CANADIAN RACERS NEWS TALKED WITH MIKAEL ON HIS CONFIRMATION AT EMIL FREY RACING AND EXPECTATIONS ABOUT THE SEASON TO COME
Grenier had been very quiet over the winter about his 2019 plans only mentioning on his social accounts he was heading to Europe in the winter months to test with the team he had been competing with last year in the Blancpain GT Series.
The team is to run a pair of Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO for 2019 and is to compete in the PRO class of the International GT Open Championship. The Series comprises of seven race weekends at some of the best tracks in the world. The first race is scheduled at Circuit Paul Ricard (France) on April 27-29.
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing, about the pre-season preparations: “So far, the various tests went well. We realised pretty quickly, that the car is almost fully developed from a technical point of view. We received amazing support from Lamborghini and were able to work well even ahead of the first test thanks to the experience we received. At the first tests, we didn´t face any technical issues. We received very good and detailed feedback from our drivers. With this information and the collected data, we continuously improved the car’s performance. I am very pleased to confirm Mikael as our driver. Now we are looking at a few weeks preparation at Safenwil before the season starts – we are ready.”
2019 marks the 14th season for the The International GT Open Championship with at least eight manufacturers represented and one of the top Pro-Am racing platform in Europe. Its weekend format has 2 free practice sessions on the Friday. It is followed by a qualifying session on Saturday with race 1 (70 minutes) taking place. Sunday has a second qualifying session and race 2 for 60 minutes.
Canadian Racers News contacted Mikaël at his home in Stoneham(Quebec).
Canadian Racers News(CRN): Finally, you are able to confirm your season! How excited are you?
Mikaël Grenier(MG): “I am very happy to be back with Emil Frey Racing especially since we had a great season last year it was logical to continue. It was a little stressful over the winter as the Jaguar and Lexus program ended, we were not certain what was to be next. As the Lamborghini program came along and the fact we are running in the International GT Open, there was an uncertainty as the team had two cars available and three seat to fill as one of the seat belonged to a Lamborghini driver.”
CRN: You had a successful 2018 season with Emil Frey Racing, was it just a formality to go through the testing to confirm your seat or were there other drivers in the frame as well?
MG: “Last year, there were nine drivers with the three cars the team had in Blancpain. The International GT Open has a sprint format so only two drivers are required. Having only the chance of one of the three seats fueled that uncertainty and I am happy to be one of the three that stayed with the team for this new challenge.”
CRN: It was a late switch to Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO for the team. How has the preparation coming along?
MG: “We completed three 2-day test sessions at three different tracks. Overall, the tests went well. For sure we have to improve because it is a totally different car to last year(Mikaël drove a Jaguar G3, NDLR) so in terms of car set-up we are not where we want to be. The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO is very reliable as we did not encounter any issues during the testing. So on that side it is very positive. There is also a different tire to get used to. The team, used to driving on Pirelli, have to adapt to running on Michelin. And as drivers, we also have to adapt. Luckily we have the same team personal as last year and we have great support from Lamborghini as well.”
CRN: You are teamed up with Austrian Norbert Siedler, how has the relationship been so far? Do you have similar taste in car handling?
MG: “He is well known in Europe and has lots of experience in GT racing. He was my teammate last year as he was driving the Lexus RC F GT3. So it is nice to co-drive with someone with experience. I would say we have the same feedback so far. Of course, it is important to share the drive with someone that likes the same adjustments in endurance racing and more so in sprint races. We need to be able to push to find the last tenth of a second constantly. We have two races per weekend. In race 1, which is 70 minutes, we have a mandatory fuel/tire stop and race 2 (60 minutes) only tires.”
CRN: This is not your first time at the wheel of a Lamborghini as you have competed in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe and won the Championship in 2017. How different is the Huracán GT3 EVO?
MG: “It is very different for the Super Trofeo, although I had a chance to drive the previous generation GT3 as I was running a GT3 program alongside the Super Trofeo Championship. The GT3 EVO is a positive step forward to the previous generation with new aero, electronics and revised engine. Lamborghini says it is 60-70% new car but the base of the car is the same so it feels very familiar and there was not much of an adaptation to it.”
CRN: For those of us who have been following you in the Blancpain Series last year, how comparable is the GT Open Series in terms of competitiveness?
MG: “The biggest European GT Championship is the Blanpain GT Series where you have 20-30 cars for the win. This year they are looking at 48 cars registered for the full season. The International GT Open caliber is also high as we will certainly have 10 cars battling for the win amongst the 30 or so cars. Some of the teams actually race in both championship. That will not be the case for us this year.”
CRN: Last year, you competed in IMSA WeatherTech GTD class at Daytona and Sebring, any chances to see you back on this side of the Atlantic this season? Or any other International event?
MG: “We might race the Spa 24-hour. Should the team decide to run at Spa, and this with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO, we would have to do some testing prior as we would switch to Pirelli for that one event. At this time I am to focus on my task to perform well in the GT Open.”
CRN: Less than a month to go before the start of the season, testing is completed. Any other preparation before the first race, simulator work maybe?
MG:“Our pre-season testing is done. I did work on the simulator last time I was at the team’s base. It would have been nice to have some test prior to arriving at Paul Ricard although there is an open test day on the Thursday of the event. I know the circuit quite well having raced there before and also we raced the 6 hours of Paul Ricard in the Blancpain Series last year.”
CRN: Have you set yourself goals for the season?
MG: “Obviously the team’s objective is to have one of the car win the Championship. It is also Lamborghini’s objective being the team of reference for Lamborghini in the International GT Open. It is going to be interesting to see how the season unfolds as there are new cars also entering the series like Aston Martin and McLaren. It is up to us to do our homework correctly. The BOP (balance of performance, NDLR) will play a big role. Both our cars are on equal terms at the beginning of the season. We will work as a team to make the most out of the opportunities. Definitely, the team wants to win the championship.”
Canadian Racers News will follow Mikaël throughout the season. Stay tuned!
Interesting fact: Emil Frey Racing is a team based out of Safenwil (Switzerland) with a long and successful motorsport history. The Emil Frey Group (which owns 678 dealers across Europe) celebrated their 90th birthday in 2014. https://www.emilfreyracing.com
2019 International GT Open Championship Schedule
|27 – 28 April 2019||Paul Ricard, France|
|25 – 26 May 2019||Hockenheim, Germany|
|08 – 09 June 2019||Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium|
|13 – 14 July 2019||Red Bull Ring, Austria|
|07 – 08 September 2019||Silverstone, England|
|21 – 22 September 2019||Barcelona, Spain|
|12 – 13 October 2019||Monza, Italy|
Photographer & Editor
Photographer & Editor