheless, 32-year-old Engelhart feels positive about his year: "I’m quite satisfied with the season I’ve had," he told us. "It’s got to have been the toughest since I first joined the ADAC GT Masters with the highest concentration of power that I’ve ever known. We may have had a difficult period towards the middle of the season, but we managed to pick ourselves up again. Overall, we worked well together and I’m pleased with what I achieved personally. Rolf too did a good job again."

Highlights for them were second place in the season opener at Oschersleben and in the Hockenheim finale: "We dominated the races there and produced a terrific performance. I’m super proud of that. Anyone would have been pleased to have achieved these good second places in a series that has such a high standard of racing. Of course, I would have liked to have come first, but our team-mates won one of the races, giving our outfit a terrific one two victory, and the other win went to two drivers, who were title contenders. We didn’t want to stay in front of them at any price, so Rolf drove very fairly."

Engelhart remembers Oschersleben well and not just because of the result: "Our mechanics did a really fantastic job there. We had a crash in practice, in which the chassis got badly damaged. The car was actually not fit to be driven, but then one of our mechanics, who happened to be at home in Austria, went to the workshop to pick up a front end which he then brought to Oschersleben. The car was ready to race again with less than an hour to go before qualifying on Saturday morning. I then went out and secured pole position in it on Sunday. It was the best way of showing the mechanics my gratitude, and as a result, that weekend was also charged with emotion."

Bavarian driver Engelhart is fairly certain that podiums ought to have come their way in other races. "We were very strong for the races at our home fixture at the Red Bull Ring, especially as far as tyres are concerned. However, in the rain on Sunday – like so many others – we then switched to full wets, which proved to be the wrong decision in the end, unfortunately. We could have achieved a great deal there, if we’d stayed out on slicks like our team-mates Mirko Bortolotti and Andrea Caldarelli. Still, there was no way of knowing that in the race. I had the feeling that I’d been there before, because the situation was similar to when I took my maiden win in the ADAC GT Masters victory at the Red Bull Ring in 2012, except that the rain back then subsequently got heavier." And again at the Sachsenring, he knows that more should have been possible. "Sunday’s race was really annoying. The pit stop window was open, and I had to brake hard when a car came back out on track from the pit lane, and so, I pitted one lap earlier than planned. The safety car then came out, ruining our chances of securing a decent result. Had we made the stop as scheduled, we would have rejoined the track in the lead behind the safety car. We were really upset about that when we realised afterwards."

Other race weekends turned out to be even tougher: "We should have packed in driving after our showing at Most,” said Engelhart in retrospect. “And the Nürburgring sprint track probably doesn’t really suit our car. Also, there was a red flag there in qualifying while I was on my hot lap. The tyres were never the same after that, unfortunately, so I found myself well down the field. Both races were a lot of fun. We fought hard and moved quite a way up the field, but overall, the weekend was not easy."

After suffering these setbacks mid-season, Engelhart, who for the eighth time was recently named Südbayerischer ADAC Rundstreckenmeister, (South Bavarian ADAC Circuit Racing Champion) was keen to finish the season with a good final weekend at Hockenheim. "We were strong there all weekend. Hockenheim is the track on the calendar that I know best. I normally do very well at this circuit. Qualifying on Sunday was tricky, though, because of the drying track, as ultimately, you could only make one good attempt at posting a hot time. I had a mega stint in the race from third on the grid. I tried everything possible to pull out a lead, which I managed to do. My last second place was great, as we were then able to go into the winter break with a good result and can start next year with a spring in our step."

2019 Season