Rolex 24 review with Sascha Fassbender and Bobby Oergel

14 February 2024

January was all about the Rolex 24 at Daytona, our second race of the season and our first with the LMP2 Oreca 07. It was a dramatic race, full of twists and turns, and ultimately, we finished fourth, having run third for much of the event. It was frustrating to lose out on the podium, but now we look ahead to Sebring, the second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Sascha Fassbender, Inter Europol Competition, Team Manager & Bobby Oergel, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, Team Principal, reflect on the Relex 24 and the upcoming challenge of Sebring. 

Q) The Rolex 24 at Daytona was the first race of the season together as Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, an amalgamation of two teams. The performance to date is positive; tell us how it gels as a cohesive unit.

Sascha: “As Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, our performance in the Rolex 24 at Daytona marks a significant milestone in our journey as a combined entity. The amalgamation of two teams has brought together a wealth of experience, expertise, and resources, allowing us to operate as a cohesive unit on and off the track.

“One of the key aspects of our success thus far has been the seamless integration of personnel from both teams. Through effective communication, collaboration, and a shared commitment to excellence, we have been able to leverage each other’s strengths and mitigate any potential challenges that often arise when merging two entities. Our drivers, engineers, mechanics, and support staff have quickly adapted to working together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and unity that is essential for success in motorsport.

“Moreover, our combined resources have enabled us to field competitive cars and develop effective race strategies that capitalize on the strengths of both teams. The Rolex 24 at Daytona served as a testament to our ability to work together cohesively, as we showcased strong performance throughout the race, ultimately achieving positive results.

“Looking ahead, we are confident that our continued collaboration and synergy will further enhance our performance on the track and solidify our position as a competitive force in the racing world. With each race, we will build upon the foundation laid at Daytona, striving for even greater success as Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.

Bobby: “I feel as a group, it was a very positive beginning in how and what we can achieve together. Obviously, every team has different ways and practices of how they operate; what’s been super nice to have, is from the initial talks of how this could work. is both IEC and PR1 are excited and open to examining each other’s approaches, with the goal of improving both Programs as a whole.”

Q) Tell us about the Rolex 24. It was clear that while happy with P4, we felt we should have been on the podium Sunday, given our performance of the #52 Oreca. It was still a strong result with less than nine seconds covering the LMP2 class on the lead lap…

Sasha: “The Rolex 24 at Daytona was an exhilarating race that showcased the competitiveness and intensity of sports car endurance racing. As Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, we entered the race with high expectations and a determination to perform at our best.

“Our performance throughout the event was strong, particularly with the #52 Oreca. The car demonstrated impressive pace and reliability, allowing us to remain competitive throughout the gruelling 24-hour race. However, despite our strong showing, we found ourselves just shy of a podium finish, ultimately finishing in fourth place in the LMP2 class.

“While we were pleased with our result, there was a sense of disappointment knowing that we had the potential to secure a podium finish. This feeling was amplified by the incredibly tight competition in the LMP2 class, with less than nine seconds covering the cars on the lead lap at the end of the race. Every second counted, and the margins between success and narrowly missing out were incredibly slim.

“One of the defining moments of the race was a late-race restart, which presented us with an opportunity to challenge for a podium position. Despite our best efforts and a strong performance from our drivers and team, we were unable to make up the necessary ground to secure a podium finish in the closing stages of the race.

“Nevertheless, our fourth-place finish was a testament to the hard work, dedication, and skill of everyone involved with Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. It demonstrated our competitiveness and ability to contend with some of the best teams and drivers in the world of endurance racing.

“Moving forward, we will build upon the lessons learned from the Rolex 24 and continue to strive for excellence in all aspects of our racing program. With our determination, talent, and commitment to success, we are confident that we will achieve even greater results in the races to come.”

Bobby: “For sure, it hurts to not have been on the podium, as you’ve stated, with such a strong performance by all our drivers, crew and engineers, the opportunity was there for a podium. When it comes down to it, I am very pleased and proud of the whole program, I feel like had we not received side pod damage on that last restart, things would have been a bit different, but when it comes down to the bunched up restarts at the end like it did things can get a bit hectic for sure.”

