GRENIER TO FILL IN AT WINWARD RACING FOR THE FANATEC GT WORLD CHALLENGE AMERICA FLEW STRAIGHT FROM FRANCE TO THE US IN PREPARATION FOR THIS WEEKEND’S VIR RACE REPLACING TEAMMATE PHILIP ELLIS WHO IS RACING AT THE NURBURGRING 24 HOURS.
The weekend at Circuit Paul-Ricard had started well for #57 Winward Racing and the race looked promising for the team and drivers. Having qualified seventh in the Silver Cup class and the race being six hours long, anything was possible.
But what happen throughout the race had not been something you would deem possible at all. It is a fact that some of the team, mainly Mercedes team, have dealt with tire failures during the race. For Winward Racing, it was not just one but five tire failures that plagued them of any chances to at least get a podium finish.
The most awkward about this situation is that it seems all of the teams had to deal with left front tire failure.
When we spoke to Mikaël to revisit the weekend at Paul-Ricard, you could feel he was more than disappointed.
“The weekend started well although we had an issue with a broken differential during pre-qualifying which set us back a little for the qualifying session on Saturday morning as we usually put some mileage on such a new part to break it in. But overall, it went well. I qualified 11th of my group ans so did Philip(Ellis). Russell(Ward) also did well in his qualifying attempt. On top of going out in the first wave, he had to deal with the new differential,” mentioned Mikaël.
Speaking of qualifying, we asked him how difficult it is to go out for a 15 minutes qualifying run with 46 other cars and having to maximise the tire performance at the same time.
“We have a strategy of sort as we looked at other teams heading out and most often they will do so in small groups. It surely is not easy to find the right gap as we cannot control the traffic on the track. So we have to manage that and the fact that we may have one or two good laps with the Pirelli tires to give us the most traction. Fuel is not a concern as we have to fuel the car for the three drivers before qualifying.”
Having qualified 21st overall and seventh in Silver Cup, the team didi not expect the race to go in the wrong direction for them.
“Russell had a great start but unfortunately a few corners after the start, he came in contact with another competitor which then led to a spin and loosing several positions. We then changed the strategy as he came into the pits earlier so I could take the relay. During the two stints I drove, I was quite happy with my pace(Mikaël had the team’s fastest time on the 99th lap) and even Philip(Ellis) had a strong pace. It looked like we had the best pace of the Mercedes.”
In terms of pace, we can say we were happy. In terms of where we placed, we were disappointed. We had five tire punctures and all form the left front and every time it happened towards the end of a stint. The left front tire is being worked hard at Paul-Ricard because of the layout. Although, even as we worked with Mercedes AMG representatives to fix the problem with increasing the tire pressure, the end result was the same. And not just for us but for other Mercedes teams as well.”
Mikaël’s next outing in Europe will be at the Total 24 hours of Spa scheduled the weekend of July 29-August 1.
Putting it all behind and getting ready for a new opportunity, Mikaël has completed a couple of days of testing at VIR to get reacquainted with the track he had last drove in 2009 in a formula car.
“It felt like yesterday was when I last drove the track. It all came back quickly. It is an old school type track which is what I like. The test went well as we made some adjustments along the way. In general, the Mercedes AMG GT3 handle the VIR layout very well.”
A busy month of June for Mikaël as there is a possibility to race IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Stint Cup round with SunEnergy1 Racing at the Belle-Isle Detroit Grand Prix on June 11-12 in the GTD class. Then he will cross the Atlantic again for a scheduled official two day test at Spa on June 22-23 in preparation for the Total 24 hour of Spa. Immediately following the test, Mikaël will then fly back to the US to take part in IMSA Six Hours at the Glen on June 24-27 with SunEnergy1 Racing.
Be sure to follow Mikaël’s weekend at VIR with Winward Racing by following live broadcast on Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS YouTube channel.
Image: Winward Racing / Gruppe C Photography
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