ENCOURAGING PACE FOR SWISS SPIRIT IN SECOND QUALIFYING The Swiss Spirit team improved on the first qualifying times set in torrential rain, to claim the ninth fastest time overall in the third qualifying session for the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans.
ENCOURAGING PACE FOR SWISS SPIRIT IN SECOND QUALIFYING
The Swiss Spirit team improved on the first qualifying times set in torrential rain, to claim the ninth fastest time overall in the third qualifying session for the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, its fourth and final qualifying opportunity was cut short when Philipp Peter went off the circuit and damaged the Courage's bodywork too much to continue.
Team manager Serge Saulnier explains; "We were pleased with the first session. Harold went out first to gain confidence in the car in the dry, then Marcel went out to continue learning the circuit. Finally, Philipp took the car out and we fitted the qualifying tyres at the very end of the session, to try to claim a good position. But his lap was spoiled by traffic and we recorded the ninth fastest time. He went out as soon as the second session began, to try to get another fast lap in but he went off the circuit at Indianapolis and damaged the car. We could have repaired it but decided not to panic and take our time. We also had an engine change planned, so we took the opportunity to do that without the added time pressure."
Philipp Peter explained that the car was feeling good throughout the first session and the team was encouraged by their pace. "We were going faster and faster, lap by lap. The lap on qualifying tyres felt like it was good enough for sixth fastest but I found a lot of traffic, as well as a yellow flag at Indianapolis. However, I'm confident that the pace is there. The car feels safe to drive and I feel that after the Audis and the Pescarolos, we are the next team. But at the start of the second session, it went wrong. I looked at the data with the engineers afterwards to try to understand what happened, without much success. We think that the brake bias may have changed, as the car got hot -- it's a problem Harold and Marcel have had before. I approached Indianapolis and a wheel locked on braking. I released it, thinking I'd just lost the fast lap but was going faster than I realised and went off, hitting the barrier. I am sorry for the team -- the last thing I wanted to do was cause them more work or deny the other drivers time in the car."
Marcel Fassler, competing in his first Le Mans, was learning the circuit and was sorry he missed out on valuable experience. "I still need to learn the circuit but I'm getting better and better all the time. It's just a shame that I didn't get the opportunity to do more laps in the second session but things can happen fast on the track. However, we've still got 24 hours to learn the circuit and get more experience that way!"
Harold Primat enjoyed a trouble-free run early on in the first session and was planning to do a full race stint in the darkness, before the accident. "My first few laps were good. I'm happy because that was my first run without any problems, so it gave me my confidence back. When you drive in the darkness and the lights don't work, that gets to you. I was happy, as I had two good laps, everything worked perfectly and I set good lap times. Philipp did a solid job in qualifying in the first session but unfortunately, the second session was cut short. However, we are still optimistic for the race. We have a good car, not far off the top runners, so if we get a trouble-free race, we could be in good shape. The aim is to avoid mistakes but, of course, that's the most difficult thing in this race. We probably won't set the fastest lap but the aim is to do the laps and keep doing them for 24 hours."