True Racing arrived at the Slovakiaring in the south-west of Slovakia, hoping to build on a very successful weekend in Austria just a month earlier. The tight, technical and twisty circuit at the Slovakiaring would enable the KTM XBOW GT4 to demonstrate its superior cornering ability over other cars in the series.
Friday started with Free Practice one early in the morning, with drivers Cedric Freiburghaus and Laura Kraihamer hoping to show fans and sponsors how fast the KTM can be around the Slovakiaring. As expected, the Reiter Engineering prepared KTM’s were very fast with 4 Xbows in the top 10, with the #74 True Racing car 5th on the timesheet. A strong showing from the KTM’s inevitably resulted in a change to the Balance of Performance and would hamper True Racing in FP2.
The BOP change reduced the camber allowed on the KTM’s to an angle which would reduce cornering ability and also wear tyres much faster than normal. Slovakiaring is a circuit at which tyre wear is critical; with a reduced camber value and a set of tyres used in both Austria and FP1, the Pirellis on car 74 reached their limit very quickly during the session. The car began to understeer heavily, due to a lack of grip, and while Cedric and Laura were positive about the setup, neither were able to exploit the pace of the Xbow, due to the heavy tyre wear. As a result True Racing finished FP2 in 21st, almost 3 seconds down on the times set in FP1. Despite the difficult FP2 session, the team were optimistic about Saturday’s qualifying sessions, with two new sets of Pirelli’s ready to be fitted to the #74.
Saturday started with the first qualifying session early in the morning, with track temperatures around 26 degrees celsius. Cedric Freiburghaus would drive the car for the first qualifying session, hoping to put the True Racing KTM high up on the Race one starting grid. New Tyres allowed Cedric to set some blistering lap times, some one and a half seconds faster than his FP1 times, putting the #74 car 5th on the grid for race one. All 8 Reiter KTMs performed well, with 6 in the top ten.
Laura Kraihamer then got into the car to begin qualifying two. A second new set of Pirelli tyres was fitted to the #74 and she was ready to go. Laura showed good pace in the car setting sector times that were just as fast as Cedric and often faster. However with 30 cars of varying pace on track at once, traffic is a huge issue and Laura was hampered with slower Porsches and Aston Martins scuppering her chances of replicating Cedric’s top five grid slot. The True racing car finished the session in 11th, but Laura’s time of a 2:11.477 would have been good enough for P3 in Quali one, demonstrating just how competitive the second Qualifying session was.
After Qualifying the team was buoyant and were hopeful of bettering the third in class achieved last time out at the RedBull Ring, however events beyond their control would make the rest of the race weekend very challenging for the whole team. During scrutineering, event officials found issues with all KTM cars, and as a result all were demoted to the back of the grid for both race one and race two.
After many hours in Parc Ferme, the team did a brilliant job to set the car up for Race one, with a further BOP change also adding to the difficulties faced by the team. As true professionals the team worked tirelessly to prepare the car and the #74 rolled out of the pits with time to spare before making its way to the grid. Cedric would start race one from 26th on the grid and would face an uphill battle to pass slower cars on the tight and twisty Slovakiaring circuit. A great first lap saw cedric up into P20 by the time the cars flashed past the start finish line to begin lap two. A two lap safety car period allowed the drivers and teams to refocus after a hectic start and cedric then began to systematically pass cars lap by lap until pitting at the end of lap 13 from P6, having made up 20 places in his stint. Laura then jumped into the car and after losing some time during the pitstop after being slow away due to other cars in the tight Slovakiaring pitlane, she then set about a charge of her own. Laptimes were fast from the Austrian, even in heavy traffic and at the end of a gruelling hour of racing she crossed the line in 13th position, a respectable finishing position having started 26th.
The pace of the KTM was plain to see, but it could not be exploited to its full potential due to the #74 being out of position on the grid. The team hoped for a similar performance in race two. More controversy would hit the 8 Reiter KTM’s after race one, with all cars being disqualified from the final results and then held in Parc Ferme for hours after the race.
An official press release from Reiter Engineering, explaining in detail the weekend’s events off the track, is available here:
The team encourage you to read this press release in order to better understand the struggles over the weekend and would like to take the opportunity to thank the Reiter management staff for dealing with the issues in a calm and professional manner, allowing True Racing to focus on the weekend’s racing.
Race two would commence on Sunday morning with weather conditions unchanged from the previous day’s running. The car did not return from Parc Ferme until just before the race and the team did a brilliant job to set the car up in time to make it to the grid. Laura Kraihamer would start the race from 28th on the grid and knew she was in for a tricky first stint with the majority of the fellow KTMs in front of her. The race started well, with Laura battling with Team WP driver Naomi Schiff for the first lap before an excellent overtake put her ahead of the South African driver. A heavy crash for fellow KTM driver Achim Mortl brought out the safety car, preventing any more overtaking for several laps. After the safety car period had ended, Laura began to make overtakes on almost every lap, gaining 9 positions by the time she pitted at the end of lap 11, from P19. Cedric Freiburghaus then took over the #74, and after a near perfect pitstop, emerged having lost no places in the pitstops. The Swiss driver then began to set faster laps than the leaders, gaining places as he went along. As the race timer ticked down tensions rose in the True Racing garage as Cedric gained time on the #10 McLaren which sat 3rd in the Silver cup class. 3 laps remained and the #74 was within a second of the McLaren, looking to overtake for the podium position. Then, all hopes of a podium finish vanished as the safety car was deployed, neutralising Cedric’s charge to the podium. The race – and the weekend- would finish at a serene pace behind the safety car, with the True Racing car finishing race two in 6th place overall, gaining 22 places in the race. This proved how fast the KTM Xbow GT4 was with Cedric and Laura at the wheel, if not for the disqualifications, podium finishes would have been a real possibility for Team True Racing in Slovakia.
The race weekend at the Slovakiaring was challenging for all involved, from the drivers, to the engineers, mechanics and team manger. All involved stayed motivated and professional throughout and we proved that as a team we can perform through adversity, achieving results when they looked unlikely. The team would like to thank the fans and sponsors for all your support and would like to assure you that we will be back in Zandvoort in 3 weeks time to fight for podiums and wins again.
Thank you again and we hope to see you in Zandvoort.