Paul Ricard, Le Castellet (France), 28th April 2019:
Emil Frey Racing returned to the International GT Open with a great comeback. At their debut with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO, the Swiss team secured race wins in both races at the season opener at Paul Ricard. The number 63 of Albert Costa Balboa and Giacomo Altoé was successful in the first race on Saturday and finished the race on Sunday in P4 despite the obligatory time penalty. The sister car of Nobert Siedler and Mikael Grenier experienced a rollercoaster of emotions: following a disappointing retirement on lap one due to an unlucky accident, the Austrian/Canadian duo stormed to take a well-deserved race victory on Sunday. It was a successful beginning with the new racing cars, after the team also won in their first race when debuting in 2017.
Race 1 I Saturday, 27th April 2019 – 70 minutes:
The first qualifying of the season took place in sunny but windy conditions and Mikael Grenier (#14) and Albert Costa Balboa (#63) fought in their Lamborghinis for the best grid positions. Costa Balboa was right in the hunt for the front positions from the beginning of the 30-minute session, in the end the #63 driver settled in fourth place. Team-mate Grenier positioned the sister car in ninth place. Due to a lot of traffic on track around Grenier, he was not able to improve on his position.
Whilst both drivers started well into the race, Grenier’s ran in the #14 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO was already finished going into Turn 5. The Emil Frey Lamborghini was damaged following an optimistic overtaking move by another competitor, leading to Grenier having to limb back to the pits and retire after just one lap. However, the team had one more hot iron in the fire with the number 63. In the first stint, there was a great battle for positions three and two, in which a total of four cars were running within just two seconds. Just before the pitstop window, Costa Balboa was running in an overall third place and soon took over P2 and the lead in PRO. As soon as the Spaniard had a clear road ahead, he set the up to then absolute fastest first sector and the quickest race lap of 2:01.020.
The number 63 pitted on lap 18 for the driver change and team-mate Giacomo Altoé returned to the track in second place – right in front of a group of five cars. On lap 20, Altoé took the lead of the race from the #10 Mercedes after a courageous overtaking manoeuvre.
There was Motorsport at its best in the final ten race minutes. The #59 McLaren was only a fraction behind Altoé, but the 18-year-old Italian was cool and despite a number of attacks by Chaves kept his head down. With a gap of just 0.5 seconds, Altoé crossed the finishing line as the race winner, securing victory in the first race for Emil Frey Racing with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO.
Race 2 I Sunday, 28th April 2019 – 60 minutes:
Emil Frey Racing improved in the second qualifying and Giacomo Altoé as well as Norbert Siedler took the starting positions fourth and seventh respectively in their Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO.
The second race of the season started on Sunday afternoon, seeing a collision with a number of cars shortly after the green flag, which led to a Safety-Car Phase. Siedler took advantage of the starting chaos and stormed from seventh into fourth place (P3 in PRO), closely behind team-mate Altoé, who was running in third (P2 in PRO).
The race continued on lap 3. Siedler was put under pressure by the #21 Ferrari of Matt Griffin for many laps, however, kept his position until the pitstop. Due to the fight at the front, both Altoé and Siedler managed to close the gap to the leading competitors. Onslow-Cole took the lead of the race on lap 8 and Altoé was right at the tail of the #6 Mercedes of Rovera in second place.
The team pitted Siedler right at the beginning of the pitstop window and Grenier returned to the track as the first car from all the ones having headed into the pits. Altoé came into the pits one lap later and after the obligatory time penalty of 15 seconds due to their race win the day before, Costa Balboa re-joined the race in P14.
Grenier took the lead of the race in his number 14 Lamborghini after the Top-5 of PRO-AM and AM went into the garages, leading by three seconds. Costa Balboa also made progress and was running in tenth place at the time (fifth in PRO).
Grenier extended his lead to five seconds, however, as the end of the race was coming closer, so was the #10 Mercedes. Costa Balboa closed-in on a group of four PRO-AM, but had overtaking them one lap later. He also took fourth place of the Aston Martin shortly after.
Following the great disappointment on Saturday, Norbert Siedler and Mikael Grenier took a well-deserved race win and completed Emil Frey Racing’s triumph at their debut weekend.
The next round of the International GT Open will take place from 25th to 26th May 2019 in Hockenheim, Germany.
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing
“It really is unbelievable that we won our first race with the Lamborghini, especially since we saw in qualifying and at previous tests that both the McLaren and Mercedes are very fast. The team did a great pitstop and we fought hard for 70 minutes and in the end, it was just enough. Unfortunately, we lost our number 14 early on due to an unnecessary accident by a competitor, which was very sad. We had a good qualifying with fourth and seventh place on Sunday and at the moment we have to be satisfied with that, because the McLaren and Mercedes are very quick on the straights. During the race it was difficult to overtake. Despite the 15-seconds penalty time the number 53 had a good race. With victory for the sister car our weekend went just great, and we can be very pleased. But there is still room for improvement. The car is still new to us, but so far we are happy how things are going, the car could deliver its capabilities together with the drivers.”
Jürg Flach, Technical Director Emil Frey Racing
“This weekend exceeded my expectations by far. It is an unbelievable result taking into consideration the short amount of time we had available to prepare. We did everything right under the given circumstances, apart from the unlucky accident in the first race. I am proud of my team. Mercedes and McLaren were all-in-all stronger than we were. We have to continue to work on the car’s balance and on the tyres, as well as on the performance for low and highspeed.”
Driver Quotes Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #14
Norbert Siedler (AUT)
“I was lucky at the start, because there was an accident in the first corner. I was able to drive from seventh into fourth place and that was very good. I handed the car to Mikael who did a great job. Many thanks to the whole team, they did an amazing job throughout the entire weekend.”
Mikael Grenier (CAN)
“Unfortunately, we suffered bad luck in the first race. After the start someone tried to overtake on the inside going into Turn 5 and didn’t leave us any room. Our car was damaged and I had to come into the pits and retire the car. But luckily, we had a better race on Sunday. Towards the end I saw the Mercedes coming closer, but I knew of my advantage and with only a few laps to go until the end, I didn’t risk anything.”
Driver Quotes Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“It truly was a great day. We got the maximum out with fourth place in qualifying. I had a really great stint with great battles for third and second place. We did a great job with our pitstop strategy and we gained one position. Of course, I am very happy about the first win with Lamborghini in the first race, but there are plenty more to come and we have to stay focused and continue to improve.”
Giacomo Altoé (ITA)
“I think, our pace was good in qualifying. We could have challenged for second position, but the entire field was very close. The second row was a good starting point for both races. My first stint on Saturday was really crazy, the McLaren was pushing hard, but I did not make any mistake and we did it in the end.”