Despite unlucky weekend, Laura Kraihamer shows potential for KTM in GT2 Europe
"We have a lot more to show" - Laura Kraihamer had an unlucky weekend at the GT2 European Championship season opener, but showed great pace in Sunday's first stint, confirming the KTM X-Bow potential ahead of the team's home race.
KTM factory driver Laura Kraihamer is no stranger to some of the most popular GT series in Europe, having competed in GT4 European series, VLN, DTM Trophy among the others - as well as scored race wins in ADAC GT4, 24H Series and two class podiums at the mighty 24 hours of Nürburgring. The KTM X-Bow GT2 couldn't have been in better hands for the first round of the GT2 European Championship at Imola, as Kraihamer was announced last-minute in a Pro-Am entry alongside two full-time AM True Racing crews. The young Austrian shared the #15 KTM with Kris Rosenberger, a driver with extensive rallying experience. Despite a difficult BOP for the weekend, the KTM X-Bow - certainly one of the most eye-catching vehicles in the paddock at Imola – showed promising signs in qualifying and Kraihamer and Rosenberger qualified in sixth and seventh place on the grid for the two 50-minute races at the iconic Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari, under threatening skies but dry conditions. Drops of rain - and surprisingly the only shower of the weekend – started just before the start of race 1 on Saturday, as Kris Rosenberger got in the driving seat for the first part of the race. Elia Erhart (LP Racing Audi R8 LMS GT2) started from pole position, with Audis showing an impressive speed throughout the weekend. In the tricky mixed weather conditions, Gianluca Giorgi (EbiMotors Porsche) was able to advance into second place on the first lap and gaps spread out quickly; Erhart pulled away and opened a 7-second advantage over the competition. In the early stages, the three KTM X-Bow found themselves on the back foot and dropped down the order: unfortunately, Rosenberger was particularly uncomfortable in the car and was at one point over 10 seconds off the pace. Having found some rhythm, on the other hand, was the #17 KTM of Klaus Angerhofer, who passed the LP Racing Porsche of Gorini for fourth place in AM and overall. Midway through the race, the pit window opened and Laura Kraihamer jumped in the #15 KTM X-Bow for the second stint. Unfortunately, the Austrian ace's race was already compromised, having a 2-lap gap to the leading pack. Stefan Rosina was also on board the #16 True Racing KTM and he started to charge back and unlapped himself. Giorgi pitted from second and rejoined in the lead – having no driver change to deal with – and slotted in front of Hassid in the LP Racing Audi - while Doppelmayr – who had taken over from Erhart – was down to third. With 10 minutes to go, the battle for the lead saw the Audi of Henry Hassid making a great move stick at Piratella, while Michael Vergers got ahead of Bert Longins for the ProAm lead. Stienes Longin was not far behind, as the trio caught up with second-placed Giorgi. Rookie driver Hassid took a wni from fourth on the grid, with drivers in a one-racer crew finishing on top. Laura Kraihamer and Kris Rosenberger were seventh in ProAm. "The first race was incredibly unfortunate", Kraihamer told us, who explained that for some reason tyres were not up to temperatures in the first stint. "The problem was that when I got in the car there was a centimetre of tyre pickup and I couldn't get rid of it", she continued. "I just drove it home safely, conditions were tricky and it was just not worth it."
Kraihamer started the second race in seventh place overall, sixth in ProAm, while an Audi 1-2-3 led the pack. Stefan Rosina (#16 True Racing KTM) had a brilliant getaway and moved into third place, but soon had to defend from the fast charging Anders Fjordbach in the #1 Brabham BT62 GT2. A trip to the gravel meant that Fjordbach had to build again his recovery.
Laura Kraihamer also had a solid start and completed the first lap in fifth place in ProAm. She defended from Fjordbach until lap 4, before the Brabham driver got ahead - before again he ended in the gravel trap at Tamburello.
Kraihamer was having a great first stint and caught up with Gianluca Giorgi (EbiMotors Porsche). After an exciting battle, she made a move at Tosa and reclaimed sixth overall.
Race 1 winner Henry Hassid received a drive through penalty after he sent Dilantha Malagamuwa into a spin - and there was more drama when KTM driver Stefan Rosina slowed down for a technical issue, ultimately retiring from the race just before the pit window opened.
Kraihamer's battle with Giorgi was not over and, after swapping places, the young Austrian was back ahead with another determined pass.
On lap 15, Laura pitted to hand over to Kris Rosenberger from fifth overall and in class. Unfortunately, he was handed a drive through for speeding in the pitlane - which dropped the #15 KTM to tenth overall and fifth in ProAm.
Nicolas Saelens led overall in the PK Carsport Audi, followed by the High Class Racing entry of Aurelijus Rusteika and the other PK Carsport Audi of Peter Guelinckx after the driver change.
The race was called with an early red flag when Pierlugi Alessandri's Lamborghini Huracan stopped on track with a puncture – just before Peter Guelinckx had completed a pass for second, but positions were restored to the lap before under red flag regulations.
Laura Kraihamer and Kris Rosenberger retained fifth in ProAm, having nevertheless shown great pace in the opening stages.
"I think I had a very solid first stint, I felt good in the car, and I think we were quite quick" – she commented. "Once I got up to speed the tyres were there and the lap times were fine. I was also fighting with the Porsche, so I couldn't get all the lap times I wanted, but it was absolutely okay."
"It's very unfortunate regarding the drive through – it was just not our weekend, it wasn't meant to be."
A last-minute entry in the GT2 season opener, Kraihamer hopes to be back for more in the series, which will head for the first time to KTM's home track at Red Bull Ring next.
"I hope to come back to GT2 – I feel like we've not shown our potential and feel sorry also for the other KTM cars; we were not in a favourite role this weekend, watching at the pace of the Audis, but everyone was racing at their best and I think we have a lot more to show."
Meanwhile, she will have her eyes set on the next round of the NLS, as she makes her first appearance in the Nürburgring Langstrecken Serie in the Teichmann Racing KTM X-Bow GTX that she shares with Hendrik Still, Constantin Schöll and Stephan Brodmerkel.