SWISS SPIRIT ENDS 2006 SEASON ON A HIGH
The Swiss Spirit team ended the 2006 Le Mans Series on a high, finishing the final round of the championship at Jarama second in the LMP1 category, behind the dominant Pescarolo, the car which won every race this year. This is a remarkable achievement and once again demonstrates the team's excellent performance in only its first season of competition.
The final round at the Spanish circuit wasn't without its dramas, though. Two hours into the six-hour race, the team suffered a gearbox problem, with the loss of first and second gears. This was a disaster, since first is essential for re-starting after pit-stops and the Jarama circuit has five corners which are normally taken in second. However, both drivers, Harold Primat and Marcel Fassler, were able to establish a rhythm with the remaining gears and use the excellent driveability of the Judd engine to record second in the LMP1 category and third overall.
Team Manager Serge Saulnier was impressed with the team's performance at the season finale; "We had something of a miracle this weekend, as we completed the last four hours of the race with only four gears. The drivers did a fantastic job and we must say thank you to Judd for a very driveable engine.
"Harold did a great job in the first stint, following Nicolas Minassian in the Creation for an hour, matching his lap times. Marcel also drove very well, running second until the gearbox problem. At that point, we were just four seconds behind the Pescarolo."
Driver Harold Primat, who made a perfect start for the team, described the race as 'hectic'; "It was tricky without first and second gear. We had trouble re-starting from the pit stops and Marcel also had a safety car session and it was hard to keep the engine revs up with only third gear. But my first stint was very good -- I was fighting with Minassian for a full hour and was third by the time I handed over to Marcel. He made up one more position before the problem and from then on, we had to do the best we could with what we had.
"I think this is a good result overall but I also feel that without similar problems during the year, we would have been consistently second in the races and in the championship. But for the first year for us as a team, I'm pleased overall, especially when on the basis of performance, we were consistently second to the Pescarolo -- an excellent result for a privateer team. It's a fitting reward for everyone involved, for all their hard work and effort throughout the year.
Team-mate Marcel Fassler was also pleased with the result in the team's final race of 2006; "I'm very pleased to have finished this race second in LMP1. It's like a miracle with the problem we had but we were able to use the car as best we could and find a rhythm with the remaining gears and get to the podium."
Summing up the season as a whole, Saulnier said; "We had a very good season this year. We had the potential to finish second in the championship, taking second in the races as Pescarolo took the wins, if it were not for the recurring gearbox problems. But on a positive note, Marcel and Harold have worked very well together throughout the year -- they have complimented each other perfectly and are great team-mates. Harold has made a lot of progress and Marcel has demonstrated his professionalism consistently.
"We are now planning a test for the end of October, before beginning development for next season. We will adapt the car for the Spec 2 Judd engine, a new transmission, a new aerodynamics package and get the car ready for the new Michelin tyres. We also have a series of smaller changes which, combined with a full rebuild over the winter, should make the car more reliable and easier to work on for the future."
-credit: swiss spirit