Inter Europol Competition is undertaking “intensive work” in order to “close the missing seconds” on the front-runners in the LMP2 class over its next two FIA World Endurance Championship seasons, according to team principal Sascha Fassbender.
The Polish squad made its WEC debut this year with an Oreca 07 Gibson driven by Alex Brundle, Renger van der Zande and Kuba Smiechowski whose main highlight so far has been fifth in class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Fassbender said that Inter Europol has encountered several challenges over the course of its maiden WEC campaign, including being caught out by the championship’s decision in early April to mandate low-downforce aero kits in LMP2 this year.
However, the team maintained a consistent string of results in races where it knocked on the door of challenging for podiums.
It started with a pair of fifth-place finishes at Spa and Portimao, followed by a fourth at Monza.
It returned to fifth at the double points Le Mans round before a four-minute penalty for a tire allocation infringement dropped it to ninth in Bahrain last weekend.
“It was quite challenging for us,” Fassbender told Sportscar365 ahead of today’s 8 Hours of Bahrain season finale.
“When we started the season, we got very hurt with the [low-downforce] rule change. We changed from the Ligier to the Oreca during the winter, and ran lots of data and all our simulations on high-downforce.
“When we arrived at Spa, we had no chance to test the low-downforce spec before, compared with all the other teams which had experience with low-downforce.
“So it was a very challenging weekend for us. We finished P5, not because of the speed but we made no mistakes for the whole race and the strategy worked well.
“We have been around position 4-5-6 the whole season. Of course, we want to close the gap to the teams in front of us. But it’s difficult in WEC: there is not much testing and it’s very difficult to close the gap during the season.
“We have everything prepared for the short winter season to get better next year, and that’s where we’re going.”
Fassbender added that Inter Europol spent part of the year playing catch up as it adapted to the Oreca 07 Gibson’s refueling system which is different from the one used by the Ligier JS P217 Gibson that is previously ran in the European Le Mans Series.
However, he noted that the team has a clear picture of the areas in which it needs to improve.
Inter Europol recently announced that Brundle has committed to the team for the next two seasons, strengthening the driver lineup with stability going forward.
“We are coming closer,” said Fassbender. “But it’s very hard and intensive work to reach this goal.
“The other thing that we got very badly hit by was the refueling. When we did the Ligier LMP2, we had nothing to compare with. We did the refueling but there was no [Ligier] competitor, so we didn’t know if we were good or bad at refueling.
“At Spa we lost a lot of time during refueling. The regulations are very strict for the fuel rigs. We optimized everything for the regulations, but still we couldn’t close the gap to the top teams in refueling.
“At the moment we are still losing some seconds. We will work on it. But the regulations are very strict. The last thing we want is being somewhere out of the rules window.
“We know exactly what we have to do, but we are doing a development program to close the missing seconds to the others.
“I don’t believe that somebody is cheating on the refueling because it gets checked from the scrutineers, so there must be a margin and we need to find it.”
Team Set to Double Oreca Stable Next Year
Fassbender confirmed that Inter Europol is set to make its European Le Mans Series LMP2 return next year with a second Oreca, which he is close to purchasing.
The program, in his eyes, would help to reinforce and improve the WEC entry by giving his world championship crew an additional six races to work with the car.
Fassbender explained that Inter Europol’s policy of recruiting its staff on annual contracts means that a dual LMP2 program makes sense to give the group enough work.
The team currently runs two Ligier JS P320 Nissans in the ELMS LMP3 class, which is set to continue next year. That will require the addition of some new personnel.
“In general, I am following the strategy of our team to have the people fully employed,” said Fassbender.
“Even if they are freelancers, they get yearly contracts. With the six WEC races, the cars are in the workshop for less than three months, so I need work for the guys.
“The other thing is that I believe the complete WEC crew will do ELMS. We are collecting more data and we, as a structure and team, are just getting stronger from that.
“We will get more knowledge about the car and its behavior.
“Instead of doing six races of pit stops the guys are doing 12 races of pit stops. So we get more routine into it and the team just gets better from it.”