ADAC GT: Callaway Competition crowned 2013 Champions!
The 2013 German ADAC GT Masters Series came to a dramatic close at the season finale at the Hockenheim Ring circuit. The Leingarten based Corvette team was eager to start the 2013 season and erase the difficult ending in 2012 (they lost the championship at the final race). The 2013 season can only be described as one of the most unpredictable in recent ADAC GT history, The Callaway Competition team arrived at the season final race with a 14-point lead in the Drivers championship and 9 points behind in the Teams championship.
Qualifying saw a strong performance from the teams main rivals Gotz/Buhk driving Mercedes SLS. They qualified 2nd for both races. While carrying 30kgs of success ballast, Diego Alessi qualified 10th for race 1 and Daniel Keilwitz qualified 4th for race 2. "Unfortunately, a BMW impeded my progress on my fastest lap, wrecking it completely," explains Diego Alessi. “Otherwise I would have been further up the grid. The key to success at Hockenheim is to drive consistently in both races and have something in reserve near the end of the race. The driver who has the best set-up will finish up in front."
Daniel Keilwitz explains: "Qualifying went brilliantly for us for race 2, fourth on the grid is a good position for the finale. We have a 30kg success ballast on board after our victory at the Slovakia Ring, so we can be satisfied in view of that. Jeroen Bleekemolen has shown today what our car can achieve without success ballast."
This weekend the team saw the return of Dutch driver Jeroen Bleekemolen co-driving the nr18 with Toni Seiler. The very talented Dutch driver captured the pole position for race 2. "I was taking no chances and went out early." explains Bleekemolen. "The best times are actually posted at the end of the session, but by then, the risk of being unlucky with a yellow flag period is always higher and you can't improve your lap. Our car was not great in practice. I had to fight the car a fair bit in qualifying and really didn't expect this pole position."
The penultimate race on Saturday saw an unfortunate incident at the start with the Callaway customer team RWT Racing. Contact from the Phoenix driver of Enzo Ide saw a horrific crash into turn 1 for Gerd Beisel. Fortunately the strength of the Leingarten built Corvette saw the driver walk away. While the Lambda Ford won up front, Alessi and Keilwitz came home 5th (with the Mercedes in 2nd). "We were very conservative in today's race." explains Diego. "I moved up two places at the start, and then the race was interrupted. Naturally, on the restart behind the safety car, you cannot gain position. I drove quickly, but was very careful. Ultimately, I was rewarded with P5. Tomorrow, the title decision will be incredibly close."
Race 2 arrived with clear skies and everything on the line for Callaway Competition. Right at the start, the worst case scenario occurred for the nr2 Corvette. A spin at the turn 6 hairpin caused by Simon Knap's DB Motorsport BMW Z4, placed Keilwitz at the back of the field. The championship looked all but lost. However, he quickly began making up places, Keilwitz was on a charge. Despite this amazing recovery, the duo's main rivals still held a 2nd place advantage. However, with 40 minutes remaining in the race, the nr 10 Mercedes SLS engine exploded in fire and smoke. The engine expired heading into turn 1 and the teams biggest challenger was out of the race! This shifted the title race back into Corvettes favor.
As the race neared the end Alessi held down sixth position, which provided them with enough championship points to secure the championship. Alessi/Keilwitz driving skills and the brilliant team performance enabled Callaway Competition to score their third Drivers Championship. In the end this turned out to be the most thrilling title battles the Leingarten based team has ever experienced.
Daniel Keilwitz: "After getting spun round on the first lap, I almost gave up there and then, but I couldn't believe that we were going to let our title chances slip away in such a fashion, and I went back on the offensive. I had good race pace, and the other drivers were very fair, not trying to block me on my pursuit. It was high time that we won this title. There's no way I could have let us lose it once again in the very last race."
Diego Alessi: "I'm absolutely speechless, and I can't believe what just happened. I've seen a lot of things in my career as a driver, so when I saw Daniel spun around on the first lap, I was resigned to losing and convinced that, once again, it wasn't to be our year. But the motor racing deities seem to have had a change of heart. After Daniel embarked on that amazing pursuit, my hopes were restored. Then, after that stroke of bad luck for the Mercedes-Benz, we were able ease up a little."
Jeroen Bleekemolen: "I had a nice lead during my stint in the race. Unfortunately there was contact between him and the BMW, which forced us out of the race. Despite this, I still had a great time and it was great racing in the GT Masters. My thanks go out to the Callaway Competition team and Toni Seiler."
Giovanni Ciccone (Team Manager): "Prior to the race weekend, the goal was to qualify about 5th with our ballast, so that we could finish in this position. Sadly, the qualifying was different (for race 1). Daniel did a decent qualifying for race 2 and Bleekemolen was on pole and could support Daniel. Unfortunately he had a bad start and got caught in the middle of the pack (into the hairpin). After the spin, I thought 'it was over'. All of the teams were helpful in not blocking him. Late in the race I was surprised about the engine problems with the Mercedes, as its built for endurance racing. I feel this is a well deserved championship after 5 race wins, the most leading laps, and 4 pole positions."
Ernst Wöhr (Team Principal): "We expected to have a good chance when the track was dry heading into the weekend. We kept our point lead after race 1, which was important. Leading into both races, we knew we could only be maximum 1 place behind the Mercedes. Race 1 went good, but race 2 didn't start so good. Due to the colder track temperatures (resulting in a lack of grip of the tyres), and also the first lap spin, which placed him into the back of the pack. After the spin, we were concerned about damage to the car. He turned in a super performance with one fast lap after another. In the end, I think he could have finished 4th, but Diego didn't want to risk the championship. After the Mercedes engine blew we thought we had a shot now at the title. We are happy with the result apart from loosing the teams title, but they were strong.We wouldn't be here without our grand supporters (Nicola Bulgari and Charles Burnett)."