The ups and downs Emil Frey Racing experienced at the third season meeting of the International GT Open in the Belgium Ardennes were suitable for the rollercoaster ride of Spa-Francorchamps. After a phenomenal win for Norbert Siedler and Mikael Grenier on Saturday, Albert Costa Balboa and Giacomo Altoé were forced to retire their #63 Lamborghini following brake problems whilst leading the race on Sunday. After the results from Spa, the drivers have lost the lead in the championship, however are remaining in a promising position with second and third place respectively with one and three points to the leaders. The team is currently running in first place.
Race 1 I Saturday, 08th June 2019 – 70 minutes:
A good qualifying result was imperative due to the 15-seconds penalty both cars were facing following the successes from Hockenheim. But the drivers Mikael Grenier and Giacomo Altoé did not disappoint and placed the Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini in third (#14) and fifth (#63) place.
Due to a heavy rain shower, that affected mainly the first part of the track, the race was started behind the Safety Car. The Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO started from second and fifth on the grid on lap two into the race. Both Grenier and Altoé controlled their positions until the change was on.
Grenier pitted from second place on lap 12 with a gap of 2.4 seconds to the front runner, Altoé came into the box shortly after to hand the sister car over to Albert Costa Balboa. Both cars had to stop for an additional 15 seconds due to the handicap. After everyone had pitted and the field was sorted through, Siedler was in fifth place in the number 14 car with Costa Balboa running in sixth. Siedler was lapping 8.5 seconds behind the leader at that point of the race.
Whilst Costa Balboa set the fastest lap time of the race, Siedler also started his charge through the field. The Austrian was coming closer lap-by-lap, going almost one second per lap quicker than his competitors. He took second place on lap 21 and chased Ramos in the #10 Mercedes, who was leading the race. Half a lap later, the Emil Frey driver took the lead of the race going into the La Source hairpin and kept on going his pace.
Team-mate Costa Balboa was also going well and was almost one second a lap faster than Ramos, on lap 24 he set the absolute fastest first sector. One lap later, the Spaniard made a move past the #10 Mercedes, however due to an advantage during the overtaking he was forced to give back the position to the Mercedes driver on lap later.
Heavy rain started in the area of Stavelot with four minutes to go until the end of the race. The drivers were driving in extremely difficult conditions on slicks until the Safety Car was deployed with 90 seconds left to race. Up to this point, Norbert Siedler had already a lead of 11.6 seconds and crossed the chequered flag behind the Safety Car as the race winner. Not only did the driver pairing Siedler/Grenier celebrate their second consecutive win, the team also secured its fourth race win in the fifth race of the season – an impressive achievement taking into consideration the time penalties. Team-mate Albert Costa Balboa finished the race in fourth place in the sister car.
Race 2 I Sunday, 09th June 2019 – 60 minutes:
The second qualifying was stopped for over one hour following a heavy accident and was only started for ten minutes in due course. Both Emil Frey drivers still delivered a good performance: Albert Costa Balboa placed the #63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO in P2 on the grid, closely followed by team-mate Norbert Siedler in the number 14, who qualified in third place.
Both Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini had a good start into the 60-minute race in dry conditions, only Siedler lost one position against the #16 McLaren. With 15 minutes into the race, the Safety Car was deployed after a crash by the #5 Mercedes in Le Combes.
All advantages and time gained by the number 14 were ruined. Costa Balboa continued to make up ground to the leading #20 Mercedes of Onslow-Cole. Siedler was first to put on lap 10 and following the obligatory tyre and driver change as well as the additional 30 seconds penalty time, Grenier re-joined in 19th position. Costa Balboa handed over the car to Altoé two laps later and the Italian took the lead of the race. Shortly after the pitstop, brake problems caused Altoé to go straight in the Bus-Stop-Chicane. He was forced to come into the pits and retired the #63 eventually as race leader with a brake problem.
Meanwhile, Grenier had a good run through the field in the last remaining Emil Frey Racer and finished the race in a solid ninth place.
After the two races from Spa-Francorchamps, the drivers have lost the lead in the Drivers’ Championship, however, are remaining in a close fight with second place (Siedler/Grenier) and third place with only one respectively three points behind.
The next two races are taking place at the Red Bull Ring in Zeltweg (Austria) on 13th and 14th July 2019.
Lorenz Frey-Hilti, Team Principal Emil Frey Racing
“One again Spa has shown all its facets. Our weather radar was pretty accurate so we were able to plan our slicks well. We adjusted our strategy according to our handicap in the first race and were right there with our performance where we hoped we would be. Thanks to a great pace we were able to win the race on Saturday and brought the #63 home in fourth place, since it already had two handicaps and the additional time would have been too long for Sunday´s race. We had a bitter setback on Sunday. The speed was great and then we had to retire the #63 whilst on the way to yet another great result due to brake issues. It is very disappointing to have experienced this today as we have not grabbed the chance to take more points towards the championship.”
Jürg Flach, Technical Director Emil Frey Racing
“We were able to find a good Set-up for both qualifying and races early on in the weekend and despite the 15-seconds penalties on Saturday, we had a fantastic result for both cars with our strong driver line-up. The Balance-of-Performance was slightly adapted following the weekend in Hockenheim and the chances for all competitors was more equal. But pivotal to our success was the quality of our drivers, which is essential at a race track like Spa-Francorchamps. Unfortunately, we had some issues with the brakes on the number 63 car on Sunday, we are not quite sure where these problems came from and will have to analyse this in the coming days.”
Driver Quotes Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #14
Norbert Siedler (AUT)
“I pushed a lot in the race and it was exciting, because I could overtake many cars. It was relaxing in the last two laps behind the Safety Car. Big thanks to the whole team, the Lamborghini was fantastic the whole weekend. Also thank you to Mik, who did a great job in Saturday´s qualifying.”
Mikael Grenier (CAN)
“We had a very good Saturday. Already in qualifying we had a great pace and were pleased with the result. The start into the race was difficult as we were running on slicks and it was still wet whilst also the temperature of the tyres was not quite there yet. The car was running with a good pace throughout the entire weekend and we were consistently competitive. Even on Sunday, we came home in ninth place despite the 30 seconds penalty time.”
Driver Quotes Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO #63
Albert Costa Balboa (ESP)
“I am very happy with the result, because with fourth place on Saturday we only had a five-second penalty for Sunday´s race. The car was fantastic, I could overtake many competitors and it would have been a perfect weekend. We were very strong on Sunday and took over the lead after the pitstop – I am sure we could have won the race. It is very disappointing, but we now have to stay focussed and attack again in the next race.”
Giacomo Altoé (ITA)
“Of course, I am disappointed as we could have won the race on Sunday. The Lamborghini was very strong and we controlled the race. But then we had the problem with the brakes, which I noticed right after the pitstop. Luckily, I was able to bring the car home safely. We have lost the lead in the championship, but the main thing is to forget about this bad luck and look positively into the future and the next race.”