ADAC GT: Hockenheim Rd8 Report
The title fight for the 2012 ADAC GT Masters championships came down to the final two races at the Hockenheimring in Germany. Callaway Competition was on the path to securing both of these titles. Unfortunately the rule makers decided at the last minute to make that more difficult for the Leingarten based team. After completing fourteen of the season’s sixteen races the #28 Corvette driven by Diego Alessi and Daniel Keliwitz held the championship lead. The duo has scored three overall victories and six podium finishes. After their very close win at the Nurburgring, the organizers changed the Balance of Performance. Corvette was given 15 kilos (33 lbs.) of added weight and a 1 mm reduction to its engine air intake for a loss of 20 horsepower. Alessi/Keliwitz also were given 60 kilos (132) for their last victory. The Porsche weight was reduced by 25 kilos and the Mercedes got a larger opening for its air restrictor, which gave it additional horsepower.
"It's unfortunately been exactly as we feared it would be," a disappointed Callaway Competition team boss Ernst Wöhr explained. "We have to compete with about 10 hp less, but the Mercedes gets 10 hp more, which results in a disadvantage by 20 bhp over us." Hockenheim is tough on brakes and the weight penalty showed it's ugly hand during qualifying (thirteenth Race 1, seventh Race 2). "I got the maximum out of the car, and that's the limit of what you can do, unfortunately." explained Daniel Keilwitz. "The success ballast is making itself extremely noticeable on braking and acceleration going into the hairpin. But the races are long and a lot can happen."
Thirty-two competitors took the green flag for Race 1 under sunny cool skies, but Alessi's race was quickly over when two Mercedes hit him from both sides and sent him flying into the air and breaking the left front suspension. He was forced to withdraw from the race and the championship appeared to be over. "It's not become any easier for us after today's race, but at least we have a chance to continue to fight for the title." explains Diego Alessi. "Anything else would mean a really miserable end to an otherwise fine season." The #36 Porsche and the #5 Mercedes were now fighting for the Championship. But late in the race the lead Mercedes had a right front tire failure and was out of the race. The leading #36 Porsche suddenly had its left rear tire go flat and finished out of the points! This meant that the championship fight would come down to the final race on Sunday.
For race two, Alessi / Keilwitz experienced a rollercoaster of emotions: Analytically the Corvette was in contention for the title during the first half of the race. However, in the second half of the race with four minutes before the end, the Z06R of Alessi was hit with a 30 second penalty after contact in the race for third with a considerably slower Porsche. This lost the Italian any hope of a podium and shot at the title. "The Porsche had opened the door in the far corner. I saw my chance, but then he suddenly came back onto the racing line and we came in contact. It was certainly a bitter pill to swallow," said a disappointed Alessi. "In contrast to the practice and qualifying our Corvette was not easy to drive today." Keilwitz said after the race. "Diego was still struggling in the second half of the race for the podium."
A strong driving performance in both races for teammates Andreas Wirth and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, however a big portion of bad luck foiled the podium chances of their Corvette in the final weekend. In the first race Frentzen lost drive after a problem with the back-up pump and was on course to a strong result. At the end of the season, the duo were ranked 15th in the standings.
"I am very saddened by all the circumstances of this final weekend," said Callaway Competition team principal Ernst Wöhr. "That's not worked out with the title ofcourse. Runner-up in the drivers' and team championships is a great success, it was Toni Seiler's third in the amateur class, which was a good result. However, the circumstances of This weekend have led to a sad end. After the performance of our car was completely obscured and reduced, we expected a difficult weekend. The way the car was changed before the final weekend, and also such punishing incidents in the race, made it tough for the team to endure. With that in mind though, I would like to congratulate Sebastian Asch and Maximilian Götz for winning the championship. Both were always very fair opponents."
There were two podium places for the two amateur class Callaway run Z06R's of Toni Seiler Racing Corvette Z06.R GT3's. In the first race on Saturday was Remo Lips. Supported by Frank Schmickler second in the amateur class. In the ADAC GT Masters Amateur category, Toni Seiler ended with Frank Kechele his sixth season in the GT Masters with a podium finish and second place in the amateurs championship.
"The car was difficult to drive compared to yesterday and was sliding about a lot. I wasn't able to push forward, and we were losing time on every lap. Diego caught up superbly in the second stint but unfortunately got involved in an incident when he tried to overtake the Porsche."
"We had two problems in the race today, one of them in my stint. I had a lot of oversteer, which I found very surprising, so I had to go slow on the first few laps. The car didn't have good balance. Perhaps that was due to the fact that we were allowed to unload some success ballast for today's race. Then I got into that scrap with Dolenc. First he left open the door wide for me, then he suddenly pulled across. That's when we had our bump, which wasn't part of the master plan."