Swiss drivers Marcel Fässler and Harold Primat head to Donington Park in the UK next weekend, for the British round of the 2006 Le Mans Series. They are targeting a debut win for the Swiss Spirit team in its first year of top level international sportscar racing.
Following an encouraging debut season so far, Swiss Spirit comes to the UK highly motivated and looking to build on its current second place in the championship. It will also be aiming to return to the podium which it last visited in round two of the series at Spa-Francorchamps, where it achieved pole position and finished runner-up in only its second race.
The team, which embodies the 'Swiss spirit', has displayed impressive top-five pace throughout the year and its Courage/Judd/Michelin LMP1 car has undergone a major developmental programme since the previous round at the Nurburgring. As a result, the squad hopes to be able to use these advances to maintain pressure on the so-far dominant Pescarolo operation.
"We have prepared for Donington with a thorough test at Magny-Cours last week," said team boss, Serge Saulnier. "Our previous experience in Formula 3 and World Series by Renault has confirmed that the set-ups required for Donington and Magny-Cours are very similar, so it was a good place to work. We tried to optimise braking performance and set-up, cooling and exploit improvements we have made to the front suspension."
Harold Primat was on hand at Magny-Cours, happy to have the opportunity for additional seat-time between races. Team-mate Marcel Fässler has also been busy since the Nurburgring round, with a stunning debut in the Spa 24 Hours. He narrowly missed out on the outright race win in the Phoenix Racing squad's Aston Martin DBR9, alongside Andrea Piccini, Jean-Denis Deletraz and Stephane Lemeret. The trio led the blue-ribbon event up until the final 30 minutes, when they were pipped to the post by a hard-charging Maserati MC12, in the hands of Eric van de Poele, Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini.
"Spa was fantastic for me," said Fässler. "It was a little frustrating sure, but fantastic nonetheless. I learnt an awful lot about running for 24 hours and know now how to manage my pace, my body and the car to maintain top performance for the entire duration. All of these lessons will be extremely valuable to me in my future with Swiss Spirit. It's also great to have had so much track-time between Le Mans Series races; I feel now that I am fully warmed up and am looking forward to hitting the ground running at Donington."
Fässler's team-mate, Harold Primat, is also excited about Donington and is a big fan of the circuit: "It's a fabulous and challenging track," said Primat, "and will be very interesting for both drivers and spectators alike. The only slight concern is that it is quite narrow and that in these fast sportscars, it'll become very busy with traffic. I think that overtaking could be the key to the race - the drivers who manage the traffic most effectively will have a massive advantage, regardless of whether or not they manage to find an extra tenth of two from their cars in practice.
"On a circuit like Donington, I imagine it will be very easy to lose two or three seconds when trying to pass slower cars. Anyway, I am pleased to say that our latest developments on the car have not only made it faster but also more compliant, which should help us a lot. After the break since the Nurburgring, I feel well rested, re-energised and definitely ready to go!"
Practice and qualifying will take place this Saturday, 26th August, and the race will begin at 12:30 on Sunday 27th August and last for 1000 kilometres or six hours.