SWISS SPIRIT FORCED TO RETIRE AFTER GEARBOX FAILURE
Marcel Fassler, Harold Primat and the Swiss Spirit team confirmed that they have the pace of a serious contender for the Le Mans Series championship. From fifth on the grid, Fassler drove an impressive double stint, setting competitive times lap after lap, moving the Courage-Judd-Michelin car up to second place overall on the same lap as the Pescarolo car.
On lap 45, Primat took over from Fassler and rejoined the race in fourth place. Harold was 40 minutes into his stint when he started to experience a problem with gear selection. Despite moving to manual mode, the issue could not be corrected and he was forced to return to the pits where the team confirmed to the Swiss driver that the failure was terminal.
Swiss Spirit Team Manager Serge Saulnier was extremely disappointed by the outcome of the race: "The positive news is that we had a very strong start to the race. We knew from our work during the two 90-minute practice sessions yesterday that we had a very consistent car set-up. We were confident with the tyre choice and strategy with Michelin. At the start of the race, Marcel was able to follow the rhythm of Gounon and the two Creation cars, then he overtook them to move into second place overall. This is great news for the team, our hard work is paying off and this has been confirmed race after race since Spa in the middle of May.
"The bad news," continued Saulnier, "is that I am becoming extremely frustrated with our gearbox issues. I am not sure yet if it is an issue with our team or if our problems come from the design and manufacture of the gearbox itself, but we cannot continue like this. In the meantime, we need to make sure that we have not made any mistakes and we will work on this next week as soon as we are back at base."
After he was forced to retire the car, Fassler's team-mate Harold Primat said: "I took over after Marcel's double stint. He was running a strong second just behind the Pescarolo. I was cautious with the traffic on my first two laps then I started to push and got into race mode. The car was running well and the balance was very good. Unfortunately, three quarters of the way into my first stint the gearbox started to play up. As I was selecting fourth, fourth was confirmed on the dash but I was still in third gear. Then the paddle shift stopped working so I selected the manual option but that was not working either. I went straight back into the pits and the team confirmed it was a terminal gearbox failure. It is frustrating because race after race we have improved the car but then we are let down, like in Le Mans, by the gearbox. Let's hope that these issues are over and that we can score more points in the fifth and last round of the LMS."
Marcel Fassler concluded: "I made a careful start. My tyres were cold and I wanted to look after them for the stint. I knew the race was long and as it is very hard to overtake here, I wanted to keep my tyres in the best possible condition. I had a nice battle with the top four cars and got up to second place from fifth on the grid. My first planned stop was good. The car was perfect to drive and I had no major problems. As planned, the traffic was difficult with slower cars closing the door but I did my best and stayed out of trouble. I am sorry for the team, they did another great job this weekend and they deserved a place on the podium. I hope that we can finish the season on a better note in Jarama in Spain on 24th September."
-credit: swiss spirit