Dunes – drama – disappointment . The grand finale of the 2018 GT4 Central European Cup at Zandvoort on the first weekend of October turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster for Benjamin Mazatis. On the historic circuit outside Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the Bavarian and his team-mate Ilmari Korpivaara were contenders for the title in the Pro-AM Cup. After a race weekend of changing fortunes, the duo finished the campaign in third place.

The two Reiter Engineering drivers went into the final weekend just two points behind the leaders. During tests in the KTM X-Bow GT4 on Thursday, Mazatis laid down a marker for his title ambitions with impressive lap times and provided further confirmation by qualifying in second place for Saturday’s race. In the race itself, Mazatis and his co-driver had to settle for fourth in their class.

Sunday’s race was therefore all set to be the championship decider. Korpivaara started from third place and looked to be in with an excellent chance, until an opponent pushed him off the track. The KTM X Bow GT4 brushed against the wall but was able to continue and even regain some positions. Hopes now turned on the mandatory change of driver to Mazatis. A safety car deployment helped them move up to third place. As Mazatis had only guest starters ahead of him, this meant that they were effectively in first place and therefore heading for the title win. Just a few laps before the end of the race, however, their hopes were dashed. As a result of the damage sustained in the accident earlier in the race, Mazatis lost control of his car and also collided with the wall. After a repair stop, he managed to get the car across the finish line, but the championship was by that time out of reach.

Three questions for Benjamin Mazatis

You laid the foundations for a great weekend with that second place in qualifying…
It was our best qualifying result of the season, and I was really happy with it because it was the maximum we were going to get against the first-placed Porsche. Our car was just brilliant, and it was a very special feeling to start from the front row. The race itself was a bit problematic. My start was good, but I couldn’t hold off the more powerful Maserati coming up from behind. Because of an oil patch on the track ahead of me, I was unable to outbrake him, which allowed the team-mate of our main championship rival to get past and then block our way forward. Ilmari also lost out to another of our opponents, and so we were fourth. It was not all that disastrous, however, because we knew that the final showdown would come on Sunday.

And for that, you managed to get yourselves well placed with P3 on the grid. Tell us from your perspective why things didn’t work out for you in the end?
We considered that we had a very good chance of being ahead at the end because our pairing has two equally strong drivers. Ilmari had a great start and hung on to third position. Unfortunately, the team-mate of our championship rival pushed him into the barrier on the straight. Although the other driver was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident, it left us at the rear of the field with crooked steering. I then couldn’t believe my luck when a well-timed driver change just before the safety car put me up to third. We were ahead of our opponents and were suddenly favourites for the title again. Everything was going in the right direction until I lost control of the car accelerating out of the penultimate corner. I didn’t have a chance of correcting it and just hit the barrier. We all assume that this was consequential damage from Ilmari’s collision with the wall earlier on in the race. I returned to the pits, and two laps before the end, I re-emerged with a repaired car. We didn’t want to end the season with a DNF, so we were determined to show everyone that we never give up!

Third place in the championship is a great result. Are you reconciled to this in the meantime, or is it outweighed by the sense of disappointment?
At the moment, missing out on the title is clearly foremost in our minds. We had an excellent chance, but our hopes were dashed in an instant. The championship was within reach, and now we have to settle for third by only the narrowest of margins. It will certainly take a while for me to accept that third place in this championship is a really strong performance that I can be proud of. I would have liked us to be successful for all our guys at Reiter Engineering as well. The team has worked so hard all season, and in the end, their efforts have gone unrewarded.