F?ssler going the right way

F?ssler going the right way

Switzerland's Marcel Fässler joined the DTM with Mercedes when the series was re-launched in 2000 and was Rookie of the Year along with coming fourth overall in the championship. In 2001 he was fourth again and stayed with the Warsteiner AMG ...

Switzerland's Marcel F?ssler joined the DTM with Mercedes when the series was re-launched in 2000 and was Rookie of the Year along with coming fourth overall in the championship. In 2001 he was fourth again and stayed with the Warsteiner AMG Mercedes team for 2002, driving one of the new CLKs for his third season.

Marcel Fassler.
Photo by Nikki Reynolds.
After an unlucky start to this year -- brake failure in the first round at Hockenheim put him out and in Zolder the race was red flagged leaving him ninth -- F?ssler finished sixth at Donington to score his first point of the season. Taking time out from his busy schedule, he talked to Motorsport.com from the third round of the championship at Donington Park in the UK.

Like many racing drivers F?ssler started in karts, from 1985 to 1995, winning the ICA European Championship. "My father had driven cars as well, just for fun, and he bought me a kart" he explained. "So I started in karting in the normal way. It was natural from my father's side that I could drive cars. You need someone like that, it's good to have a father to help you go that way, to be supportive. It's also expensive to be in karts, it's not a very cheap hobby."

In 1995 he moved to the Formula Renualt campus championship, finishing third and in '96 he was third in French Formula Renault as well as Rookie of the Year. He progressed to French F3 in '97 for two years, finishing fourth in '98 then German F3 in '99 where he was second overall. This attracted the attention of Mercedes who invited to him to test with them.

"It's difficult to come into a professional team or manufacturer like Mercedes. After driving for two years in France in F3 I came to Germany to drive in F3 there. I had a really good season, I finished second in the championship then Mercedes asked me to test. After that they asked me to drive for them. I think it was the best decision for me to do it, better than to go into Formula 3000."

Marcel Fassler.
Photo by DaimlerChrysler.
After two years with Mercedes being dominant in DTM, 2002 has seen them struggle slightly. The new CLK has been outclassed sometimes by last year's car and Audi are very strong so far this season. Donington saw Mercedes look better, the pace was definitely there: F?ssler was second and fifth fastest in the Friday practices then quickest in the session prior to qualifying. Difficult conditions during the qualifying session saw him finish eighth, the second fastest Mercedes behind Jean Alesi. He thinks there is more to be done.

"It's difficult to say," he says of comparing the new CLK to last year's car. "Normally a new car should be faster; if you look at the times the new car is faster than the old one. We have done good work and we have a good car but at the moment we are not so competitive as we thought (we would be) at the beginning of the season. So we have more work to do."

It was the first visit for F?ssler to the Donington Park circuit and he learnt the track on a computer game: "It's my first time here, I practiced on the Playstation but obviously it's not as good as the real thing. The track is better with the DTM cars for real!" Round four will be the circuit he likes most. "I have many favourite circuits but I think the nicest one is the Sachenring, the next race."

Marcel Fassler getting ready for the race.
Photo by Nikki Reynolds.
DTM runs with standing starts from this year but the drivers have not had much chance to get used to them. The second round in Zolder was hampered by bad weather conditions and both races started from behind the safety car. "At the moment we've just had one go!" F?ssler laughed. "But I think it's better to have standing starts, much better than rolling starts." Former F1 driver Jean Alesi may have slightly more practice than his fellow DTM drivers with his years of standing starts but F?ssler doesn't think it makes much difference.

"Maybe a little bit (of an advantage), he has more experience about standing starts but I don't think it's a big advantage. He's a very good starter, already in F1 he was a good starter so I think it's no big difference."

Mercedes have been working hard and F?ssler believes they are heading in the right direction: "I think we've improved already. If you look at the times yesterday (in free practice) we were quite good, quite fast so I think we are going the right way and the team do what they can to improve the car. It's getting better."

HANS (Head and Neck Support) is now mandatory in DTM and although it looks fairly uncomfortable F?ssler said he no longer notices it's there: "I drove two years ago with HANS and I think it's a good thing. It looks more uncomfortable than it is, when you have all the belts on you don't feel it so much. You cannot make big head movements from side to side, you are a bit handicapped but I'm used to it now and I don't feel it any more. If you have a really big crash it will help."

Marcel Fassler.
Photo by DaimlerChrysler.
Some have suggested that F?ssler has lost the spark that gave him his maiden victory at Oschersleben last year and fourth in the championship standings. Watching him storm through the field from the back of the pack to come home sixth at Donington made that idea seem unlikely. Relegated to fifteenth by two stop and go penalties -- one for a starting grid infringement and one for contact with Abt driver Martin Tomczyk --he gained ground every lap until he took sixth on the first corner of the final lap.

He was disappointed about the penalties: at the start of the main race he was up to second behind Alesi and could have easily fought for victory but the stop and goes ruined his chances. "I could have won that race," he said afterwards. "But I'm happy to have at least scored a point."

F?ssler's determination and talent have by no means faded and obviously his goal is to win the championship: "I think that should be the target. That's why I drive race cars; I want to win, I want to be fastest. Everybody who drives cars wants to win, everybody in sports does. Sure, for fun too but for success. That's a combination you need, otherwise you're in the wrong race."

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About this article
Series DTM
Drivers Jean Alesi , Marcel Fassler , Martin Tomczyk