The Swiss driver for United Autosports reflected on his rookie year in the WEC after a challenging Le Mans, and prior to the double-header in Bahrain.
Amongst all the thrilling action this year in the WEC, LMP2 became the go-to-category with more competition relative to recent years.
A combination of youth, experience and talent across the driver line-ups formulate gripping fights and wheel-to-wheel racing at every race so far.
Amongst them was endurance rookie Fabio Scherer, who replaced Paul Di Resta in the #22 United Autosports Oreca 07.
He won on debut at Spa back in May, missed out on a drive in Portimao due to a late-COVID positive test, and won at Monza after three months out of the car.
In an interview with Last Lap, he reflects on his debut into the discipline, standing on the overall podium in his second race, and about the 24 Hours of Le Mans which turned dramatic for the team.
The 22-year-old’s recent motorsport career resided with FIA European Formula 3, then a challenging debut into DTM last year.
It had been three years since he stood on the podium, and it happened to be at the same circuit he returned on the top step with then-new teammates Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque.
Looking back, he describes them as “easy to work with” and draws on the experience and support from Albuquerque which helped him learn the aspects of the discipline.
“He is open-minded and can help you quite well, and that’s a really positive thing.
“And that, for me, felt quite comfortable and [he] helped bring me in (the performance) as quick as possible. That’s one of those things that made life a bit easier.”
Just after his 6 Hours of Spa debut, he stated how himself and the LMP2 reigning Drivers’ Champions were “on the same wavelength” in terms of the car setup feedback.
Naturally, this has fed onto the circuit at every race weekend with Scherer joining Albuquerque and Hanson through channelling similar pace during Free Practice and indeed where it counts most – the races.
He explains the “surprisingly positive” shock to his sportscar prejudices, particularly enjoying traffic management from the seat of the LMP2 cockpit.
“Before I ever [drove], I felt a bit like ‘Is that not boring to drive around for so many hours?’
“Then suddenly, I drove for the first time in traffic.
“It’s super cool to drive endurance racing through traffic and overtake the GTEs.”
Round 4 delivered to be one of the motorsport highlights of 2021 – the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 22-year-old spoke of his first time at one of the world’s most valuable motorsport events.
“It was amazing. The circuit feels epic to drive.”
One new aspect for him was racing at night, especially with most of the Circuit de la Sarthe in the dark from the usual floodlights most modern tracks have. And it was the sensations which Scherer loved.
“Everything feels a bit quicker and you feel like in heaven. That’s a huge difference (to the daytime).
“[…] these cars with this amount of speed, with the engine noise, with the neon light in the cockpit.
“You don’t see a lot, but you see just where you go and that feels so cool.”
United Autosports were keen to defend their Le Mans win from last year, and looked to be on course having performed smoothly in all of the Free Practice sessions as well as ending at the sharper end of all the timesheets.
Qualifying and the race itself, however, did not go as planned for one of LMP2’s hot favourites.
Scherer said how the car was easily capable of getting through to Hyperpole which required the top-six fastest of the first session – even the ultimate pole position.
Despite the session being an hour, 62 cars all fought for space to set their times.
Needless to say, many were impeded by congestion whilst others were lucky.
The #22 were impeded five times during their attempts and were all left frustrated.
A 3m30.234s was their best shot as the other two United cars made it through to Hyperpole… just.
Fast-forward to the start of the race, it began raining and it was a gamble between starting on intermediates or full-wet tyres.
Albuquerque commenced a tricky start on the inters, but after four hours the #22 was seventh in-class, and jumped to third in-class after four more hours, behind the two WRTs.
By this point, Scherer had already driven a few stints and was enjoying the delve into darkness – keeping the momentum in the final podium spot.
During the night, the rain drizzled down again so driving on slicks was a particular challenge, Scherer recalls.
After 13 hours, the #22 was running a comfortable third in LMP2 before the alternator failed with Scherer behind the wheel, resulting in a 1-hour-and-30 minute-long garage repair job.
The crew did make it to the end of the race, finishing an undesired 18th in-class and 40th overall.
Pace was never the primary issue, as he explains.
“We were unlucky with a situation we couldn’t handle (the lack of control to prevent the situation rather than the repair job).”
Approaching the end, the #22 was lapping over half-a-second faster than both of the WRT entries, albeit 36 laps down.
Despite the challenges, the Swiss youngster valued every inch, and every moment of the Le Mans experience.
“I would do it all again for sure,” he ponders with a smile.
Heading to the conclusion of his first season, the WEC will be hosting their first-ever double-header in Bahrain.
- ELMS champion Robert Kubica to race at Bahrain double-header with High Class Racing
- LMP2 Le Mans winner Milesi joins two-time LMC champion Horr at Bahrain Rookie Test
- Details of first-ever Bahrain double-header confirmed by WEC
It will be Scherer’s first time in the desert at a circuit which has appeared every season since 2012.
For himself, and Albuquerque, missing the Portimao race put them out of contention for the drivers’ championship.
United are fourth in the LMP2 Teams’ Standings as Hanson is fourth in the Drivers’ order.
Scherer shared his aims and thoughts ahead of the first six-hour leg on 30 October, followed by his first eight-hour race on 6 November.
“At Le Mans, we were more or less the quickest and every race before, then [I don’t see] why we should not be the quickest in Bahrain again.
“For me, it’s double (victories) because we want to win the Teams’ Championship.
“So that means we need two wins, then we are safe, then it doesn’t matter what other cars (opponents) are doing.
“And that’s our plan and for us… if we were not unlucky this season, we would lead by far now so we need to just perform like we did because [all] those races I did, we were super quick so if we keep that pace up, it should be fine in Bahrain as well.
“So it’s a lot about that, and doing our job right, and being patient and calm…”
Scherer was unphased ahead of his first eight-hour race which will run into the evening, having just completed the mighty Le Mans.
He is yet to re-sign with the team ahead of the expected changes to the sportscar driver licence ranking which will be clarified soon.
In the meantime, Scherer, Albuquerque and Hanson will pursue their outright objective to defend their crown as LMP2 Teams’ Champions and finish the season on a high.