GRENIER TEAMING UP WITH RUSSELL WARD AND PHILIP ELLIS AT WINWARD RACING IN THE #57 MERCEDES AMG GT3 CONFIDENT AHEAD OF THE BIGGEST RACE OF THE SEASON FOR FANATEC GT WORLD CHALLENGE EUROPE
Since we last spoke with Mikaël Grenier in early June, he has kept himself busy traveling from one track to another taking part in races in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series, Fanatec GT World Challenge America and IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. He also took part in the official TotalEnergies 24 hours of Spa test days on June 22-23.
The weather being quite unpredictable at Spa is nothing unknown to Mikaël : “The weather forecast for the next several days has shower predicted every day mixed in with sunny conditions. So, it looks like it’s going to be the classic Spa 24 Hours conditions where we drive in the wet, dry and in between showers.”
Fortunately, in a way, back in June when the two test days took place the teams has one day in the rain and the other in dry conditions.
“We had very positive days during the test days and I feel we are ready with a car that is performing well. Of course, anything can happen at Spa during the 24 hours and there are many things that need to be done well. We did post the fifth fastest time during the two days which is positive for us although we don’t put much emphasis on it as the conditions may be different from one session to the next as well as some teams might be concentrating on long runs and if they do run qualifying simulations we don’t know the fuel level other teams are running at anytime.”
“It’s never easy to make the adjustments to the car when we see the weather forecast predicted as we try to maximise the adjustments for the conditions we will encounter most in the race but it looks like it is going to be 50-50 for the race itself. As a driver, we have to make-up/compensate for it at times. It is somewhat easy to adapt the Mercedes to those different conditions.”
Contrary to the last race Mikaël took part in at Paul-Ricard and where he experienced his fair share of tire problems, it seems that is not going to be the case at Spa and Pirelli is to introduce a new wet weather tire for the teams to use. “The Mercedes has not had any problems with tires here at Spa. But following the Monza race where other manufacturers had encountered tire problems in the rain, Pirelli brought the new wet weather tire configuration that we tested during the official test in June.”
“The challenge is in deciding which tires to start on according to the coming weather. The strategy will need to be on point by choosing the right tire to be on all the time.”
Thursday is where most action will take place with free practice, pre-qualifying, qualifying and night session scheduled. Followed by a warm-up and super pole early Friday evening where the top 20 cars will battle for the ultimate pole position.
“Definitely, Thursday is a very busy day with all that’s going on. And the night practice will be important for each one of us to get some mileage in the dark and also adjust the headlights system correctly as we didn’t have a chance to drive in dark conditions back in June. It take a bit of time to adjust as it is not the same as a track like Daytona with lights around the track.”
“On Friday evening, we have a warm-up session to make sure all is good with the car and then the super pole where the top 20 cars will each get a couple of flying laps to set the starting grid. I feel we have a good car to make it in the top 20. Since Russell has less experience (second participation at TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa) than both Philip and I, it is important we focus on Russell to help him in his qualifying effort.”
Some of the teams opted to complete their driver line-up with a fourth driver, which will not b the case with Winward Racing. Therefore, a fourth qualifying session will take place on Thursday. The additional driver with some of these teams will go out in Q1 and the “regulars” are to take part in Q2-Q3-Q4.
Spa being such a long circuit and with limited time available for each drivers to get some laps in during free practice, it also is dependent to track conditions and possible red flag situations.
“We usually get 10-12 laps each. But also, in the past, we had unlimited tire sets throughout the weekend. This has changed this year as we have been given 30 sets of slicks including the free practices. With 24 sets of dry for the race (one per hour, ndlr) plus practices and the qualifying, although we have to start the race on the qualifying tires, it adds up. It would be surprising that we race in dry conditions during the entire 24 hours but it does represent a listing factor in how many laps we can run in practice.”
Come race time, strategy will come into play when deciding which driver goes out and how long will the driver stay in the car.
“We have a scheduled meeting before the race to determine how we are to go about it. I presume Philip Ellis and I will be driving a little more than Russell all depending of the race pace. Through the night we will most likely drive double stints and maybe even triple stints especially in rainy conditions although it is more demanding physically.”
The team is very well prepared to face the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa with people behind the scene looking after the preparation and upkeep of the entire team with a nutritionist and physiotherapist.
Image: Winward Racing
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