Working on the World’s Most Elite Automobiles: An Interview with Master Technician Mickael Lagrange
If you own a Porsche and you live in Paris, France, chances are you know sought after master technician Mickael Lagrange. Lagrange is now the workshop manager of the swanky Lamborghini showroom that opened in Paris last year. Prior to switching over to Lamborghini Lagrange spent 17 years as one of Porsche’s master technicians where he earned Gold Certification, an elite qualification that made him one of only four other Gold Technicians in the country at the time.
Decades since Lagrange began his career working on some of the most expensive, luxurious and intricately designed automobiles in the world of high-performance, his vast experience has turned him into the go-to expert that race car drivers, rare car collectors and those who just really, really love their cars call into diagnose, repair and ensure that their vehicles function how they were designed to. Lagrange’s elite status as a master technician has also led him to be featured in multiple auto industry trade magazines over the years, including Flat 6 Magazine and Le Magazine Porsche.
Some of the exceptional cars Lagrange has worked on over the years include both the modern and vintage 911 GT3 RS and 911 GT2 RS, the 1973 911 2.7 RS, the 1994 911 type 964 3.6 Turbo, and the 911 type 993 Carrera RS, stars of the road that will make any Porsche lover drool. Lagrange has been the master technician for race cars racing in the prestigious Monte Carlo Historic Rally, and in 2006 he was single-handedly responsible for snuffing out an issue in the clutch system of that year’s Porsche 911 turbo type 997, which led to a factory recall on all models. Aside from being the master technician Paris Porsche would call into work on high profile cars, Lagrange is also the lead figure they enlist to train up and coming technicians through their apprenticeship program.
When it comes to maintenance there are no shortcuts with cars like Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini. You can’t just drop one of these babies off at the corner mechanic and expect it to come back purring like the well-oiled and highly coveted machine it is because these aren’t like most other cars out there. This is where LeGrange comes into the picture.
Lagrange says, “What I appreciate most is looking for the origin of the problem, having to look into the car, to deconstruct it, to control the mechanical and electronic systems in order to be able to repair the issues… I always like to see beautiful cars or motorcycles, I think certain exceptional models can be compared to art.”
We got to catch up with Mickael Lagrange to find out what makes these cars so darn special, what it takes to become such a sought after master technician and what he loves about his job.
Hey Mickael, thanks for joining us!
Where are you from originally?
ML: I am of French origin, I come from Annecy in Haute-Savoie, a small village of La Chapelle Saint Maurice. I arrived in Paris at 20 years old.
When did you first get interested in cars and how did you decide that working in the automotive industry was what you wanted to do in your career?
ML: Since I was little, I have always been good with my hands. As a teenager I tinkered with bikes and mopeds. I always wanted to go into the concentration of sports engineering and mechanics. When I was 16 I knew that I wanted to work in mechanics and my focus was on cars.
What is it about cars that inspires you — — why are you passionate about this line of work?
ML: I like the mechanics, the electrical systems and all the innovations that make cars what they are. I always like to see beautiful cars or motorcycles, I think certain exceptional models can be compared to art. The automobile has always been a field of full technological development, and I am always intrigued when new technologies are integrated into cars.
How did you begin your career as an automotive specialist?
ML: I started my career as a car mechanic and then I became a specialist technician at Porsche. I was so passionate about the brand, the cars and the technology that I followed all the internal trainings proposed, both in France and at the factory in Germany; I passed the internal exams to become one of the top 4 gold technicians in France.
Can you tell us what the Gold Certification entails?
ML: For each Porsche certification you have to participate in several trainings followed by a theoretical test. If you succeed in the theoretical you then have to pass a practical test. For the technical test is very complicated for the Gold level, and includes 3 breakdowns on a car that requires about 4 hours of troubleshooting. Once the Gold level is obtained, you have to go through the theoretical test every 3 years to keep the certification.
What is it that you love about working on cars?
ML: What I appreciate most is looking for the origin of the problem, having to look into the car, to deconstruct it, to control the mechanical and electronic systems in order to be able to repair the issues, and the satisfaction that comes with delivering the car in solid working order to the customer. Beyond this there is the pleasure of working on unique and exceptional cars, those bring a bit of prestige with them.
What kind of training did you do to get into this industry?
ML: I did an apprenticeship for two years alternating school and work, and it is thanks to the intern training that I could evolve to this level. In my first job as a mechanic at the German general brand Opel I started training to be a technician, but I stopped to work for the Porsche brand. After two years my manager registered me into the global internal training program developed by the factory where I followed trainings on all the domains concerning the automobile and the workshop. There were trainings on mechanics and electricity, transmission systems, on-board communications systems such as gps, telephone, internet, fiber optics, and video, air conditioning and with evolutions came hybrid systems.
Wow that is a lot to studying! What was it about Porsche that made you want to work with them?
ML: Porsche is an exceptional car brand like Ferrari or Lamborghini… I’ve been passionate about this brand since adolescence. The Porsche cars are timeless. Whether it is a 356 model or 911, anyone who’s even a little interested in cars knows that these are exceptional sports cars. Along with technological innovation and designing amazing racing cars, Porsche is a car brand that has always created emotion along with their cars.
Aside from your trained knowledge, what percent of your job is intuition when diagnosing an issue with a vehicle?
ML: For big breakdowns, intuition and experience are always helpful. I would say that 20 percent of the resolution process draws on intuition, but there is still a lot of knowledge and experience needed in order to know where to start without getting lost in research.
Out of all of the Porsche cars old and new, which is your favorite and why?
ML: My favorite Porsche is the 1993 911 type 964 3L6 turbo because I had seen it in a movie in 1995, “Bad Boys” with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence and I founded it beautiful. I was 15 years old and I thought it was the most beautiful car! Two years later my sister gave me a miniature version of the car that I still have, and it was also the first car I worked on when I started at Porsche. The test drive confirmed for me that it was an exceptional car.
What ultimately led you to switch from working for Porsche to Lamborghini?
ML: I had the choice to stay at Porsche as a technician for another year and then take over for their workshop manager who was retiring, or to become the workshop manager at Lamborghini’s new car dealership that was about to open. I chose Lamborghini because the cars are a little more exclusive than the Porsche, but mostly because of the challenge that comes with opening a new car dealership, to have to start from scratch and put everything in place to make the customer experience a success.
Can you tell us some of the similarities and the differences between working on Porsche and Lamborghini cars?
ML: There are a lot of similarities between Porsche and Lamborghini, they are both very high-end luxury sports cars. But Lamborghinis is a level above the Porsche models. The Porsche supercars are the classic models for Lamborghini. Lamborghini cars are more powerful, rare, more technically advanced and much more expensive. It is necessary to be more focused and attentive when working on a Lamborghini, it is like working on a Porsche supercar.