Q) It’s fair to say we had some drama with the late edition of Pietro Fittipaldi to the team for the injured Clement Novalak. Stepping in cold, Pietro was a true professional – as ever – and did a great job. Tell us about how the team adapted to the Saturday morning adjustments.

Sascha: “The late addition of Pietro Fittipaldi to our team due to the injury of Clement Novalak certainly presented us with some unexpected challenges on Saturday morning. However, as a team, we demonstrated our ability to adapt and overcome adversity in the face of such circumstances.

“Despite the sudden change, Pietro Fittipaldi’s professionalism and experience were invaluable assets to our team. Despite stepping into the role with minimal preparation, Pietro seamlessly integrated into the team, demonstrating his skill behind the wheel and his ability to work effectively with our engineers and mechanics.

“The entire team rallied together to support Pietro and ensure that he had everything he needed to perform at his best. This included making any necessary adjustments to the car setup to accommodate his driving style and preferences, as well as providing him with the information and support he needed to quickly familiarize himself with our team dynamics and race strategy.

“The speed at which Pietro adapted to his new role is a testament to his talent and professionalism, as well as the strength and cohesion of our team as a whole. Despite the unexpected circumstances, we were able to maintain our focus and determination, ultimately delivering a strong performance on track.

“The Saturday morning adjustments required quick thinking and effective communication among our team members, and everyone rose to the occasion admirably. Our ability to come together and adapt to the situation is a testament to the strength of our team and our collective commitment to success.

“In the end, Pietro’s contribution played a crucial role in our performance at the Rolex 24, and we are grateful for his professionalism and dedication. His presence further highlighted the resilience and adaptability of Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, setting a strong foundation for future success.

Bobby: “First off, I am happy Clement’s injuries got diagnosed/understood so quickly and that he will quickly recover. As expected, Clement had done a superb job for us with his speed and reliability, so to lose him in the line-up was a tough blow for sure.

“I am very thankful to Pietro for accepting such a challenge of jumping in so last minute. With only having a few hours to talk through the plan and program for the biggest race of our championship, Pietro did a fantastic job. I truly want to thank everyone that helped make it happen that we could have Pietro with us for the Rolex 24.”

Q) We head to Sebring next. IEC raced there last year, obviously, in the FIA World Endurance Championship and finished P4. PR1 finished in the same position in IMSA, so there is a wealth of data to be combined. How do we approach this event, and what are your expectations?

Sascha: “Heading to Sebring presents us with an exciting opportunity to build upon our past experiences and leverage the wealth of data available from both Inter Europol Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports in IMSA.

“With both teams having achieved fourth-place finishes at Sebring in their respective series last year, we have valuable insights into the track characteristics, optimal setup configurations, and race strategies that have proven successful in the past. By combining this data and drawing upon the expertise of our engineers and drivers, we can develop a comprehensive approach to the event that maximizes our chances of success.

“Our approach will be multifaceted. First and foremost, we will focus on fine-tuning the setup of our cars to suit the unique demands of the Sebring circuit. This includes optimizing aerodynamic performance, suspension settings, and tyre strategies to ensure that our cars are competitive throughout the race.

“Additionally, we will carefully analyse our past performances at Sebring to identify areas for improvement and areas where we have excelled. This analysis will inform our race strategy, including pit stop timing, driver stints, and fuel management, with the goal of maximizing our performance while minimizing any potential risks or setbacks.

“Furthermore, we will emphasize effective communication and collaboration among our drivers, engineers, and support staff to ensure that we are able to quickly adapt to changing track conditions and unforeseen challenges that may arise during the event.

“As for expectations, we are confident in our ability to contend for a podium finish at Sebring. Building upon our strong performances in previous races and drawing upon the combined strengths of Inter Europol Racing and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, we believe that we have the talent, resources, and determination to achieve success at this iconic circuit.

“Ultimately, our goal is to deliver a performance that reflects the hard work and dedication of everyone involved with Inter Europol by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and to continue building momentum as a competitive force in the world of endurance racing.”

Bobby: “Myself and surely everyone involved here’s expectations are that we are in a position again to bring home the gold at the end of the 11th hour. The approach is a bit different as the Sebring race has a much different dynamic to it than Daytona and has always been unpredictable in what to expect.”

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