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Dec 03, 2013 - 04:37 PM
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All Eyes On Tomorrow
Posted by: newsla on Dec 03, 2013 - 04:33 PM
American Le Mans Series News
All Eyes On Tomorrow


Benoît Tréluyer and his #1 Audi crew-mates Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer ended the 2013 season as they began it: standing on the podium following a hard-fought on-track battle. Despite some small gremlins the trio produced a spirited performance in the 6 Hours of Bahrain (30 November), and now have their sights firmly set on the future.

 

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The morning after the concluding round Benoît was already heading for Germany to begin preparations for the 2014 season. In fact work began on the new car several months ago, as the team looks to produce the best response to next season’s technical regulations. And while the drivers are yet to test it, the 2014 Audi LMP1 is already at an advanced stage of development. Their Ingolstadt factory will step up a gear now that the R18 e-tron quattro has said its final goodbye before joining some of the most glorious sportscars ever built in the marque’s museum.

The car certainly deserved to end its glittering career on the top step of the podium, but fate dealt a different hand in the Bahraini desert. Benoit’s team-mates in the #2 car, Tom Kristensen, Loïc Duval and Alan McNish, suffered their first retirement aboard an R18 e-tron quattro, while the #1 fought until the end despite battling some small issues.

“I joined the race with used tyres following André’s stint, which resulted in a significant increase in our lap times,” explained the Frenchman. “Initially I couldn’t make the rear tyres work due to oversteer. I started my second stint on fresh rubber, which felt better, though I still didn’t have full confidence in the car after what I’d encountered earlier. I took a bit of time to find my rhythm, and ended up catching the Toyotas.”

Fässler took over from Benoit and maintained the gap, showing excellent pace that put the crew in a strong position to make the most of their tyres when darkness brought with it cooler temperatures.

“We then decided to take a risk in order to beat Toyota, running double stints with the same set of tyres,” continued Benoit. “Unfortunately it didn’t pay off as we’d hoped, despite Marcel’s best efforts. He was very unlucky to receive a drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellow flags, as it was nearly impossible to see them after the sun had set! In fact, this concern was raised by Toyota on Friday.”

Between the penalty and the double stint, the #1 now found itself a minute behind the leading Toyota. The battle was over.

“We knew this race would be tough – and it most certainly was,” added Benoît. “We didn’t get a great deal wrong, but Toyota took a deserved victory. I think we did a top job and performed very well, but things can’t always go your way. We knew the Toyota would get more from its hybrid system at low speed, but the fight was still very close all weekend.”

With their runner-up finish the #1 crew concluded the season in Bahrain as they began it at Silverstone, having also taken race victories at Spa, Interlagos and Shanghai in between. That all adds up to what Benoît sees as a positive 2013 season, and one that is far from over yet.

“Between now and January 1 I’ll spend just three days at home,” he revealed. “There are prize-giving ceremonies, sponsor events and tests to attend, so we’ll have to wait until January to take some time off and relax! But that’s not important, as the excitement will overcome any tiredness. We haven’t tested our new car yet and cannot wait to do so. This winter will be crucial and we’ll need to switch to 2014-mode as quickly as possible in order to fully understand the new regulations.”

Brimming with cautious optimism, Benoît and his crew-mates can now switch their full attention to reclaiming the FIA World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours titles next season.


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