ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL SEASON IN EUROPE FOR THE STONEHAM, QUEBEC, NATIVE WHO IS MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF IN A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE POOL OF DRIVERS
2018 had been very successful for Mikaël driving for Emil Frey Racing in the Blancpain GT Series by winning the Silver Cup Endurance Cup Championship.
In the winter months of 2019, Emil Frey partnered with Lamborghini Squadra Corse and started a new race program competing in International International GT Open. After completing several test days, Mikaël was chosen to co-drive the no. 14 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO with Austrian driver Norbert Siedler. The duo ended up a very close second in the championship behind their teammates in the no. 63 of Spaniard Albert Costa Balboa and Italian Giacomo Altoè.
With four wins for Grenier/Siedler and four wins for Costa/Altoè, Emil Frey Racing also won the team championship and gave Lamborghini the International GT Open title.
It seems that is what was needed for the team to go back to the most disputed GT racing series in the world: GT World Challenge Europe, previously known as the Blancpain GT Series.
Earlier this week Swiss luxury watchmaker Blancpain confirmed they were ending their title sponsorship of the GT Series after a 10 year association.
Emil Frey Racing announced today they are to continue their relationship with Lamborghini Squadra Corse and to compete in the GT World Challenge Europe with the same driver line-up as their 2019 Championship season in International GT Open keeping the same drivers. This means Mikaël Grenier will co-drive with Norbert Siedler again. This duo seems to be working very well together.
Since the GT World Challenge Europe has two different race formats, one being long distance and the second being sprint events, Swiss driver Ricardo Feller, whom we have seen racing in IMSA with Montaplast by Land Motorsport this season with another fellow Canadian Daniel Morad, will be the third driver and will join Grenier and Siedler for the endurance races.
Team Principal Lorenz Frey-Hilti shares his enthusiasm about the announcement: “After a successful season with Lamborghini Squadra Corse and the corresponding wins of the Teams’- and Drivers’ Championships in the International GT Open, it is now time for a move up and a comeback into the GT World Challenge Europe. I am looking forward to continuing our success of 2018 at the GT World Challenge Europe in 2020. I am very pleased with Lamborghini’s professionalism and the constructive exchange between engineers and drivers. The GT World Challenge is the premium class of the GT3-Sport. The level is intensely high. The drivers and their teams are very accomplished and experienced, but I am confident that, with hard work, we will learn fast and make the best out of what we have. Our goal for the first season is to be the best Lamborghini team and to consistently be in the Top Ten.”
Canadian Racers News contacted Mikaël to talk about his past season and his continuing relationship with Emil Frey Racing.
Canadian Racers News(CRN): At this time last year, you were uncertain about 2019 as Emil Frey were changing their program since Lexus ceased their association with the team. Then, Lamborghini Squadra Corse showed interest with their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO. But now that Emil Frey has announced their return to the GT World Challenge and confirmed you will be one of their drivers, how does that feel?
Mikaël Grenier(MG): “Of course, it will be a much better Holiday Season knowing that my 2020 season is already confirmed. 2019 was a little different as Emil Frey Racing partnered with Lamborghini with not much lead time to the start of the season. So, it was only after completing the team’s test days in the early months that I was confirmed. And it was decided to properly prepare for a return in GT World Challenge Europe; it is why we competed in the International GT Open series. The GT World Challenge Europe is one of the most, if not the most, competitive GT series in the world. Still we had fierce competitors in the International GT Open and also the ruling is somewhat different and we had to adapt to Michelin tires since we were used to run on Pirelli. And from Lamborghini’ side, it was imperative we win the GT Open Championship to consider moving to the GT World Challenge for 2020.
CRN: How easy or difficult was it to adapt to a new car, new rules, new tires?
MG: “We were not the fastest in the first half of the season but the level of preparation and professionalism of Emil Frey Racing’s team personnel made the difference as we were still able to win some races with better strategies and pit stops. Then, during the second half of the season, we understood the behavior and adjusted the car much better.
CRN: You were in a good position to win the championship for Emil Frey Racing and Lamborghini.
MG: “We were in the fight but the race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria did not help my teammate Norbert Siedler and I for the championship as we were not able to get points needed to keep fighting for the championship. Then we had to turn our attention in helping our teammates in the sister car to win the championship as they were in the lead.”
