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Apr 15, 2014 - 04:14 PM
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Ready to Roar!
Posted by: newsla on Apr 15, 2014 - 04:12 PM
Le Mans News
Ready to Roar!


The FIA World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone pits the three LMP1 contenders – reigning champions Audi, established challengers Toyota and returnees Porsche – against each other for the first time in 2014. Ahead of round one, Benoît Tréluyer looks back at winter testing, considers Audi’s chances of retaining their crown, and assesses the strength of his long-standing relationship with team-mates Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer.

 

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Entering the new season, the Frenchman’s thirst for action feeds off several exciting prospects. The championship is entering a new era, the pace shown by Audi in testing looks promising and Benoît’s links with his loyal partners are stronger than ever.

“I’ve extended my partnerships with KTM, GT Bicycles, SRAM and Xbox One,” Tréluyer beams. “The strong relationship I share with the latter has been reinforced further through my ambassadorial duties with the ‘Forza Motorsport 5’ racing simulation, and both logos will be appearing on my helmet and overalls. I frequently use the game for training and will compete on Xbox Live against other players online throughout the season.

“Over the winter, I was delighted to sample the Andros Trophy ice racing series and I’m already considering returning next year! With testing going well with Audi, the off-season was running smoothly until I heard of the sad loss of my friend Michel Raffaelli.”

An Oreca team member and co-founder of the Signature squad, Raffaelli passed away in early January at the age of 49. “He was such a great guy,” says Benoît. “His passion for motor racing was matched only by his kindness and cheerful personality. Alongside other drivers, I think Michel should be honoured this year, and that is why I have decided to display a small version of his logo on my helmet. My thoughts are with his wife Céline, daughter Léa and his entire family. I’m sure Michel will race by my side all season and I dedicate my 2014 campaign to him.”

So substantial are the 2014 WEC technical changes that this weekend’s Silverstone round marks an entirely new chapter in the series’ short history. “The goal remains to go as fast as possible, albeit by using the least amount of fuel, hence the radical options each manufacturer has chosen,” Tréluyer explains. “Let’s not forget that the Le Mans 24 Hours is still the blue riband event and that we’re dealing with new technologies. The new Audi is undoubtedly a thoroughbred. I have never raced a car with such driveability! Importantly, our grip levels aren’t compromised, whether cornering at high or low speed. This is certainly the most nimble prototype I’ve ever driven,” the 2012 champion insists.

This only reinforces Audi as the favourites ahead of a much-anticipated battle with Toyota and newcomers Porsche. “It feels good to be tipped as favourites, yet past performance is no guarantee of future success,” Benoît cautiously predicts.

Tréluyer does acknowledge however that the cohesion within Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich’s team will play a major part. “All of the engineers, mechanics and drivers are familiar with each other. Therefore our team is extremely strong, especially within the driver line-ups. We have always helped each other before and I think this will prove particularly crucial this season. That’s what I truly like about endurance racing.”

Such solidarity was on display during winter testing in Austin, Texas, and Paul Ricard, France. “We’ve been even more studious compared to previous years because of the technical regulations overhaul,” Benoît confirms. “We’ve always worked closely with the designers but this season our input has been sourced from the very beginning. It was similar to starting from scratch because of the number of systems that needed acclimatising to. The new car and the hybrid system may look familiar, but there are still plenty of new functions and settings in terms of electronics and energy management. The input from the driver has increased dramatically, with various parameters that can be tweaked directly from the cockpit.”

The opening round at Silverstone should shed some light on the pecking order, although the intense rate of development means that this will fluctuate during the season. “I think WEC is close to Formula One in terms of technology and driving pleasure, and even ahead in some areas,” Benoît concludes. “Therefore, I am not surprised to see Mark Webber joining us and I’m sure other grand prix drivers will follow in his footsteps. Of course, this is great news for the championship.”

A championship that has been growing in popularity since its inception in 2012, WEC enters its most exciting and unpredictable season so far when the green flag drops this Sunday.

6 Hours of Silverstone schedule:

Friday 18 April
Free Practice 1: 11:55
Free Practice 2: 15:55

Saturday 19 April
Free Practice 3: 09:00
Qualifying: 12:00

Sunday 20 April
Race: 12:00


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