Race report interview: Mikaël Grenier Misano weekend

FIRST SPRINT RACE EVENT (THREE RACES) OF THE SEASON FOR GRENIER AND IT WAS AN EVENTFUL ONE

GT World Challenge Europe officials making BoP adjustments, first time in two years at Misano, three races in two days, a difficult track for overtaking, two top ten finishes. We speak with Mikaël Grenier before he gets on a plane to fly home for a couple of weeks after being away for the first two races of the season.

Canadian Racers News(CRN): Prior to the weekend, the Series’ officials announced a change in Bop following the results in the first weekend at Imola. How did it work out for you and Emil Frey Racing for the Lamborghini?

Mikaël Grenier(MG): It was surely better compared to Audi this weekend although Lexus and Bentley were in a league of their own in term of performance for some reason. The Misano track layout, we thought, should not be favouring them. So we were surprised at their level of performance. But we got closer to Audi this weekend and the only reason we were not in a position to fight for a podium finish had to do with the car set-up which we struggled with.

CRN: Tell us more about the set-up as the team mentioned having gone the wrong way on initial set-up adjustments.

MG: We based our initial set-up on the Imola race combined with some simulator work we had done back at the Emil Frey Racing. Originally, we had testing scheduled at Misano prior to the season. As you know with COVID-19, the testing had been canceled. It is a track that we knew pretty well to start with. The difference being that it has been completely repaved since we last raced there.

CRN: How much work was it to find the right balance for the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO?

MG: We made a lot of changes to the car. In fact, since I have been with the team(Mikaël is in his third season with Emil Frey Racing, NDLR), I believe this was, by far, the most changes we had to go through in a weekend. Some of the adjustments worked others din’t. All part of the game. Not being able to run in Race 2 was also a disadvantage in terms of precious track time.

CRN: You were at the wheel for Q1 and posted in sixth fastest lap only to have it taken away for track limitation. You seemed to have had a good performance in qualifying trim.

MG: Yes, I did have a good run in Q1 but unfortunately my time was taken away for exceeding track limits. It is somewhat easy to do so at Misano because of wide exits at some of the corners. It’s a bit frustrating as the officials are quite finicky but the same rule applies to everyone. We had a good Q3 where my teammate Giacomo(Altoè) and I came in fifth and sixth. On a one lap run, we were able to get the maximum from the car. It was more difficult during the race relay.

CRN: You were able to maximize the car’s performance in quali. Was the car that more difficult to drive during the race stints?

MG: Even during qualification, the car was a little difficult to drive. Over one lap, we can manage that. During the race, we had to deal with tire degradation and the car’s handling was not perfect. On top of that, we were in traffic most of the time and had to constantly battle for position.

CRN: Was the heat also a contributing factor during the race?

MG: Certainly didn’t help with heat. It also had to do with the different conditions we raced in. Changing conditions throughout the weekend made if difficult for us to adapt to (Q1 and Q2 in the middle of the day on Saturday and race 1 was early evening on Saturday as well. Then, we had Q3 Sunday morning and race 2 before around 11am. Finally race 3 was mid-afternoon, NDLR).

As reported in the previous post, Mikaël and teammate Siedler came home with a tenth place in race 1. Mikaël drove the first stint starting for 11th and by the time the checkered flag was waved, Norbert Siedler gained a position to give the #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO a tenth place finish.

CRN: You mentioned not running in race 2, Norbert took the green flag but shortly after had to retire the car. Can you specify what happened?

MG: Unfortunately, our car encountered transmission issues and we had no choice but to retire the car. But fortunately, the team found out the problem and solved it in time for race 3.

CRN: In race 3 Starting from P6, you had to fight to keep your position with the Bentley of Jules Gounon for a while, even though the Bentley looked faster than the Lamborghini. Take us through was it was like.

MG: It was complicated and the fact that Bentley, strangely, is advantaged in terms of BoP at the moment, especially at this circuit where we were not expecting them to be that competitive because of the Misano track configuration. The Bentley had a lot of straight line speed especially coming out of corners. This is how Gounon was able to close the gap as much coming into the following corner. This is how he got me. At the same time, I did not want to keep fighting him. He had a much better rhythm than me and seeing the others behind slowly catching up on us fighting, it was not a good idea to then all be grouped up. We gave each other enough room to race and it was an enjoyable battle. My stint in race 3 was quite intense overall having started from fifth.

CRN: You came in to the pits occupying fifth place. Then it seems the relay took a little longer than expected and your teammate Norbert Siedler came out in eight place. What happened?

MG: Unfortunately, there was a problem with one of the wheels going back on properly. with this, we lost two to three seconds. Only two crew members can change tires on the car during a pit stop. In a sprint race, there is no minimum time for tire change. You have to be as quick as possible. At the moment, we are competing with teams that have much more experience in this than us. We knew before the weekend tire change would be challenging. It did not help that we had a problem with the wheel. But the team will be working on this aspect of the sprint race. Should the wheel had gone on correctly, we might have had lost one place to the Mercedes.

CRN: Talking about the Mercedes, as we watched the races, it seems both Mercedes and Audi were in a league of their own this weekend as they were running at the from of the field all weekend.

MG: Not necessarily, it was really Bentley who seems to have extra straight line speed at the moment and surprisingly Lexus as well. In 2018, Emil Frey ran a Lexus program and the BoP at the time was much different(i.e. less performance, NDLR) than now. Back then, it was not a really good track for the Lexus. The Lexus is a very good package, we were just surprise about its performance on this circuit. Expected for the next race would be BoP adjustment to Bentley and Lexus but also to McLaren that will be running the endurance race.

Compared to Mercedes and Audi, if we would have nailed the car’s performance better, we would have had a chance to fight with them for a podium finish. That was really us in this case.

CRN: Now you are heading back home Tuesday to get some well deserved rest.

MG: Yes, for about three weeks before returning to Europe for the remainder of the season.

CRN: Will you be returning just for the Nurburgring weekend or will there be some time at Emil Frey headquarters?

MG: I will actually fly to Switzerland two to three days prior to going to the Nürburgring for some simulator time. Then on to the track.

Upon returning to Europe for the next race, Mikaël will then be staying in Switzerland for the following months has the GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Championship will have a very busy schedule with the remaining six events compressed into just over a two month period.

Canadian Racers News will keep you up to date during all of these events.

Image: Emil Frey Racing

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