In Part 2, we get into the details as Fabio talks more about the calendar ahead, the emotions of Le Mans, and the WEC itself.
If you haven’t read Part 1 of this sequence, then take a read right now as he reflected on the past two years of his single-seater career and DTM.
He also gave an insight to how the deal with United Autosports came to paper, and his further thoughts on his teammates – this and more in Part 1!
Q: Since your announcement in December, the opening round changed from the 1000 Miles of Sebring to the 8 Hours of Portimão. Could I get your thoughts on that?
“It’s sad that we don’t go to Sebring because to be honest, I heard a lot of good things about the track and I’ve never raced in America, so that would have been a cool thing.
“But on the purely driving side, Portimão is better, for me, because I drove there. I have some experience there. I tested there with Formula 3. So from this point of view, it’s an advantage because I quite like the track. It’s for sure, not bad.
“It would have been cool to go to the USA, Sebring, to try that traditional track but I can’t tell you if it’s really bad or better – for me, would say it’s better that we are in Portimão than in Sebring.”
Q: Do you have any favourite parts or complexes of the Portimão track that you enjoy?
“There are some that I enjoy – I really like to the end of the track [where] it’s a bit like an upside-down section, a bit of a rollercoaster. You arrive down and up, you don’t see the corner then it comes up to a double right-hander downhill again – and that’s a really cool part of the track as well. I quite like it.”
Q: How are you preparing yourself for this new multi-class element of racing?
“To be honest, I think we are not that much behind the (Le Mans) Hypercars. Let’s see how the difference is but what I’ve heard, it’s not that far off.
“But for sure with the GT cars, with that much difference of lap-time per lap, you lap them quite often. I think, for me, I would compare it to a Saturday karting where you have like five categories around.
“You know it’s freely-open and everyone can drive, then you have shifters, normal, juniors and I would compare it a bit like that.”
Q: So, as far as the Portimão pre-season testing (the Prologue), what will you do and why is testing so important?
“Testing is really important, even the private ones that we have.
“The main thing, on the first day, is usually that everything fits – the seat, the pedals, everything is fine – then you can drive for a long time. Then the next thing is to get used to the car, then you start with the fine-tuning – tyre wear, brake wear, fuel-saving.
“Then you go into the topics on how you can adapt and not lose too much lap-time, and be efficient on those things. And the setup is something you work on and adapt – useful for the engineers to find out what the drivers need, how the engineers need to adapt the setup (relative) to the driver’s communication.
“For the whole complex, to understand each other, you’d go through topics and custom to the setups. When you have a new car, it’s much more difficult because you don’t know anything about the car, but when the car’s setups are quite sorted, it gets easier for new drivers.”
Q: Would you say you are on the technical side of things as far as driver-to-engineer feedback?
“I’m more on the instinctive side, with how I complete the debrief, but I know a bit about it (the technical side) – for me, it is important to know to how these things work, the technicals.
“Sometimes if you know exactly what it is that you arrive to the pit and tell them ‘I need one whole less rear wing,’ as an example, or ‘a bit off the front wing 20mm’ or whatever.
“Sometimes if you can do that, it’s fine, but when you tell that precise [measurement], you need to be true, otherwise it’s better to tell the engineer like ‘I have understeer entry in this corner, or oversteer,’ you know.
“It’s sometimes better this way or sometimes other one (alternating between the two).”
Q: Are there any particular rounds that you are looking forward to?
“To be honest, I don’t know all of the race tracks (as in some he has not been to) – they are mega, old-school quick – as the quicker the track, the better it is. So that’s, for sure, good.
“Monza’s good (6 Hours of Monza). I’ve never been to Fuji (another six-hour race) and Bahrain (a six hour season finale race) but I think Fuji is mega, Bahrain is not too bad as well.
“And Le Mans, for sure – Le Mans is the best thing in the world I guess. I’ve never been there, but from what I heard and what I follow on TV, I think it’s the biggest race in the world.”
Q: One particularly stands out which is Le Mans, the third round into the season which happens to be your birthday weekend (June 13th). What are your thoughts ahead of that particular race?
“For sure you have some respect on it – at Le Mans doing 320-330 [km/h] at night. It’s quite edgy I would say on the normal road.
“So, for sure, it’s easier but at a certain point you are a tiny bit scared but in a good way, and it’s difficult at 13 kilometres, the track, so that’s like double of a normal race track. The approaches that you need to first get grip on – you need to know where the track goes, a lot of preparation on the sim and so on.”
Q: Interesting that you mention the length, that 3/4 of the track is public road. I hear that kind of road, because it is not treated like most race tracks are, can make it bumpy and especially dusty offline?
“Yeah exactly. You know, a race track is normally clean and perfect, and you have more bumps [and] more holes – less perfect. For sure, it’s more difficult.”
Q: Being in the LMP2 class, the only category most likely to lap you often is the Hypercars. How will you manage being lapped?
“I think firstly, you need to get used to it. To be honest, Le Mans 24 is going to be a bit different usually, so you need to think different, you need to think for the long-term and that’s a bit different approach.
“At the certain point that they lap you, then you need to be aware of [them], and look so you don’t crash with them, you know, give them enough space to lap you.”
Q: Between now and then, how will you prepare yourself for Le Mans, even if it is a long way away?
