- One-two finish at the first race: P1 for #163 und P2 for #14
- 4 poles in the last five races
- Third in the overall team ranking of the Sprint Cup 2020
Barcelona (Spain), October 11th 2020
The Safenwil Squad traveled in high spirits to Barcelona for the final leg of the Sprint Series of the GT World Challenge Europe 2020. The entire crew was in Barcelona – with the exception of Norbert Siedler, who had to sit this race out due to health reasons and was replaced by teammate Ricardo Feller.
The race weekend was kicked off on Thursday, with the official test session. The session was dominated by numerous red flags and the corresponding interruptions. Emil Frey Racing started with a base setup that had been finalized during the last race weekend. The team decided on two different strategies for the two Lamborghinis to be able to adjust quickly to the ever-changing conditions on the track, and to be able to deal with minimal grip that was felt right from the start. Excellent lap times as well as finishing on P3 with the #14 and on P6 with the #163 were strong proof of the team’s competitiveness. After the test session, it was all about taking all the learnings, building on them and to keep optimizing the cars accordingly.
Emil Frey Racing and Lamborghini decided to participate in the Silver Cup because of the driver lineup for the #14, with Grenier and Feller taking turns at the wheel – truly a first in the history of Emil Frey Racing together with Lamborghini. The #163 took off on old tires while the crew with the #14 decided to go with new ones – those also took them all the way to P2 after the first free practice. The #163 Lamborghini secured P9. The team was then able to sustain their tight performance during the second free practice on Friday afternoon. The two Lamborghinis were defending their positions at the very top, with the two cars charging to the front with the #14 Lamborghini on P1 and the #163 Lamborghini right behind it, on P2. They were able to defend and hold their positions for a very long time. However, competition didn’t want to waste their free practice and fought just as hard for a place at the top. In the end of the second practice, Emil Frey Racing secured P3 (#14) and P4 (#163) – a great indicator of what to expect in the qualifying.
Pre-Qualifying / Qualifying 1 / Race 1
Feller and Costa went first at the Pre-Qualifying. The two drivers felt visibly at ease in their respective Lamborghinis, which is why no major adjustments had to be made. Feller finished his stint on P4 and handed over the #14 to Grenier. Costa, at the wheel of #163, placed himself right behind Grenier, on P5. Shortly thereafter, with only about half an hour to go, rain started to pour. Meanwhile, Altoè was handed over #163 and struggled with missing grip. Still, the two crews emerged on P5 (#14) and P6 (#163).
Only minutes before the start of the first qualifying, with a total of 21 drivers on the grid, it started to drizzle. The tire choice would now be crucial. Emil Frey Racing decided to go on Slicks for both Lamborghinis. Feller then sped off and placed himself right at the front within the first five minutes, with a Mercedes and a Bentley right behind him. Altoè as well produced a stellar pace and charged to P3. As the teams performed their pit stops, rain increased. Thankfully, Emil Frey Racing had managed to gain a solid lead that translated to a lap time of 1:45.572 and a pole position for #14, and another solid 1:45.975 on P3 for #163.
The start of the first race didn’t deliver any spectacular moments. However, just 10 minutes in, a first interruption had to be called due to a Ferrari landing on the gravel. Once the safety car period was over, both teams went for a pit stop and a driver change to Costa/Grenier. The fast pit stop by the #163 crew even gained them a spot, placing them in P2. Meanwhile, #14s excellent pit stop not only helped them defend their P1, but even strengthened the lead. With only 15 minutes to go, Costa edged his way forward and overtook his sister car with the #14. The Emil Frey Racing squad therefore bagged a double-victory: P1 for #163 and P2 for #14, and to top that off: a victory for the #14 Lamborghini in the Silver Cup.
Qualifying 2 / Race 2
Safety marshals declared the track as wet. Both Lamborghinis therefore started on wet tires for safety reasons. But that didn’t last long as the team switched to slicks after the first lap. The changing of tires was well worth it: Grenier (#14) and Costa (#163) charged their way to the Top 3 within the first 12 minutes. 5 minutes before finishing the race, another change of tires took place. Costa delivered a superb lap time and with it, the fourth pole position in a row for Emil Frey Racing. The #14 Lamborghini with Grenier at the wheel would be starting the second race from P11 on the grid. Conditions were dry at the beginning of the second race. Grenier went for it in the very first minute, trying to overtake SKY-Tempesta Racing’s Ferrari, resulting in Grenier touching the Ferrari’s rear. While he managed to place himself on P7 with that move, he was penalized with a Drive-Through-Penalty. With 7 rounds to go until pit stop, Costa was kept defending his lead with his solid pace. The #163 Lamborghini was then handed over to Altoè, who managed to stay in P1. Meanwhile, after the drive-through-penalty, their sister car with the #14 was handed over to Feller, who was able to gain two positions thanks to the fast pit stop. With only 10 minutes on the clock, Italian Altoè, at the wheel of #163, even impressed with the fastest lap on the circuit. Unsurprisingly, he then raced to the finish in first place, which was unfortunately penalized by the race authority with a 35-second penalty due to an error during driver change procedure – he fell back to P17. The #14 Lamborghini finished the race on P8 and even clinched third place in the silver class.
