FISKEN UPBEAT DESPITE DIFFICULT WEEKEND
London-based classic car dealer and racing driver, Gregor Fisken, remained excited about the future despite a trying weekend at the Jarama 1000kms, the fifth and final round of the Le Mans Series.
The former venue for the Spanish Grand Prix played host to the endurance racing championship for the first time this year and while many of the drivers had mixed reactions to its tight and bumpy nature, Fisken revelled in its challenge, "I really like this place," said Gregor after first practice, "at first I thought it mightn't be that suitable for prototypes, but once the session started I really enjoyed it."
Sadly for Fisken his laps in the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, as well as in Sunday morning's official warm-up, turned out to be the entirety of his participation in the event. Despite showing dominant pace throughout practise, and qualifying on the front row of the grid in the hands of co-driver Jean-Marc Gounon, Gregor's factory-entered Courage-Mugen LMP1 car sadly retired from the race nearly two hours into the six hour enduro, suffering from terminal gearbox problems.
It was a devastating end to an otherwise thrilling race for the drivers of the number 12 car and the French Courage team. The Le Mans-based squad's lead driver, Jean-Marc Gounon, performed amazingly in his opening stint, catching and passing Emmanuel Collard's Pescarolo for the lead and pulling into the distance, before having all of his hard work undone when a red light at the end of the pit-lane prevented him from rejoining the circuit after a pit-stop during a safety car period. The delay cost Gounon dearly, but the enigmatic Frenchman duly delivered the predictable fireworks as he hunted down the leading Pescarolo for the second time. Sadly, the crowd was robbed of another titanic dual when the gearbox on the JCB-sponsored Courage cried enough -- the TV cameras capturing the moment the car pulled off the track, grinding to a halt on the exit of turn one.
"It was fantastic watching Jean-Marc's opening stint," said Fisken shortly after the race, "he was just utterly dominant and looked set to hand the car to Alexander Frei and I in the overall lead of the race. Far from feeling any added pressure from this, Alex and I were desperately looking forward to our stints because we knew that the car was performing so well. Of course we are realistic enough to know that we would not have matched Jean Marc's times, but we both drove strongly in practice and I was very encouraged by my 1m27s in the warm-up, which came very easily and would have been a more than competitive race pace. I think we could certainly have been in the hunt for a podium today."
Despite the retirement, the jovial Scot remained upbeat: "It's a great shame the gearbox broke," continued Fisken, "because nobody wants to end the season with a non-finish. However, I have had a lot of seat-time this year in a superb car which has shown itself to be arguably quicker than anything out there. The Courage team have been exceptional to work with and have looked after me tremendously. I really hope that I can continue my relationship not only with them, but also all the Mugen engine people and the brilliant engineers from Yokohama who now have a very fast, well proven and durable tyre for these cars. I am hugely grateful to all these guys for their efforts this year and am certain that they will soon net the wins they so clearly deserve."
Team boss Yves Courage and Jean-Marc Gounon both paid tribute to Fisken's driving this year with Yves commenting: "Gregor has been a real pleasure to work with this season and has impressed us all enormously with his totally calm and measured approach to his driving. His pace in this morning's warm-up was very quick and would have been a perfect race pace. Gregor has this studious and committed approach to his driving which has really helped him make big improvements and has been very nice for us to watch. We'd certainly like to continue with him in the future."
Gregor's own immediate racing future reverts back to the historic scene this weekend, as he heads to Spa to compete in the "Spa 6 Hours" -- a superbly supported, blue-ribbon, historic race meeting. "Naturally a lot of our clients will be in Spa," explained Gregor, "and I am extremely lucky to be able to mix work with pleasure. I'll be driving a car or two belonging to both clients and friends, as well as helping out with the hospitality of the Gentleman Driver's Series, to which we are a co-sponsor. After Spa, it hopefully won't be too long before I am back behind the wheel of the Courage for a winter testing program. With any luck it should just about be enough to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay during the long, dark winter months!"