“At the end [of the day], you prepare [for it] like any race but [with] Le Mans, it’s more simulator and I think sleep-wise it’s quite important to be spot on, and to also be ready with your body (physically and mentally) – how to recover from the driving and be ready as quick as possible for the next stint – all these kind of things, you need to discuss and look into before.
“But I think that’s a point when you start with the team and the race track, I never made too many thoughts about it.”
Q: So far in your career, the maximum duration for the races have been…?
“One hour (or 55 minutes plus one lap in DTM).”
Having only raced in the single-seater championships and DTM, this upcoming campaign will be his most extensive with races ranging from the six hour races at Monza, Fuji and Bahrain, up to the 8 Hours of Portimão opening round.
At the six hour races, he will be driving for a required minimum of 1hr and 15m, but Fabio will be driving more as to work with his team-mates.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will elevate these driving times up to a minimum of six hours, along with no longer than four hours of consecutive driving time.
Q: Have you prepared yourself emotionally for the experience?
“For sure, I think it will be emotional but you know when you arrive to the track and see everything for the first moment/[time], it will be like – it’s mega.
“At the moment, sometimes I look at some videos, replays to smarter [myself] about the racing style and approaches – then it’s still quite calm.
“When you arrive to the track and you see it for the first time, it’s like ‘wow’ then you get fascinated about it but in pre-event [situations], I’m usually quite relaxed about it – getting closer to the event and building it up.”
Q: When the time does come, you’ll be defending a victory since United are the reigning winners at the race. What’s your mindset and approach for that it, even if it is months away?
“You know, the dream is to win Le Mans but Le Mans is Le Mans and you never know what is going to happen, if it’s rainy or you’ll face technical issues, or if someone has a crash, or if someone hits you from the back, it’s so so much of confidence that needs to fit together.
“It’s crazy so for sure, it’s a different approach and you need to look from corner-to-corner, from lap-to-lap, from stint-to-stint. It’s like you should not focus too much on the global end, but for sure, the target or the dream is to win Le Mans and if you can do that, it’s one of the biggest things you can win.”
Q: I’ll ask you when you do [win]! What do you prefer, racing in the day or racing in the night?
“You know, it always depends a bit on the car and how the car works, but overall day racing is quite good as well, at the end it’s always good you know – it’s like everything has an advantage and a disadvantage – driving around lunchtime (midday) is quite cool as well.”
Q: I’ve heard a lot of good things about Spa-Francorchamps, as you hinted a little before. What can you say about it? What are your thoughts about Spa?
“Spa is quite good. [At] Spa, I did my first podium in FIA Formula 3. For me, I always like to go there.”
Q: What kind of characteristics would you attribute to this circuit?
“It’s quick, you have different corner approaches, it’s unique-feeling, it’s (it has) up and downs (ascents/descents) so that’s quite cool.”
Q: Le Mans Hypercars is an interesting new thing this year. You haven’t technically even done LMP2 yet, but what are your thoughts on LMH?
“The big target for me is to get to LMDh or to Hypercars and that’s what I hope to be my future because the system [and] how it goes, entries with the factory teams are…it’s really nice, so it’s really the target to achieve and I work on it.”
Q: United Autosports have a numerous other sportscar commitments. Would you be interested in doing any of them even if you’ve just joined the WEC lineup?
“Asia is quite interesting (reference to their new ALMS campaign). You know, motorsport is [something] you can do everywhere, and has some really good platforms all over the world, but the focus is clearly WEC.”
Q: You’re silver [licensed] driver. Do you pay attention to the bronze drivers and make pre-judgements or does that not happen?
“Licensing is always a bit freaky sometimes, who is who, but for sure sometimes there are gentlemen drivers where you need to take a bit more care on track, and to pro-drivers. I think overall, everyone driving at Le Mans drives at quite a good level.”
The GTE-Am class of 13 cars includes a blend of bronze, silver and gold drivers – as the Amateur element suggests.
New for Season 9 will be an LMP2-Am category which will involve their own fight for the LMP2-Am Trophy for Drivers’ and Teams’.
This followed an attempt last year to mandate at least one Bronze driver in every LMP2 squad and only a day of backlash led to this sub-category alternate which has five competitors.
Q: Are there any particular corners or complexes at Le Mans (Circuit de la Sarthe) that you are looking forward to?
“Yeah, I think the Porsche Curves and the (Mulsanne) chicanes – they are mega. I’m looking forward to those sections for sure.”
Q: So what will you be doing in the meantime ahead of Portimão which is two months away?
“For sure, I’ll be training in the gym quite a bit focusing on endurance, cardio etc. Over the weekends, I usually go for skiing.”
Alongside motorsport, Scherer was a professional skier and has acknowledged the requirements of motorsport like familiarising with the supposedly complex machinery (cars etc.) and their characteristics.
The 21-year-old Swiss will be joining United Autosports at the Autodromo do Algarve, the host of the Season 9 pre-season testing on March 30-31, followed by the opening round on April 4.
Before then, private testing and preparations can be conducted in good time and conditions despite the pandemic, as fellow LMP2 teams like Inter Europol Competition and Richard Mille Racing have started doing.
Scherer will be making his sportscar and WEC debut in the hot seat as the #22 United Autosports squad look to defend their LMP2 title crowns against 12 other LMP2s.