By Aaron Bearden, Contributing Writer
Grasser Racing Team’s (GRT) quest for a Rolex 24 at Daytona IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona (GTD) win began from last on the grid.
In the end, it made the victory all the sweeter.
The GRT No. 11 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 entry paced the final 53 laps of their 752-circuit run to claim the GTD Rolex 24 crown – the first victory in IMSA’s longest race for the manufacturer.
Just months removed from a 2017 Blancpain GT Series championship, Mike Bortolotti paced the final stretch of the event to claim the victory for the Austrian organization. Teammates Rolf Ineichen, Franck Perera and Rik Breukers joined Bortolotti in celebration.
The run capped off a comeback for the team. The GRT quartet caught the attention of the paddock when they set the fastest lap of the GTD field in Roar Before the Rolex 24 test earlier in the month, but they were forced to work their way through the field from last on the grid when the race arrived after a penalty for a failed stall test during post-qualifying tech inspection.
“It’s a big day for us, definitely,” Bortolotti said of the effort. “Coming from the back of the field, makes it even more special, I guess.
“I don’t know if this happened before but I don’t care ‑‑ coming from last position, winning such an important race, it’s great. Just so proud of everyone, of the whole team, and Lamborghini obviously. We’ve been working so hard to make this happen.”
The victory came just one year after GRT’s first race in IMSA – the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona. For Bortolotti and Ineichen, who have been with the team since its IMSA inception, the weekend’s rapid rise through the field at Daytona International Speedway served as validation for both themselves and Lamborghini.
“It’s a great success,” Ineichen said. “We tried many times before to win a 24‑hour race for Lamborghini but we were not successful. Now we are in Daytona. This is special. It’s really, really special.
“It’s a big dream, I think, of everybody to win here in Daytona. We did it now. We did it for Lamborghini, and we’re really proud on that.”
GRT took the checkered flag in 21st overall, 16.806 seconds clear of the second-in-class Michael Shank Racing No. 86 Acura NSX GT3, which was driven by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran A.J. Allmendinger, Alvaro Parente, Katherine Legge and Trent Hindman.
Paul Miller Racing’s No. 48 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 – piloted by Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Andrea Caldarelli and Bryce Miller – followed in third to complete the GTD podium.
Also of note in the GTD field was veteran Scott Pruett, a 60-time IMSA winner who announced prior to the Rolex 24 that he would retire after the conclusion of the yearly endurance race.
Pruett shared the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus R CF GT3 entry with former Verizon IndyCar Series driver Jack Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson and Dominik Farnbacher, ending the race with a ninth-place result in class.
Next up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 14-17.