Qualifying 3 / Race 3
Once again, it was Costa and Grenier who were going to start with their respective Lamborghinis, and once again, they were able to keep the brilliant pace. The #163 Lamborghini gained a sizeable lead over the rest of the pack – a position Costa was able to successfully defend. Meanwhile, Canadian Grenier raced to P7 during halftime, with room for improvement in the third sector. 1 minute and 30 seconds before the end of the race, traffic was building, which wasn’t helping Costa at all. The Spaniard finished the qualy on P4 with his #163 Lamborghini, while Grenier with the #14 finished on P6. The third and last sprint race of the season started spectacularly: a crash involving several cars led to the race being interrupted only seconds into the race. It took a full 10 minutes before the race could continue. In the meantime, Ricardo Feller took over the #14 from Mikael Grenier, keeping a brilliant pace. The Swiss driver even recorded the fastest lap time with 24 minutes left on the clock. His colleague Altoè, meanwhile, battled his way forward and placed himself on P4. With only 15 minutes to go, Feller had one goal in mind: to pass the Audi in front of him. But easier said than done. The timer was mercilessly counting down, with only 8 minutes on the clock, and Feller still on P4. Feller’s fighting spirit paid off: The Swiss driver charged forward and pulled off a spectacular overtaking maneuver, securing him P3, and with it, Emil Frey Racing’s second podium in Barcelona. The crew with the #163 emerged as fifth. The Safenwil squad therefore placed itself firmly in third place in the overall team ranking of the Sprint Cup of the GT World Challenge Europe.
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal
The team showed a lot of fighting spirit this weekend. I’m immensely proud of the double-victory in the first race; the two honors in the Silver Cup; the pole positions; and finally, of placing third in the overall ranking of the Sprint Cup in the GT World Challenge Europe. The denied victory in the second race and with it, the setback in the race for the overall Sprint Cup title is of course extremely hard for us. Still, it’s paramount to stay clear-headed for the last two race weekends. We definitely had a shot at a title-bid for the sprint cup. Now we’re shifting focus to the 24h of Spa.
Jürg Flach, Technical Director
Once again, we were able to deliver a very strong performance from the get-go. A double-pole-position, followed by a double-victory in the first race, as well as the denied victory in the second race are impressive proof of that. In the end, we managed to place ourselves firmly in third place in the overall sprint cup, and we gained really valuable learnings and lessons. Now it’s time to continue the upward trend and to prepare ourselves for the 24h of Spa with all that we’ve got.
Driver statements Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #163
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
I’m super happy. The most important and crucial thing for me after this weekend, is that we were really strong. We almost had the title for the overall sprint cup in the bag, had we not gotten a penalty in the second race. Still, I am super proud of every single person in the team and of my partner Giacomo. With them, everything is possible. All in all: I’m in good spirits. It’s better to be strong and to lose than to be weak and to not even have a fighting chance. We fought hard until the very end, and that’s what counts.
Giacomo Altoè (ITA)
It really was a great weekend. I really appreciate all the hard work from the whole team and, of course, from Albert. They really did an amazing job. We won two races in a row – three even, if you count the one in Zandvoort. That’s a great achievement and it shows how hard the team’s been working and how much we’ve improved. I’m thrilled and so proud of the team and am already looking forward to Spa-Francorchamps.
Driver statements Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #14
Ricardo Feller (CH)
It really was an excellent weekend. We showed a lot of potential. The pole position was a great achievement and the result of a strong performance. We could have won the first race, so I’m quite happy. We struggled a bit in the second race because we started a little bit further back and I got stuck behind a Mercedes. I was able to finish in P8 despite the drive through penalty. The last race was super fun as I engaged in a lot of duels with other drivers. The car was in great condition. Now I’m just looking forward to Spa.
Mikaël Grenier (CAN)
It was a great weekend. I think we were able to show that we were able to continuously improve the Lamborghini since the start of the season. The team is really doing an excellent job. We bagged two podium positions in three races and Silver Cup honors! I’m super stoked and would like to congratulate the whole team. Now it’s time to focus on Spa.