GRT Grasser Racing headed to a very special circuit in the USA last weekend to contest the fourth round in the Sprint Cup of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship. The venue was Lime Rock Park in the state of Connecticut, which is recognized as a place of historic importance. Once again, Lamborghini works driver Franck Perera and IMSA specialist Misha Goikhberg clearly demonstrated the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO’s strong pace in the American sports car championship at the Northeast Grand Prix. However, they had to settle for seventh place despite posting the fastest race lap. Bad weather led to the race being stopped before it had run its course.
The start of the race weekend on the famous circuit at Lakeville which first opened in 1957 went very much according to plan for GRT Grasser Racing. Perera set fastest time in the GTD class during FP1 on Friday while Goikhberg finished second practice in twelfth place. Russian-born Canadian Goikhberg booked P12 later on in qualifying, thus ensuring a solid starting position in the race. Perera also achieved the third-fastest lap time, for which he was rewarded with 30 points towards the championship standings.
Driving the #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO, Goikhberg took the opening stint on Saturday afternoon for the 2-hour and 40 minutes race. Putting all of his vast amount of experience to good use on the 2.41km racetrack, the seasoned sports car driver gained three positions on the very first lap. He was more than a match for his immediate rivals during the first stint and handed the car over to Perera in the Top Ten at the pit stop after around 45 minutes.
37-year-old Perera proved once again following the switch of drivers that GRT Grasser Racing’s crew had done an excellent job of setting up the GT3 car for racing in the USA. He posted the fastest time of the entire race with a 52.446 seconds on Lap 7 of his stint and was over one and a half tenths of a second faster than his closest rival in the GTD class. However, he was unable to continue to make good use of his strong pace, as the race took an unexpected twist.
With 70 minutes left on the clock, race stewards took the decision to red-flag the Northeast Grand Prix because of dangerous weather conditions as thunderstorms raged in the vicinity of the racetrack. Race officials waited 45 minutes in vain for signs of improvement but racing was then cancelled and drivers classified according to their interim positions after 98 laps. Goikhberg and Perera were in seventh place at the time.
After finishing second at the previous Sprint Cup event in Detroit, GRT Grasser Racing’s result made it possible for Lamborghini to pick up more vital points in the manufacturers’ championship. The Italian sports car manufacturer is now in third place. The team will get the next chance to secure another top result in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in three weeks’ time when the fifth round of the Sprint Cup IMSA Sports Car Weekend gets under way at Road America, August 5th-8th.
Misha Goikhberg: “We had a promising start and very good race pace. The Lamborghini was fast even on used tyres. We were in a good place to move further up the field even if it had started to rain. It’s too bad that the race was cancelled due to lightning strike in the area. Still, I feel very optimistic in view of our performance. If I can qualify the car further up the grid in the next races, I see no reason why we shouldn’t contend for the win.”
Franck Perera: “I can well understand the safety concerns, but stopping the race was a bit over the top. It wasn’t actually raining. The thunderstorm was around somewhere but didn’t come near us. I would have liked to continue, because I had found a good rhythm. We’d caught up with the leaders and would have had over an hour left, in which to reach the front. It’s a real shame, but then on the other hand, we had a very positive weekend. Our car was very fast right from the start. I’ve never driven at Lime Rock before but was immediately competitive, which is very encouraging as regards the next round of IMSA races.”
Team Principal Gottfried Grasser: “It was a good race actually. Misha made a great start and maintained his position well subsequently. As for Franck, he made real progress by posting the fastest lap. I’m pretty certain that even more would have been possible. Our strategy was good, because we had taken on more fuel during the first pit stop and as a result, needed less time for the second stop, but unfortunately, the red flags then came out, which was a real shame. As Europeans, we were a little puzzled by the stoppage, because the thunderstorm was only in an area away from the racetrack. Still, they have their own rules in America and we’ll just have to learn to live with them. Unfortunately, the chance of taking a top-class result eluded us, but we can be well satisfied with our performance and are already looking forward to Road America.”
Source. GRT Grasser Racing/Photo. Jamey Price