A familiar, regular and popular face in the Blancpain Endurance Series is Swiss Gentlemen driver, Pierre Hirschi. The reigning Gentlemen Trophy champion has remained at Sainteloc Racing for 2013 and is getting to grips with the updated Audi R8 LMS ultra in an increasingly expanding and competitive class within the Blancpain Endurance Series. He took time out from his business commitments in Switzerland to speak to us ahead of the Paul Ricard round next weekend.
How is your 2013 season going so far?
“Well, I have to admit that the beginning of the season did not go very well for us, especially compared to last year, when we had great results and eventually won the Gentlemen’s Trophy title. This year, we had an electric problem at Monza, so I could not drive in qualifying or during the race, and at Silverstone, we finished pretty far away. The problem is that the Audi R8 LMS Ultra is difficult to drive for Gentlemen Drivers. So, in the end, it is a bit more complicated for us to be as good this year!”
How is it going with the team and your teammates this season so far?
“Actually, this is the fourth year that I have been driving with Sainteloc Racing so I know the team really well. I am going to share the cockpit with Claude-Yves Gosselin this year, and he is a great guy, with whom there is a perfect harmony, so this is great. At Monza Marc Sourd was our third man, at Silverstone we were only two, so we will see what we have at Paul Ricard!”
You are used to driving an Audi R8, but you seem to think that it became really hard to drive for Gentlemen Drivers this year, can you explain?
“There was a time when the Audi R8 LMs ultra was an easy car to drive for the Gentlemen drivers, but since we have had to put the new kit on it, it is much more complicated to drive than a Ferrari, for instance! This car is really efficient for a quick driver, but harder in GTR but still it is a good challenge for us.”
What are your expectations for Paul Ricard? What do you think about the track itself?
“We really hope that we will be able to get as close as possible to the podium. Obviously it will also depend on our third teammate that we will have. However, we have to be realistic, the main handicap of the Audi is power, and Paul Ricard is a demanding track for the engine, so it might be a bit difficult for us. I have to say that Paul Ricard is not my favourite track! There are a lot of runoff areas, this is a new generation track, and I prefer circuits like Spa, Silverstone or Nurburgring.
This is not your first year in Blancpain Endurance Series. Do you think this season is different from the previous ones?
“I think that this year, the level is higher in every category, in PRO as in PRO AM, and especially in Gentlemen Trophy. There are much more cars in the GTR category this year than the previous years. In my opinion, some of the Gentlemen Drivers are not ‘real Gentlemen Drivers’ because for me, a Gentleman goes to work in his company during the week, and does not dedicate his life to driving. But for sure, the level of the competition did increase a lot in each of the categories, as well as the number of cars. And I think this is great for this Blancpain Endurance Series.”