After six years in the German Touring Car Masters Championship (DTM), Marcel F?ssler will take up the challenge of long-distance sportscar events for 2006, in the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES). F?ssler raced for Opel the last two years in DTM but the squad struggled for performance and parent company General Motors withdrew the marque from the series at the end of 2005.
With only Mercedes and Audi competing in DTM this season, race seats were hard to come by and F?ssler decided to take the opportunity to try endurance racing instead, something he's long been interested in. In 2004 he competed in the N?rburgring 24hrs for Opel, so he's not a complete novice, but knows he has a lot to learn.
"I don't have much experience," he told Motorsport.com. "But I'm quite happy as it's (endurance racing) something I wanted to do -- although perhaps not quite this soon! It's a different way of racing; it's not one hour flat out, you have to think more, be more controlled, over a long distance. It's completely different."
"We are beginners," he added of his team, Swiss Spirit, which is Saulnier Racing's LMES entry for 2006. "We are learning and there's not much time until the first race. But it's a great chance for me to do endurance and I really hope we can drive the whole LMES season."
Naturally, F?ssler has an eye on the ultimate challenge: the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Swiss Spirit hopes for an invitation, which team manager Serge Saulnier said would be the achievement of a life-long dream. "It's one of the most famous races in the whole world," the Swiss racer F?ssler stated. "We have a competitive car and it would be good for me and for the team."
F?ssler has not yet driven the Judd V10-powered Courage LMP1 C70, which Swiss Spirit presented in Geneva earlier this week, but he's already enthusiastic. "The car is great, I love it!", he laughed. "I really like the way it looks. But now it goes back to the workshop to be finished off before we can go test it."
The team should be on track at the end of March for its first test session and the LMES season commences at Istanbul in early April. In the meantime F?ssler is focusing on fitness training. "There are different things to focus on," he remarked. "I work on the neck a bit more because the cars are faster than the DTM, they're even more like a formula car."
A few DTM drivers found themselves out of a race seat once Opel withdrew and while F?ssler wants to return to the series in 2007, for the moment he's happy enough. "I hope to go back to DTM but I don't know if it's possible," he said. "It's my target for the future but this year I'm very happy with the endurance opportunity and am fully focused on it."