Marcel Fässler has reflected that it was 'a dream' for him to make history by becoming the first of his countrymen ever to triumph in the race dubbed the toughest in the world – the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours – and it was, he admits, 'something I will never forget for all of my life'.
Along with team-mates Benoît Tréluyer and André Lotterer, Fässler formed one third of the driving crew behind the wheel of the sole Audi R18 TDi to make it all the way to the chequered flag at La Sarthe last weekend, after the two sister cars were both eliminated from the action in terrifying high-speed shunts for Allan McNish and Mike 'Rocky' Rockenfeller that happily resulted in no major injuries.
The Swiss ace confesses that the crashes were tense moments for all concerned – and acknowledges that carefully steering the #2 car to victory was the perfect antidote to counter that disappointment.
“Sure, I think this is something that helps to forget that,” Fässler told Crash.net
with a smile. “[The accidents were] something nobody wants to see, but they happen, and I was really shocked when I saw them. I think the whole team was shocked, because at the first moment, we didn't know whose car it was [in the Rockenfeller incident] – and all-of-a-sudden we realised it was one of ours.
“We are really happy that both Allan and 'Rocky' are well and that all the people around these accidents have no injuries. Everyone is in a good, healthy condition, but we don't want to see those kinds of accidents anymore! We also have to say thanks to Audi for building such a safe and strong car, because when you crash at 300km/h and as heavily as 'Rocky' did, to get out with no injuries I think underlines the car's amazing construction, so thanks to all the security elements we have in this car.”
Safe, clearly, but the R18 TDi – in its first year of competition at Le Mans – was also palpably the class of the field in performance terms, and for the first time since arch-rival Peugeot returned to La Sarthe in 2007, it was the Ingolstadt manufacturer that had the upper hand in terms of outright speed. Fässler is quick to praise his employers for the work they have done in producing such a competitive car.
“We have to say the whole team did a fantastic job,” affirmed the 35-year-old, second at La Sarthe on his debut with Audi in 2010. “When you see we were the only car at the end from Audi against three Peugeots, it was so difficult. The car was just fantastic to drive all throughout the 24 hours, though, and we could always attack in every stint, which we had to do, otherwise we would not have won. Big thanks to all at Audi Sport for giving us the tools to win.
“To win by 13 seconds at the end after 24 hours was really something incredible! We never gave up. We were always under pressure, and we fought for the victory right the way to the end. The conditions made it even harder – I know what it's like to race on slick tyres in the rain. We have all worked so hard all year for this race, and to win it is something I will never forget for all of my life.
“It was always a dream for me to be here [on the top step of the podium]. Last year, I was close to doing it. I was looking to my left and thinking 'wow, this is something I really have to achieve'. To achieve it one year later is just amazing, especially when you consider that it was a hard and competitive race from the beginning. Just now, it's difficult to know what is actually happening. I think after I have slept, then I will realise what we have done here.
“It makes me really proud [to be the first Swiss driver to prevail at Le Mans], because we have Jo Siffert, who was one of the best endurance drivers in the seventies, and many times he tried to win here but never got the luck. Some other Swiss drivers tried as well – so to be the first one to win makes it even more special.”