While having a storybook start to his 2016 season, with class wins at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Twelve Hours of Sebring while on loan to Corvette Racing, Marcel Fassler shifts his focus back to Audi’s new R18 in this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship.
The Swiss pilot and longtime co-drivers Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer, who claimed the 2013 World Championship, will be looking for a rebound of fortunes after a challenging 2015 season with its previous-generation LMP1 contender.
Sportscar365 caught up with Fassler to get his thoughts on winning the “Florida 36 hours” as well as his thoughts on the new Audi and his title chances this year in the WEC.
Did you imagine having this strong start of the year, with winning both Daytona and Sebring with Corvette Racing?
“It was actually a great start to the season for me. Going to America and coming back with two wins was something I didn’t really expect because I know how tough the GT racing is.
“For sure it’s not that easy to win either one of those races but we managed that and it was great. It’s nice to come back with such a good start to the season.”
Has it been a big adjustment jumping back into a LMP1 car?
“It was surprisingly easier, actually to jump back into the LMP1 than the other way around. The difference is quite a lot. The car is lighter, it’s more powerful but also it gives you a lot more downforce, which is different to drive.
“I’m more used to driving [LMP1 cars] for a long time now. I still drive some GT cars, like the R8. But it was easier than expected to jump back in a LMP1.”
How has the testing program been with the new R18 and what are your expectations for the season?
“We had a tough start in the beginning because we started with a complete new car. It was not that easy to make every piece and bit working together.
“These are very complex cars. You have to have every system working properly, otherwise it interferes too much into the driving.
“We started to be quite sorted and it looks promising because at least we’ve had some decent runs. We can drive, learn more about the car and adjust the systems.
“We can see that we’ve progressed a lot now. For sure it was much easier with the old R18. Here, we have a complete new car from the bottom to the top. No screw is the same.
“It’s been a hell of a lot of work for the mechanics but also especially for the suppliers because they’ve had to make everything new.”
What areas of the car do you feel provide the biggest gains?
“To really compare, you have to drive both cars at the same time. But for sure, the more hybrid power you have is one thing. This is the thing you feel the most.
“The aero package is a bit different, but this is something, that at the end of the day, you get overseteer or understeer, and you don’t really feel if you go 3 of 4 km/h faster into the corner or not.”
Do you think the new R18 is enough to put you back in the fight, on a regular basis?
“It’s difficult to say yet. We will see much more at Silverstone on which position we’ll be with this new car.
“But I think [Porsche] still has an advantage because they just developed the car. So the reliability, everything, they know already and can more fine-tune everything at the moment.
“We’re still in the learning process. We’re getting closer step by step, but at the moment… and we’ll work hard until Silverstone to come back in a good shape.”
Could you return to Corvette Racing for Petit Le Mans?
“I don’t know, actually. It depends a little bt of they really need a third driver. You can do it with two.
“First, I would need to ask Audi again [for permission] and it would also depend a lot on our position in the [WEC]. Honestly for me, this is the one I want to focus on. Le Mans, and especially the World Championship.
“We lost it last year by just a few points and we’ll try to fight back.”