Sascha Maassen – Where Next?

dailysportscar.comSascha Maassen is the career leader in wins in the ALMS. Having worked his way up the racing ladder to where he is now, Sascha finds himself as the elder statesman among a bunch of young up and comers, but also at a career crossroads. He has achieved everything there is to achieve in the GT Class, but being a contracted Porsche driver, where does he go next? Gary Horrocks sat down with the GT Co-Champion at Road Atlanta……and asked some fairly searching questions.

When some of the up and coming Porsche drivers are under 20, even as young as 33 can appear to be old. Obviously you are not old, but do you feel old in comparison?

SM: “My team mates always try to give me this feeling. They try to convince me to retire that’s for sure! But I will not do them this favor. They still have to beat me on the track.”

Motivation – How do you keep it?

SM: “I don’t look at the record at all. Wins are past history, and I need to prove myself every day. I take it a race at a time and use my teammates to keep me motivated. I’m a competitive person and want to compete. Every race is a new one and I treat it that way. I want to win.

“I do admit that with having won the Championship twice, it is tough to do better. I can only lose. I need a different goal, but from driving with Job in the ALMS, everything else is a step down. Unfortunately, there is nothing left in the Porsche family for me to move to. If there was, I would be glad to go with it. Being with Porsche was and has been a dream for me and I never want to go away from them. I just hope they have something for me to move into in the future. Whenever I hear rumors about a prototype coming along, I ask at Porsche, but there is no good news. If they built a prototype, I would be happy to try it. I have another year on my contract with Porsche, so I could look elsewhere, but it would really have to be something special for me to even consider. I really have the best of everything right now, including security, but I really would like to move up.

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“I don’t feel like we are really appreciated. It is like the wins are expected of us. Other leaders should be shown or featured besides the overall leaders. I really feel that the GT class should get more attention as we make up half of the field. In the prototype class, you lose two laps and you drop to fourth. In GT, you lose two laps and you are 16th. The people who understand acknowledge our efforts, but it is difficult for the public to understand.”

(Those racing in third and fourth places and beyond might have a different view from your’s on this subject – exposure – Sascha. And if the battle for class wins was closer among yourselves and the opposition...as it has been between GM and Ferrari in GTS. Ed.)

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How difficult is it racing your own race when you always have to have an eye on the rear view mirror so you can stay out of the way of the faster Prototype and GTS cars?

SM: “It is not easy, but it is part of the job we do. And some are better at it than others. Staying out of trouble is not easy in the ALMS, but that’s what makes the series exciting. There is always action when four different classes are driving around each other.”

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You have had time racing prototypes, specifically the Konrad Lola, the Champion Lola-Porsche and the Barbour Reynard-Judd. Did that whet your appetite for racing in a prototype?

SM: “These prototype experiences were always very challenging to me, as I never had the chance to prepare myself and have a real testing program ahead of the race. I always had to jump in and do the job. As the races were always very important as well, my main focus was on not making any mistakes. I would like the opportunity to play with the car a little bit more and get more performance out of it.”

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So what is left for you to accomplish?

SM: “Overall wins and a class win at Daytona. My teammates sure let me know about Daytona. They’ll walk up to me and ask me the time, then say “oh, that’s right, you don’t have a watch.’ It would be nice to get me a Rolex.

dailysportscar.com“Racing the Daytona Prototype at Mt. Tremblant was really fun. It was an interesting weekend for me as I was racing at a track I have never been to, in a car that I have never been in. The Porsche Fabcar handled well, and had good power, but it is not really what I would consider a prototype. Performance wise, I would guess it would fall somewhere between a GT and a GTS car in the ALMS.”

Did you initiate getting the drive in the Daytona Prototype?

SM: “No, I actually wanted to drive for the team at Daytona this season, but the circumstances did not fall into place. This time I was approached and it was a big honor to me.”

Do you see any more drives in Grand Am next season?

SM: “For sure I want to do the 24 Hours of Daytona. But again my advantage of being a factory driver for Porsche restricts me in the choice of a drive there. So hopefully Porsche wants me to drive for a good team.”

Just how good is Alex Job Racing?

SM: “Really good. They have worked with Porsches for a long time now. They have the experience and the right attitude for racing: focused and composed.”

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With Alex Job Racing being supported and now designated as a factory team, how much more advanced or special is your equipment over what is available to other Porsche teams?

SM: “This is a good question. We have the same engines and cars as our competition. We do have an advantage in the gearbox, but that is available to the customers as well. Apart from that I had the only advantage of having the best team and the best team mate!

“And Alex Job is not a factory team but a factory supported team. Actually like many others in the series, such as Joest Audi.”

What I was getting at is that AJR is considered a factory team by IMSA, as far as points go. I realize that there is support from Porsche for your team, but other teams get support also. Why is AJR considered a “factory” team then?

SM: “AJR is not considered as a factory team by IMSA. They were able to get prize money and they did. But then Porsche decided that it is unfair for the other customers that AJR would get all the prize money and did not have to buy the cars and gets free material to test. So Porsche asked IMSA to consider them as a "factory supported private team" (official status at IMSA) so that the prize money would go to other private Porsche teams such as The Racer´s Group. But unfortunately the Ferrari now gets most of this money!”

Orbit, The Racer’s Group, Petersen / White Lightning and others have all enjoyed the use of factory drivers, and Champion Racing in the LMP 900 class allegedly cannot even start up their Audi without factory personnel being present. Yet all of these are considered as privateers. What exactly makes a team a factory team?

SM: “A real factory team is one like the Corvette team, where the whole program is paid for by the manufacturer or its sponsors and the decisions are made by the manufacturer as well. So the teams that you mentioned decide themselves if they want to have a factory driver. They are not obliged to use one. But they had better use one if offered… “

What do you think of the racing here in North America?

SM: “I love it. The ALMS is a great racing series. There are a lot of great, challenging tracks and a lot of competitive cars, well at least in the GT class.”

Have you got anything to say to those young up and coming drivers?

SM: “They are quick and they have a bright future ahead. I hope we will race each other for a few more years. And I hope they will first learn how to lose…”

 

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