Mikaël Grenier – A look back at his first DTM weekend
BACK HOME FOR A VERY SHORT STAY WE CAUGHT UP WITH HIM TO TALK ABOUT HIS PORTUGAL WEEKEND
Needless to say it has been an extremely busy and successful start to the season for Mikaël Grenier. His signing with Mercedes AMG and a DTM seat with GruppeM Racing to drive the #55 Mercedes AMG GT3 is a result of the work he has put in on and off the track in the last year.
He has proved many times that he has the talent, speed and consistency to race with the best outfits and series around the world.
In the first months of the year, Mik competed in the 24H Series, IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship at the Rolex 24 at Daytona then in South Africa for the Intercontinental GT Challenge where he won the championship with SunEnergy1 Racing and Asian Le Mans series in February. In the mix of that, he signed with Mercedes AMG.
The first question we had to ask was how he felt when he signed the contract to race in DTM.
“It all happened quite fast, to be honest. The serious discussion started in January and the deal was confirmed the week after the Rolex 24 at Daytona. I flew from Daytona directly to South Africa then Asian Le Mans Series. I did not really took the time to think about it because I then flew straight to my first DTM test days after. It all happened quickly and I am certainly really happy to be with a very good team in GruppM Racing and more importantly I wanted to continue to drive with Mercedes.”
For the last 4-5 years, Mik has been sharing his drives with teammates in the championship he took part in. The adaptation to the DTM Series brings a new aspect in his preparation.
“My adaptation to the DTM Series is going very well, I have to say. The main difference is the fact I am by myself and not sharing driving duties with other drivers. There are also differences and similarities with other GT championships and the fact I know the Mercedes AMG GT3 very well helps tremendously. I was mainly competing in endurance races and the DTM has 50 minutes sprint races and the racing is quite intense so that is something I am adapting to.”
Driving a Mercedes AMG GT3 and running on Michelin tires does not mean the rules are the same as in IMSA when it comes to finding the right balance and rhythm to the car.
“The Michelin tire in DTM has a softer compound than let’s say in IMSA GTD. It gives us better grip and better lap times but with more degradation. Being a softer compound, I expected the tire degradation to be a lot more severe but it ended up not being the case. We also have Balance of Performance(BoP) adjustments that can be changed at anytime during the weekend as the series is trying to balance the performance of every makes.”
The DTM Series changed its formula, in 2021, to introduce GT3 machinery. Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Lamborghini and Ferrari joined the series and 23 drivers competed. This year, Porsche joined the DTM and 29 drivers are competing. The driver line-up is quite remarkable with the biggest name in GT racing looking to win the championship.
“It is great to be in this championship especially for the fact I had been following DTM for the longest time and I was not expecting to be competing in it this year. So I am really happy to race in DTM. It is a championship a lot of drivers want to compete in. The reason being they are alone in the car compared to having to share the care in endurance racing.”
The first event of the season at Autódromo Internacional do Algarve(Portimao) in Portugal, a track that Mik discovered in his first test days with GruppeM Racing. When looking at the time sheets, the first 25 cars are regularly within a second. Surely, this adds to the pressure of performing.
“I had my first test with the team back in February at Portimao. So it is a track we knew already. As for the pressure, we have to push every time we are on the track to get the maximum form the car. I would say the most important session is qualifying just for the fact it is so difficult to pass during the race. This track had several good opportunities to pass but at other tracks it may be more complicated.”
“We saw how qualifying is important this weekend as I qualified second for race 1 and 15th for race 2. When you start in the first couples of rows, you are further form the chaos that can happened in the mid-pack.”
First qualifying session in DTM and Mik had to be jubilating when he heard he was on the front row.
“I was not necessarily surprised because I knew we were able to do it. With my first set of tires, I was only three tenths from pole and when others went out with their second sets I saw they improved slightly by I shaved seven tenths on my time. I knew it was to be at least a top five. When they told me it was P2, I was happy but at the same time we missed the pole by 11 thousands of a second! But that is the beauty of the DTM Series.”
For Race 1, sitting on the outside front row at the start next to Mirko Bortolotti, Mik had a really good start and even had his nose in front of Bortolotti for the first three corners.
“I had a really good start and as I saw I was slightly ahead and knowing I was to be on the outside for the first three corners I decided to stay there. It almost worked(Bortolotti took the lead coming out of corner three, NDLR). On lap two, I made a small mistake and fell back to third. I had a harder time on the first set of tires but on the second set we adjusted the tire pressure and the car was better. At that point, with the first four cars, we pulled away from the pack.”
Unfortunately, a safety car period brought everyone back together. On a restart, the DTM series has opted for a two by two tight formation and waits for the very last second to throw the green lights.
“It is always difficult to know how the restart is going to be and normally being in third behind the leader is a great place to be especially if the leader has a great restart. In DTM, they really want us to be in a very tight formation as close as we can be to the other cars. If we don’t, we might get penalized. Unfortunately, Mirko had a problem on the restart as his car did not accelerate and I ran into him. There was damaged to the front of the car mainly to the splitter. I went from 3rd to 15th.”
Mik ended Race 1 in 15th place.
On Sunday, Q2 conditions were quite different from the previous day as the wind became a major factor and the series adjusting the Balance of Performance.
“Definitely the wind was a factor for both of our cars and we had a 25kg weight increase to the car. I qualified 15th but a laptime two tenths quicker would have given us top 6 or 7. The added weight represents two to three tenths a lap.”
For the race, Mik had received a three place grid penalty for exceeding track limits during Race 1, a questionable penalty from his point of view. So, it is in 18th place that he started the race, right in the middle of possible chaos.
“Many of the track excess happened during the start and restart and many exceeded the track limits at the time but it was judged like that. Being 18th certainly did not help me at the start being in the middle of the pack and we were like five wide at corner one. Although I was on the outside at corner one when cars get together on the inside they will come to you on the outside.”
Mik ended up spinning and rejoined in 25th place. Although he moved up the order, passing many cars and staying as late as possible before stopping fo new tires, the team opted to retire the car with 10 minutes to go.
“After the incident, we decided to go long with the tires hoping for a safety car that never came. So when I pitted, the team decided to retire the car as there were only 10 minutes to go and no points to gain since only the top 10 get points and I was 20th. Also the car had some damaged from the lap one incident. It’s disappointing because with the great Q1 result on Saturday we told ourselves it was to be a great weekend but we came out with only two points scored in Q1.”
“A lot of positives from the first weekend. We proved we can be in the fight. We had a great car for qualifying and race.”
With a very highly competitive DTM Series, we asked Mikaël if he had set personal goals for the season.
“The objectives are always to be in the fight at the front. As for a personal objective for the season, it has always be the same all along which is to fight for podiums and race wins. At the moment though, I am taking it race by race.”
Mikaël is very grateful to have had the support of companies through all these years and happy to bring them with him in DTM. Canac, Solaris Portes & Fenêtres Quebec, Isolofoam group have been supporting Mikaël as well as MF Racing. SunEnergy1 has been added this year for the DTM season. Lastly, Mik recently associated himself with Bugatti Smartwatches and will proudly wear their watches during the season.
Mik is heading back to Europe for some more testing and especially at the Lausitzring circuit on May 13th in preparation for the next race at the same track on the weekend May 20-22.
We are to see Mik in action in North America this summer as he will be back in IMSA WeatherTech with the WeatherTech Racing Team who made the switch from Porsche to purchase a second Mercedes AMG GT3. Mik will partner Cooper MacNeil for the Six Hours at the Glen in June and the Motul Petit Le Mans at the end of September.
Images : Mercedes AMG / Gruppe C Photography