The 23rd edition of the world-famous Sport Auto Tuner Grand Prix, more recently renamed the Sport Auto High Performance Days, took place at the legendary Hockenheimring located in the Rhine Valley of Germany. Although this event has traditionally been the place for tuners to show off what their products can do with the best of German engineering, recent years have seen some competitors looking across the pond for their starting point.
GeigerCars.de, the 2014 winners, were there in full force to defend their title and to try for additional class wins. To this end, the Munich-based U.S. car specialist sent a contingent of four cars to take on all comers. Last year's winning car, the 809hp Corvette C6 ZR1, was supported by a tuned Camaro Z28, a near-standard Corvette C7 Z06, and a supercharged Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. This very fast SUV was also the crew transport and support vehicle for the GeigerCars.de team.
As vital to the team's effort as the meticulous preparation of these vehicles was the fact that Team Director Karl Geiger was also able to secure last year's winner, Renger van der Zande, and rapid ADAC GT Masters regular, Daniel Keilwitz, as their drivers.
The formula used to calculate the final score and determine the winner adds the five fastest lap times of each vehicle around the 1.6-mile-long circuit. This year, the timed races were run on Friday afternoon, and found four Corvettes in the top ranking. Renger van der Zande in the (No. 27) Geiger Corvette C6 ZR1 once again took First Place in the fastest class with a stunning 1:05.3-minute lap, the fastest ever recorded in the history of this event. Second and Third Places went to the two Corvette ZR1s of TIKT Performance, while Daniel Keilwitz took the near stock (No. 26) Geiger Corvette Z06 C7 to a creditable Fourth Place. The inherent capabilities of the latest Corvette were clearly shown by his spectacular 1:06.7-minute lap, which was faster than last year's overall winning time!
Karl Geiger personally piloted the "team transporter," heaving the 718hp supercharged Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT around the Hockenheim Club Circuit in 1:21.9 seconds in a mixed Group 2 that was won by the Komo-Tec Ariel Atom of Sven Barth with a rapid 1:06.4 lap.
In Group 4, Daniel Keilwitz took the Geiger Camaro Z28 round in a very quick best lap of 1:09.8 minutes but returned to the pits with a growing problem. The mechanics immediately spotted an oil leak from one of the rocker covers that could have caused a fire had it reached the red-hot exhaust, but did not have the time to replace the rocker cover gasket. The car was withdrawn for safety reasons, but looking at the 1:11.1-minute best time of the eventual class winner, the Hohenester Audi TTRS (No. 11), it is clear that the Geiger Camaro Z28 had the potential to win, but that's the luck of motorsport.
Meanwhile, the Group 1 win was taken by Hannes Nahler, who piloted the Schirra Motoring Mini Cooper S (No. 36) to a 1:11.8-minute lap, while Jurgen Hohenester stopped the clocks at 1:07.3 minutes in the Rallyemanufaktur Audi RM Evo 2 (No. 10), a modern Audi S1 replica.
Saturday's final race took place over 20 minutes and featured a flying start, with competitors running in the reverse order of Friday, which found both GeigerCars.de Corvettes starting side by side from the last row. The two TIKT Corvettes did not take part in this final showdown.
The eventual result could not have been better, with Renger van der Zande in the Corvette C6 ZR1 and Daniel Keilwitz in the Corvette C7 Z06 scything through the field in impressive fashion. After just three laps, the two Corvettes were at the head of the pack, and by the sixth lap, they began lapping the back markers. As the stopwatch called time on the 20-minute race, Daniel Keilwitz had won this final round of the sport auto Tuner GP 2015 by 4.3 seconds over his teammate.
The eventual third position finisher, the 659hp (No. 55) Mitsubishi EVO 9GT, driven by Rich Marshall Racing, was only saved from being lapping by the chequered flag. It was an across-the-board victory for GeigerCars.de.
Per4mance-Industries, who entered three cars, came in Second in Group 5 with its AMG GTS (No. 22) and Third in Group 4 with its 600hp Audi R8 V-10 (No. 21). That said, the team members were also winners since they build exhaust systems for Geiger Cars.
On a negative note, the organization of the event this year was skewed by sponsored passenger rides on Saturday morning, which relegated the speed runs to Friday, when almost no members of the public were present. As this disappointed a lot of spectators who missed the big battles that normally take place on Saturday in front of thousands, I have a feeling next year's event will see a return to the tried and tested formula.