2006 LE MANS 24 HOURS - Q&A WITH GREGOR FISKEN London-based fine automobile dealer Gregor Fisken explains his preparations for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, as part of the works Courage team, one of the iconic names in the World's greatest ...
2006 LE MANS 24 HOURS - Q&A WITH GREGOR FISKEN
London-based fine automobile dealer Gregor Fisken explains his preparations for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, as part of the works Courage team, one of the iconic names in the World's greatest motor race.
Yours was quite a late entry for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. Could you explain how it came together?
It came through Sam Hancock's relationship with Courage. Sam drove with Alexander Frei for the Courage factory team in 2004, with Jean-Marc Gounon. Jean-Marc identified a need for a very quick car, which would push the team, Mugen and Yokohama's development forward. In discussion with Yves Courage and Sam, it was decided that Jean-Marc would form a team with the two Japanese drivers, which would provide a very, very quick car (car number 13), to push hard. That left a situation where the number 12 car would have a driver opportunity available. Sam and I have always driven very well together as a pairing. Also, Sam had driven with Alexander before, as well as Jean-Marc, so Sam was a natural partner with Alexander, as well as with me. I did my first ever prototype test with Courage but since then, there hasn't been an opportunity to get me on board, until now. So all the dots joined, albeit a bit late in the day.
How much are you looking forward to driving with Sam again, as part of the same team?
Very much. Sam brings considerable experience to the party. He's also a very considerate driver, in terms of his help to me and the way he shares experience. For me, it's invaluable. It means that I go from A-Z without sometimes going through all the letters. It's a very accelerative process and he's a very good team player.
How well do you know Alexander?
I have met Alexander a number of times over the last season and this one and have always got on very well with him. Now I've spent a bit more time with him, I feel I've known him for years. I feel very comfortable with him, and his wife -- she's also a big part of the team. That's a big plus. We are all very happy to help each other along.
What team preparation have you done prior to the race?
We had a test recently but that didn't work so well -- there were mechanical problems with the car. However, it allowed us to spend a lot of time with the team, to get to know the engineers, to develop a seat that can fit not just Sam, who's very tall but myself, who's reasonably tall and Alexander. So we did a lot of work getting the ergonomics of the car to work well for us. We then worked very well together at the official Le Mans test. In terms of getting to know Courage and Courage getting to know us, Sam and Alexander's existing relationships helps a lot. As the new boy, I fitted in very well.
How have you been preparing personally for this year's race?
Brushing up on my French, quite a lot! In terms of physical fitness, I wasn't actually very well at the Le Mans test -- I had a touch of flu, which I have managed to shake off. The last week has been a case of finalising what's been a period of the highest level of training I've ever done for a race. I've been doing lots of bike spinning classes; doing double sessions which replicate double stints in the car during an endurance race; lots of heat, lots of physical exertion. I've done lots of work on my neck and my stamina generally. And the nice thing about doing it with Sam is, as he's 15 years younger than me, I'm pushing myself to keep up with him all the time. I feel I've done very well. I'm feeling very prepared for it this year.
You drove an LMP1 car at Sebring earlier this year. How different do you think it will be adapting LMP1 experience to Le Mans, which you've competed in twice before?
I think there's a similarity. The P1 cars I've driven before have always had P2 wheels, for example, running in hybrid form. This is the first pure P1 car I've driven, so it's heavier than I'm used to, there's more power, bigger wheels and in theory, more downforce, not quite as good on the brakes but lots of performance. I really noticed that at the test. The speed is very high and the downforce is pretty good. But, of course, for Le Mans, it's a case of taking off as much downforce as possible, to keep the straight-line speed. It's got a lot of go in a straight line and it's a bit of a balancing act because you don't have as much downforce as you may have been used to with the smaller P2 cars.
Do you think it will be fairly easy to adapt?
I think so. When we did the test, we had some issues with the car. The brakes weren't as good as they should have been. We experimented with the hardest compound tyre, so we had limited brakes, limited grip and a very dirty track. So I am looking forward to having a cleaner track, better brakes and the softer compound tyres, which we have decided to use. The number 13 car also made some big gains in terms of rear wing development and suspension settings and found a much nicer set-up. So I think I'm going to be presented with a much better car for the race.
Have you done much racing since Sebring in March?
I've had one outing in the LMS race at Spa, in the RollCentre works Radical team. We had a difficult race -- my co-driver crashed the car and it was my job to do my stint with the car in slightly second-hand condition. But I got some good seat time in the car. Unfortunately, we had to retire because the bodywork wouldn't hold up any longer. But it's good experience to bring an injured car home and I really enjoyed my time with Radical and RollCentre.
This will be your third 24 Hours of Le Mans; you've driven in GT2, LMP2 and now, LMP1. Is this the ultimate endurance racing for you?
It absolutely has to be. To drive a car which is capable of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in the biggest category, in the world's greatest sportscar race - it doesn't get any better than that. If I never do it again, I'm honoured and privileged to be able to make the start of this year's race; the rest is down to good luck, a higher power and whatever blessings we get.