As other drivers enjoy a few weeks between race seasons, Sascha Maassen is anxious to get back on track. The German Porsche factory driver, now living in Raeren, Belgium, spent 2005 testing the new Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 car in preparation for its victorious race debut in October. Now he's ready for more race action.
In 2006, Maassen will share the No. 6 Spyder with his long-time co-driver, Lucas Luhr of Monaco. The pair will compete in the American Le Mans Series with Penske Motorsports, which will field the car for Porsche Cars North America.
"I'm very happy to be back for a full season with Lucas, after this year testing together and only one race. This is the biggest program I've ever been involved with. The car is very nice to drive and we expect to be successful with it," Maassen said.
The team's first challenge of the season will be the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway on March 18.
"It's the toughest race of the year, so we are preparing the car and ourselves as much as possible during the winter," Maassen said. "After the 12 Hours of Sebring, you feel like someone who has been on a ship for a long time -- you cannot walk straight!"
F3 and LMP2
Although 2006 will be Maassen's first full season of prototype racing, he is already at home in the LMP2 car. He noted the prototype is "completely different" from the GT2-class Porsches in which he won three championships, but it is similar to the Formula Three cars he drove early in his career:
"I learned a lot in F3, where the car has a lot of grip but limited horsepower. This is a similar combination in the prototype. It's a very good car, with good grip, but the engine power is limited due to the series rules. So you need the same kind of driving style as in F3."
Maassen will start his 2006 season driving the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche-powered Fabcar in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, scheduled for Jan. 28 and 29 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. A recent Hoosier tire test showed the results of the team's off-season development work.
"Our testing went very well. We were able to produce competitive times, and we were not far away from the leader. Even in comparison to the race times last year, we were a lot quicker. We improved the car quite a lot," Maassen said.
"This year, we should be more competitive, but there is also more competition, so it will be interesting -- with the 35 to 40 prototypes they expect -- to see where we are. We are optimistic, but we have to be aware that the competition will be very, very hard. It will be a quantitatively and qualitatively high field."
Maassen will enjoy Christmas with his family in the Austrian Alps. He sends best wishes to his friends, fans and race colleagues for a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.