Two top ten finish for Mikaël Grenier at Misano in GT World Challenge Europe
DIFFICULT WEEKEND OVERALL FOR GRENIER AND SIEDLER WHERE GOOD QUALIFYING RESULTS WAS KEY TO CHALLENGE FOR POINTS
Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli may have 16 corners although its design does not have many opportunities for passing. The pace around the 4.226km circuit is a fast one and grid position for the three scheduled races had to be the focus for teams and drivers.
Mikaël Grenier and Emil Frey Racing had raced at this track before but it was to be the first time competing with the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO and Pirelli tires.
Prior to the weekend, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS series officials announced BoP adjustments to try to balance the field better. This would hopefully help the Lamborghini to a certain degree.
With three qualifying session and three 1-hour sprint races in two days, there was a lot of points for grabs.
Emil Frey Racing had determined to start with a certain set-up specification for the free practice session. They quickly found out it was not working out as expected and proceeded they to make changes and concentrated on maximizing its effort on qualifying set-up.
Grenier was behind the wheel of the #14 for the 20 minutes Q1 session. Having clocked a great lap that put him and Siedler in sixth place on the grid, one place ahead of the sister car #163. Unfortunately for Mikaël, the officials penalized him for exceeding track limits on the last corner. #14 went from sixth to eleventh on the grid. The top 12 separated by one second.
Taking the first relay for race 1, Grenier did managed to gain one place and kept the rhythm as consistent as possible with a field of cars so close together. At mid point in the race, Norbert Siedler took over driving duties and kept that 10th place at the checkered flag.
Top 3 of Race 1:
|1||32||Charles Weerts, Dries Vanthoor||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS GT3|
|2||31||Ryuichiro Tomita, Kelvin van der Linde||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS GT3||0.871|
|3||107||Jules Gounon, Nelson Panciatici||CMR||Bentley Continental GT3||4.366|
The grid for race 2 was set on Saturday afternoon just after Q1. This time, Seidler was at the wheel of the #14 and managed to qualifying the car in 10th place. The race, though, took place on Sunday morning.
It was a short lived race 2 as Siedler took the green flag and unfortunately dealing with mechanical trouble early on and the #14 had to retire from the race.
Top 3 of Race 2:
|1||88||Timur Boguslavskiy, Raffaele Marciello||AKKA ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3|
|2||4||Luca Stolz, Maro Engel||HRT||Mercedes-AMG GT3|
|3||25||Arthur Rougier, Christopher Haase||Sainteloc Racing||Audi R8 LMS GT3|
The third qualifying session was held Sunday morning and Grenier was back at the wheel of the #14. This time, no exceeding track limits for the Stoneham(Quebec) driver with a best lap good enough for sixth on the grid 0.219s from pole.
The top 17 cars were within a second in qualifying.
The team addressed the mechanical issue that forced the retirement in race 2 and Mikaël was in top form for his stint in race 3 as he put some impressive laps consistently under pressure from the Jules Gounon in the CMR Bentley Continental GT3 which was faster than the Lamborghini. Gounon had to work hard to pass Mikaël but eventually did so.
When the pit window opened, Mikaël brought there #14 to the pits from fifth place as Norbert Siedler took over. A much longer pit stop time than anticipated meant that Siedler lost precious time in the pits and rejoined the race in eight place.
Race 2 winner team AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver Raffaele Marciello passed Siedler with 20 minutes to go. With about ten minutes to go, a full course yellow came out after a battle for fifth place ended with contact between two cars. From this, #14 moved up to seventh place and even after a last dash restart to the checkered, Siedler defended his seventh place to secure important points for the championship and just ahead of the sister car of Costa/Altoè.
The win went to Dries Vanthoor/Charles Weerts with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 ahead of Arthur Rougier/Christopher Haase in the Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 and Attermpo Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Tommaso Mosca/Mattia Drudi.
“It was a tough weekend for us. But we learned a lot and were able to secure some points in the first and third round. The team did a great job in making sure the car was back up to speed after the mechanical issue in the second round. Now we return home and get ourselves into fight mode for the next race,” mentioned Grenier.
Technical Director Jürg Flach sums up Emil Frey Racing’s weekend: “I have to admit that the conditions at this race weekend were very unique and somewhat challenging. To find the right setup turned out to be rather difficult. It was a bit of a struggle for the two Lamborghinis to get to the leaders of the pack, despite good performances. #14 had difficulties with oversteering while #163 was struggling with the brakes. It was a weekend fully packed with numerous changes to the cars. The mechanics, engineers and the whole team worked hard and delivered a good performance. We will take a lot of new experiences and learnings from this which we will put into good use for the next race at Nürburgring.”
Overall, the weekend was all Audi as the R8 LMS GT3 won two of the three races and occupied six of the nine podium places available. The other podium places going to Mercedes AMG(2) and Bentley(1).
The GT World Challenge Europe takes a break for the remainder of August and will be back on track at the Nürburgring for a 6-hour Endurance Cup round on September 5-6.
Image: Emil Frey Racing