Former F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella has reflected that he is increasingly enjoying his sportscar switch since hanging up his grand prix helmet at the end of 2009 – and on the occasion of his second participation in the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend, he confesses that 'it's getting better-and-better'.
Having been non-committal about whether or not he was likely to make a 'second career' out of sportscars on his La Sarthe debut with AF Corse this time last year [see separate story – click here
], Fisichella seems far more assured twelve months on, explaining that the experience of his team-mates Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander is helping to bring him rapidly up-to-speed with a discipline that he describes as 'completely different' to F1.
“Last year, I enjoyed the race,” the Italian told Crash.net
of taking the chequered flag fourth in the GT2 class and 16th overall in 2010. “This year, I have much more experience, I've got a fantastic team, a fantastic crew and I feel confident.
“Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni are the masters of the GT category, so I'm really happy to work with them. Already last year, I learnt a lot from Toni, and this year, I'm learning from Gianmaria. We've been doing quite well together so far; with Gianmaria, we are leading the [GTE Pro] championship [in the Le Mans Series] and we won the last race at Spa. It's getting better-and-better.
“[Compared to F1] the car is different to drive, the approach to the races is different; they're long-distance races, and you need to share the car with your team-mates. It's completely different.”
Fisichella, Vilander and Bruni – the latter a GT2 class-winner at Le Mans in 2008 – will begin the 79th edition of the race dubbed the toughest in the world to win from second on the GTE Pro class grid, and the erstwhile Minardi, Jordan, Benetton, Sauber, Renault, Force India F1 and Ferrari ace reckons AF Corse is in solid shape to challenge.
“I think we are good enough to do well,” he asserts. “I think the BMW is really strong too, though, so we'll see how the race pace is.”
And beyond that, will Giancarlo Fisichella return to Le Mans in 2012?
“I am a Ferrari driver and Ferrari has a good GT programme,” he concedes with a smile, “so I think we'll be here again...”