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Aug 01, 2014 - 06:46 AM
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Ardennes Adventure Turns To Anguish
Posted by: newsla on Aug 01, 2014 - 06:44 AM
Le Mans News
Ardennes Adventure Turns To Anguish


Despite making a strong debut at the world’s most famous GT race alongside regular FIA WEC team-mates and close friends André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler, Benoît Tréluyer was ultimately denied the podium finish that for so long looked likely at last weekend’s 24 Hours of Spa.

 

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Prior to the start, Ingolstadt’s renowned FIA World Endurance Championship trio had little inclination of what to expect. Even though adapting to Belgian Audi Club Team WRT’s #2 R8 LMS ultra went smoothly, the race’s opening stints had been earmarked as an opportunity for further fine tuning. Unfortunately, their plan didn’t take into account the numerous and frequent caution periods that began soon after the start.

“I was amazed by the number of drivers who lacked significant experience,” explained Benoît. “GT3 cars are difficult to handle, while Spa is definitely for seasoned campaigners. Corners such as Eau Rouge and Blanchimont demand respect, so I’m not surprised that so many incidents took place on these areas of the track. We decided to be cautious at the start, even though we were losing significant time. However, we wanted to ensure we were still competing on Sunday morning, so that – as at Le Mans – we could start attacking.”

Following a prolonged period of stoppages, the race began to settle down with many drivers getting into the groove as darkness descended.

“My first stint didn’t go as planned,” continued Benoît. “I felt like I had no grip, and due to my lack of confidence was lapping two seconds slower than usual! To be honest, I felt a bit low when I jumped out. However, after resuming at 5am following some much needed rest, I was almost immediately matching the fastest times and building my confidence once again. I subsequently discovered that I had a poor set of tyres during my first stint.”

But just as the trio had worked their way into prime position at the start of Sunday afternoon, their podium hopes were dashed while lapping the #63 car, which was subsequently awarded a drive-through penalty. Despite Benoît repeatedly flashing his lights before diving down the inside for the pass at La Source, the Mercedes continued to turn in, with the resulting contact necessitating rapid repairs to the Audi’s damaged steering column.

“Obviously that was incredibly disappointing as we had done everything possible to avoid such an incident,” lamented the triple Le Mans 24 Hours winner. “But the team did an extraordinary repair job that allowed us to finish the race. We resumed our attack afterwards – if for nothing but pride – while continuing to amass experience. After all, you never know what might happen in the closing stages!”

Despite Tréluyer, Fässler and Lotterer finishing 12th overall, they were nevertheless able to take great satisfaction from their 24 hours of pure adventure.

“I will always cherish my memories of working with the WRT team,” Benoît concluded. “They’re an impressive organisation with a real family atmosphere. I’ve spent a fantastic week with Marcel and André, while it’s also been a pleasure working alongside a number of Audi drivers who we hadn’t previously, such as Laurens Vanthoor, Markus Winkelhock, Rene Rast, Christopher Mies, Frank Stippler and James Nash.”

The Frenchman’s adventures continue on August 21-23 on a loaned KTM motorcycle with which he’ll compete in the ‘Aveyronnaise Classic’, a 700km off-road endurance race held in the Aveyron region. “It’s just for fun, so I’m going to take it steady,” he added.

However, Benoît will have to wait until September 18-20 before getting back behind the wheel of his Audi R18 e-tron quattro when the FIA WEC season resumes in Austin, Texas.

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