“At the last meeting, it was an awkward situation as Norbert and I were still in a position, points wise, to win it. But for that to happen, our teammates needed not to finish in the points at all. We were having to deal with two choices. We could go for the win and our teammates, should they not finished, would still be second. By doing this we risked, in the event something went wrong on our side, ending up in fifth place. The second choice was simply to secure our second place overall. We decided it was best to go with option two and finishing second would secure top two for Emil Frey Racing and Lamborghini.”
CRN: Looking back at your season, what do you recall to be the most positive moment and one that you would see as a most difficult?
MG: “Definitely the most positive was the pole position at Monza, the last race of the season. I came really close to get pole on at least four occasions but missed out by fractions of a second each time. So, I was really happy with the pole at Monza. As for the not so good moment, I have to go with the weekend in Austria where we could only managed to get maybe four points towards the championship and that hurt our chances from that point on. In International GT Open, we have to race with handicap according to where you finished in the previous race. This handicap is in the form of added time during our mandatory pit stop. For race 1 in Austria, we knew it would be difficult because since we scored a win and an eight place at Spa the weekend before. We ended up not to scoring that many points and then we had mechanical issues during the second race. “
CRN: You had a new teammate this year in Norbert Siedler, how would you rate the relationship?
MG: “I knew Norbert from last year as we were both with Emil Frey Racing. He was driving the Lexus car and I was on the other side of the garage driving the Jaguar. So I knew him somewhat. He is a great teammate to have as he brings quite a bit of experience and especially in GT as he has been at it for about ten years. He also had experience driving with Lamborghini in the past and this made it very helpful when making changes to the car’s handling. So, I am looking forward to have him as my teammate again next year.”
CRN: You have spent a good amount of time in Emil Frey Racing’ simulator this season. How helpful is it for you and team?
MG: Before every race, I am asked to stop by the team’s headquarters in Switzerland in preparation for the race. The simulator is the best way to learn the track we are about to race on. I usually fly to Switzerland and arrive in the morning then go directly to the shop where I will spend about four hours in the simulator. At the beginning of the season, the simulator was set for the other two cars we had, the Lexus and Jaguar. So, gradually during the season, we made the changes to have the Lamborghini and Michelin parameters in the simulator. Even if it is not 100 percent accurate, it is very close in term of realism. It is a great tool and we are fortunate to have it at Emil Frey Racing. With the simulator, as a driver, it gives us a chance to be ready to drive hard right from the very first practice session.”
CRN: You had the opportunity to drive with Sun Energy for the Suzuka 10hours this season and finished on the podium. Would there be a chance for us to see you at events like Rolex 24 at Daytona and even Sebring?
MG: “Unfortunately, Sun Energy is not racing in IMSA any longer and there are not many opportunities apart form the long distance races in IMSA to get a seat. Quite frankly with my commitments with Emil Frey Racing, it is too difficult to fit IMSA races to my calendar and it is why I concentrate more on Europe at the moment.”
CRN: When will the program start for next season?
MG: We had a test day at Paul Ricard not long ago and drove the car on Pirelli tires, which are the GT World Challenge supplier, to get a base knowledge. Then, we will start pre-season testing the second week of February.”
The official pre-season test for the GT World Challenge is scheduled for March 12-13 at Circuit Paul-Ricard in France with the first race of the season on April 17-19 at Monza, Italy.
It has to be said, Mikaël Grenier is quietly making a name for himself in Europe. With good management with him and since making the move to race in European series like the Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Porsche GT3 Cup, he keeps moving upward and it is very nice to see this happening. We can only wish him the best Holiday Season and a great 2020 season for him.
Here is the schedule for Mikaël’s 2020 season:
|Monza||17 – 19 April||Endurance|
|Brands Hatch||2-3 May||Sprint|
|Silverstone||9 – 10 May||Endurance|
|Circuit Paul Ricard||29 – 30 May||Endurance|
|Zandvoort||26 – 28 June||Sprint|
|Misano||3 – 5 July||Sprint|
|24 Hours of Spa||23 – 26 July||Endurance|
|Nürburgring||4 – 6 September||Endurance|
|Budapest||25 – 27 September||Sprint|
|Barcelona||9 – 11 October||Sprint|
Image: Emil Frey Racing
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