Stepping up

‘Chase your dreams.’ ‘Aim for the stars.’ The world is full of inspirational quotes and it seems Peter Schmidt has taken them to heart. Having lead a successful car dealership since 1983, in 2002 he decided to turn his long-held wish of becoming a race-team owner into a reality by founding Car Collection Motorsport. After years of competing in privateer classes, Schmidt now has a new wish to fulfil. He wants to turn Car Collection Motorsport into a professional racing team.

The team took its first steps away from the privateer category in 2015, by entering the Blancpain Endurance Series with a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. Unfortunately, it proved to be a tough season filled with transition problems that even saw them forced out of the Spa 24 Hours. None of this, however, has made Schmidt any less determined to realise his dream of going professional. Over the winter he has enforced some rigorous changes that should turn Car Collection’s fortunes around. Most notably, he swapped the contract he had with AMG for a contract with Audi Sport. In 2016, Audi’s race department will supply Car Collection with two Audi R8 LMS GT3s, which will be used to compete in the ADAC GT Masters championship.

During the official presentation of Car Collection’s ADAC GT Masters entry, team manager Denis Ferlemann listed some of the reasons underlying the switch: “We have chosen Audi, because it’s a quality brand. They’ve achieved many great results with their GT3 cars. They won the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring last year with their Audi R8 LMS and they also placed second, third and fourth in the 24 Hours of Spa. Another reason we chose Audi is because they offered us a complete package.” As part of this complete package, Audi Sport Costumer Racing not only supplies Car Collection with cars but with trained engineers as well. They also helped the crew to a sponsorship-deal with Audi Sport Amsterdam, one of only four Audi Sport-dealers in the Netherlands, and assisted in the driver selection.

The drivers that were ultimately chosen for Car Collection’s inaugural ADAC GT Masters season are an international bunch. The line-up includes Dutchman Christiaan Frankenhout, Spaniard Isaac Tutumlu, German Christopher Haase and South-African Kelvin van der Linde. The last two of these have already won the ADAC GT Masters championship once before. Haase managed it in 2007, Van der Linde did it more recently in 2014. Car Collection has confirmed that Frankenhout will pair up with Haase in the number 33 car and that Tutumlu will pair up with Van der Linde in the  number 34 car.

The driver-pairing of Frankenhout-Haase will be able to rely heavily on their shared prior GT experience. Both have been racing for many years and Haase has been an official Audi driver since 2011. He has been brought into the Car Collection effort for both his ADAC GT Masters experience and his extensive knowledge of the R8, which he hopes to pass on to the team throughout the season. “We’ve already been out testing on a race track. The team may be new, but in my opinion there already is a solid base. Of course ADAC GT Masters is a tough series, but I think we can achieve something really good. I’m also very happy that Car Collection is so open to the information that I give them.” His partner Frankenhout confirms this. “When Christopher says ‘you have to do this or that’ then that is exactly what they do. It’s very nice to have a team that is so receptive to everything we say.”

The driver line-up of the sister car has less GT experience between them, but that doesn’t mean the pairing is not to be reckoned with. Nineteen-year old Kelvin van der Linde rocketed to the GT scene in 2014, when he clinched the ADAC GT Masters title on his debut. The 2015 season proved to be much more difficult for him, but he’s adamant he learned from the struggles. “Last year was a bit of a character-building season for me. Coming from such a high it was difficult to deal with the disappointments of the long season. But I think this season is a new challenge for me. I have a completely different mind-set now and I have more experience to deal with things. I’m also with a new team now. I have a really good feeling inside of this team. It has a very family-like vibe, which I didn’t feel as strongly before. I feel like I’m part of something big now, something that can grow in the future.”

Van der Linde’s partner Isaac Tutumlu is new to the ADAC GT Masters championship. The Spaniard has already competed in many other series, such as the International GT Open and the Porsche Supercup, but even so has never before raced on some of the ADAC GT Masters’ key tracks, like Oschersleben and the Red Bull Ring. He does, however, have experience with the Audi R8:  “I did the 24 Hours of Dubai in an R8. It’s a beautiful car, that’s easy to drive and is very quick. We had a great start to the race, because we could start from pole position. If we hadn’t received a hit from another car that put us in the box for thirty minutes, we would have won the race.” Throughout the season Tutumlu expects to learn a lot from his young teammate. “He is very quick. I’m sure he’ll be able to help me get to know the tracks and the car better. I think we’re a good combination that can go far.”

Being part of a new outfit, none of the Car Collection drivers were keen to comment on what lap times they expected to put on the clocks during the season-opening race in Oschersleben. “Honestly, I have no idea,” says Haase, “Of course each team thinks ‘we have a good package, we are good’, but in GT Masters you fight for hundredths, you fight for tenths. I think you only know where you are after the first race, or maybe after the second race.”

Frankenhout was quick to concur. “In itself it’s not a problem that the team doesn’t have a lot of experience yet. They have the four main ingredients in place: the car, a good team, good engineers and good drivers. When you have these four things, you have all you need to win the championship. Naturally, whether or not you actually manage to do this, also depends on a hundred thousand other factors, but these are the four things you will always need. And of course you must make sure that these four all work together. It’s like it is in soccer: you can have good players, but when they don’t play well together you’ll still win nothing. It’s the same with racing. But for now we have all we need and it feels like we’re heading in the right direction.”

The Car Collection crew has just under a month left to prepare itself for the first weekend of the ADAC GT Masters season, which will take place on 15-17 April at Oschersleben. Prior to that the team’ll take part in the official pre-season test. This will be held on 4-5 April, also at Oschersleben.

Miguel Bosch contributed to this report.

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A life-long fan of racing in general and pink race cars in particular. Editor for GT REPORT and comical (or so she hopes) motorsports microblogger over at Twitter.

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Sandra Michiels

A life-long fan of racing in general and pink race cars in particular. Editor for GT REPORT and comical (or so she hopes) motorsports microblogger over at Twitter.