Finishing the season in style – with only a few blemishes. Switzerland’s Giorgio Maggi together with team-mates Struan Moore and Fabian Schiller contested the final race weekend of the 2016/17 Asian Le Mans Series at the Sepang International Circuit. After setting the fastest time in the second free practice session on the Formula 1 track, their Race Performance team qualified third, putting them in a handy position to challenge for victory. Despite a collision at the start and subsequent technical problems, Maggi and his co-drivers performed heroics to extract the maximum out of their car during the four-hour race at Sepang.
Giorgio, your team took second place in the final race of the season. Are you satisfied with the result?
It’s always great to make any sort of podium appearance, but I’m pretty sure that we could have gone for the win. When we set the best time in the second free practice session, we showed that we had the straight-line speed to win the race. We were quick off the mark right from the start of the weekend. Respect to the team for setting up the car just right.
You had your best qualifying of the season and missed out on pole position by only two tenths of a second…
Yes, the whole team did a fantastic job. Struan was behind the wheel for the 15-minute qualifier and was improving from lap to lap, gradually closing the gap on the two leaders. Ultimately, though, I don’t think we could have improved on third place. On our fastest lap, we had two sector best times, so we really did squeeze the maximum out of our car. However, we also knew that we would be fast in a clean race.
Unfortunately, that clean race was denied to you. Right at the start, you lost a few places. Tell us what happened…
I was the first of us three behind the wheel, and I drove a double stint. I got off to a great start, overtook the second-placed car on the inside and immediately launched an attack on the pole-sitter. He was on the outside and I stayed inside. Going into Turn 1, I took the kerbs hard to leave enough space. But he slightly cut the corner which meant I couldn’t avoid catching him a glancing blow on the rear right-hand tyre. He lost control of his car and spun round. I also had to drive a long trajectory and lost some positions in the process.
After the collision, you had to contend with a few problems. What happened there?
For the entire four hours, we were struggling with worryingly high radiator temperatures. The team responded immediately and changed some settings. From then on, I was driving without a limiter and had to avoid overrevving the engine, especially when changing down. That was a big problem, and I had to adapt my entire driving style to the special circumstances.
In the final stint, your team threw caution to the wind and went all out on attack…
Yes, a few laps before the end, the team told Struan to push the engine to the limit, even though we all knew we were taking a big risk. Everyone in the garage was looking at the various readings – we were especially concerned about the water and oil temperature. Fortunately, everything worked out OK, and Struan put in a magnificent performance to take second place. That was quite some achievement.
You can now look back on your first season in an LMP2 car. How would you sum it up?
I enjoyed every single race weekend. It was great fun to at last drive a car that has superb aerodynamics and performance – a real racing car. I got on really well with my team-mates. Our working relationship was highly professional, but at the same time we had a lot of fun together. Massive praise also for the entire Race Performance team. Everyone did a fantastic job and was motivated down to their fingertips. I achieved my personal objective of learning as much as possible. As I’m hoping to compete in the LMP2 class of the ELMS next season, it was very important for me to acquire plenty of experience from the Asian races. I want to be on song right from the off when testing starts for the new season.