Fabian Schiller is confident with his decision to compete in the Blancpain GT Series this year, despite the 19-year-old German admitting he had other options on the table.
Schiller took the paddock by surprise with his pace during the season-opener at Misano, in his first competitive outing in the series.
He finished second in Saturday evening’s Qualifying Race in the No. 85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 he shares with 21-year-old Dutchman Jules Szymkowiak, matching the lap times of Franck Perera in the leading No. 84 sister entry.
Penalties in both races meant he and Szymkowiak didn’t score any points that weekend, but the duo turned heads nonetheless.
“To be honest, we were a little surprised by already coming in second, especially because we’re by far the youngest driving duo with 19 and 21,” Shiller told Sportscar365.
Schiller explained his initial plan was to move up to LMP2, after clinching the Endurance and Am titles in the Renault Sport Trophy with Marc VDS Racing and Markus Palttala last year.
“Together with Marc VDS we tried to find solutions, but in the end it didn’t happen,” he said. “The aim was WEC and there were some talks already. In the end I was unsure, because I couldn’t do it properly, as the required budget wasn’t 100 percent there.”
The ex-European F3 driver already got a taste of LMP2 racing over the winter months, competing in the Asian Le Mans Series with Race Performance and winning the round at Fuji.
“I feel very confident with my decision to do Blancpain GT,” Schiller said. “This was kind of a plan B, but not really. Blancpain GT is one of the toughest championships in the world and I wouldn’t say it’s a step down; it’s just something else.
“The Endurance Cup is especially super tough, every manufacturer is present and the level is just higher.”
Schiller is entered on the No. 85 HTP Mercedes with Dominik Baumann and Edward Sandström, in the first of the five-round Endurance Cup this weekend.
The 19-year-old grew up while his father, Hardy Schiller, was still racing motorcycles and got the bug when he witnessed the inner workings of Kruse Schiller Motorsport at Le Mans.
The team operated Courage and Lola LMP2 cars at the French endurance classic, as well as in the European Le Mans Series from 2008-10.
“When my dad had the LMP2 team, that was the moment I realized I wanted to do this,” he said. “For me, as a child, it was completely crazy. It was such a huge event and something that inspired me.
“Long distance racing and sports cars have always been my aim ever since. I never wanted to do Formula One.”
The Schiller family already had good connections with HTP team boss Norbert Brückner, resulting in a couple of VLN outings with the team last year.
“HTP is such a strong structure and is experienced in this championship. It’s the perfect setting to be in to get used to everything,” Schiller said.
Schiller also said the Nürburgring 24 is high up on his priority list, although an entry did not materialize for this year, despite racing a SP7-class Porsche last year.
His switch to the Blancpain GT Series also means he is now competing against his former Marc VDS mentor Palttala, who drives a ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3.
“It’s going to be very interesting,” Schiller said. “I learned a lot from him last year, during that season I became a lot stronger.
“I rate Markus really highly; he’s a very experienced and quick guy. Sometimes I get the feeling he’s a bit underrated. He’s not the kind of guy that looks up the spotlight.”
While having moved on to a top seat in GT3 competition, Schiller still thinks fondly of the now-defunct Renault Sport Trophy.
“In the end it’s a shame it all came to an end, because the team and the cars were just mega,” he said. “You would think it’s a GT car, but it’s actually closer to a prototype.
“I raced in the Asian Le Mans Series this winter, and I noticed the feeling and the speed is more similar to an LMP2 car.
“The goal is to become a factory driver in the end. But I’m not coming to get paid, I’m here for the races and this what I love to do.”