STONEHAM(QC) DRIVER MIKAËL GRENIER DROVE THROUGH THE FIELD ON HIS ONE HOUR STINT FROM 39TH PLACE OF A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE FIELD.
Thanks to GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS for the available YouTube feed from Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari a.k.a Imola circuit for the 3-hour race.
The class of GT3 cars seen for this race was beyond great. With Audi, Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin Lexus, McLaren, Mercedes AMG, Bentley and Acura present and top of the line drivers such as Mirko Bortolotti, Patrick Pilet, James Calado, Matt Campbell, Romain Dumas, Ricardo Feller, Mathieu Jaminet, Chris Mies (you might know from the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) all looking to secure the top honors from this first meet of the season.
Of course there were plenty more of talented drivers competing this weekend and, fortunately, we have a Canadian representative in Mikaël Grenier. Grenier drives the #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO with co-driver Norbert Siedler and(for the Endurance Cup) Ricardo Feller. Having competed in the GT Open Series last year with Emil Frey Racing as a warm-up for the team to make the step up to the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS, Grenier and Siedler finished 2nd in the overall championship and had won several races during the season.
Watching the action from qualifying yesterday and today’s race, the cars performance are quite equal throughout the field. And this made for some incredible action on track throughout the race.
This being a 3-hour endurance race, Grenier, Siedler and Feller each had about a one hour stint. Seidler was the one taking the start followed by Grenier and Feller brought the car to the end of the race.
As much as we were following the battle on screen between Audi, Porsche, Ferrari and Mercedes AMG at the front, we kept an eye on the live timing following primarily the #14 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO, for good reason. Having started 25th, Norbert Siedler held position for most of his stint and was shown in 26th when he came in for the first pit stop.
There were lots of traffic in pit lane with a majority of the cars pitting at the same time.
Mikaël Grenier then took to the track, the #14 was shown in 39th place. Grenier was on the attack for his entire stint as we watched the live timing showing him moving up the order consistently, lap after lap. Too bad we could not see it live on screen. By the time Grenier brought the car to the pits to hand the car over to Ricardo Feller, the #14 was in the top 20.
This trio was not done yet as Feller regained the track the scoreboard showed him in 12th place. There were a couple of full course yellow in the last hour as well as drive through penalties and cars off track which gave Feller a chance to move up the order while still making a couple of pass along the way pointing in eight place. With less than 3 laps to go, however, the #14 lost places to other cars and crossed the line in 12th place.
Still quite an achievement having started from 25th. The car looked on pace with the cars running up front all race long. The field being so competitive makes for a queue of cars within tenths of seconds every lap and it was thrilling to watch.
As for the podium fight, there was no breathing room with the lead pack until the third stint started where Mirko Bortolotti(#31 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) had a 29 second lead until the full course yellow came out.
The way the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS proceeds with full course yellow the cars must remain driving within a average time(somewhat similar to the virtual safety car seen in F1) then when the action is about to get ready to go, the pace car picks up the field so everyone catches up to the safety car.
Bortolotti had to go though two safety car restart on his stint but had the pace to drive away with a comfortable lead.
At the 3-hour mark, the win went to #31 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Kelvin van der Linde, Mirko Bortolotti, Matthieu Vaxiviere followed by the #12 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R of Matt Campbell, Patrick Pilet, Mathieu Jaminet in second and #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Raffaele Marciello, Timur Boguslavskiy, Felipe Fraga in third.
The next event is again in Italy, this time at Misano for a Sprint Cup round on August 7-9.
Image: GT World Challenge Europe
Photographer & Editor