July 17, 2000, LeMans, France: American driver Phil Giebler received a coveted invitation to the Marlboro Masters this week, in recognition of his accomplishments as a rookie in French Formula 3. The prestigious race, to be held on August 4-6...
July 17, 2000, LeMans, France: American driver Phil Giebler received a coveted invitation to the Marlboro Masters this week, in recognition of his accomplishments as a rookie in French Formula 3. The prestigious race, to be held on August 4-6 in Zanvort Holland, will be Phil's first opportunity to race the state-of-the-art A-Class Formula 3 car and compete on equal footing with the best drivers from England, France, Germany and Italy.
"I want to be the next American in Formula One," exclaims the twenty year-old Giebler. "Send me to the toughest competition and I am confident I can give anyone a run for their money. I want to set a new standard for young American drivers and prove that we can survive and thrive in every level of European racing."
Giebler's performance for the La Filliere team has been turning heads all season, as he frequently outqualifies A-Class competitors in the three-year old B-Class chassis that is used by rookies in the series. "It's a strange way to race," Giebler explains. "Your inclination is to protect your position at all costs, but you really are only competing against the other B-Class cars out there. It's hard to convince yourself that it doesn't matter when an A-Class driver blows by you, but the significant difference in downforce gives a well-driven A-Class car about a one-second per lap advantage on an equally well-driven B-Class car."
After nine races in the 2000 season, Giebler is ranked second in the B-Class championship standings, trailing only his teammate and nemesis, Englishman Adam Jones. "We're cordial to each other, but we're not close friends," says Giebler. "The in-house competition makes both of us better, since we have access to each other's telemetry information. We have different driving styles: Adam enters corners quite hot, while I enter slower but carry more speed through the exit of the turn. I think my way is easier on the tires, but we both have won races and pole positions this season."
Born and raised in southern California, Giebler's European odyssey began in late 1998, when he was invited to compete for an opening at the La Filliere "Campus," a by-invitation residential school teaching racing and the French language to drivers from around the globe. Giebler had attracted La Filliere's attention after becoming the first American in 15 years to win the North American Formula A International Karting Championship, and subsequently being ranked among the world's top twelve karters by several European magazines.
Giebler's first La Filliere audition took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, where twenty of the best karters from North America were winnowed down to only six. Giebler and five other drivers were then flown to LeMans to drive for two days against other international finalists. The two fastest Americans were offered slots in the 1999 Campus, and Giebler made the cut. Giebler was eager to represent his country well, since no American had ever finished on the podium in the history of the Campus series.
Giebler rewrote that statistic on arrival, winning the first race of the 1999 season at the historic LeMans course and finishing the year with three victories, seven podiums, and runner-up in the Campus Championship to Jones. Both young men were invited to become La Filliere's two rookie B-Class drivers in the 2000 French Formula 3 series, and have been battling ever since. Although they live in the same apartments as last year, Giebler and Jones must now fend for themselves, as the structured schedule of classes and activities of the Campus program has given way to empty stretches between races.
"There are five La Filliere drivers living here in LeMans, and we do the best we can to keep ourselves occupied in the downtime. We work out, attend as may F1 races as possible, learn international racecourses on Sony Playstation, and find silly fun things to do with motorized vehicles, most of which are legal. The French girls aren't really interested in us yet: I think they are knowledgeable enough about racing to know that rookie Formula 3 drivers don't have any money," explains a grinning Giebler. Lamentably, visits to the great museums of France are as yet unscheduled.
From his experiences as a factory Tony Kart driver in both Formula A and 125cc shifter karts, to winning the barber Formula Dodge series, to becoming a three-time U.S. National Karting Champion, Giebler has relied on mental concentration as his competitive edge. "The Formula 3 car is my biggest challenge yet," he says. "This particular formula is very unforgiving, and requires total accuracy lap after lap. Sometimes you complete what feels like a miracle lap and you find out you only improved by half a tenth of a second."
"Getting the best out of the car requires total uninterrupted concentration and you are very, very busy in the cockpit," Giebler continues. I love outqualifying A-Class drivers and exceeding people's expectations of what a B-Class rookie can achieve. The B-Class championship is in reach, and I will do everything I can to win it."