Should he harbour any hopes of taking victory for a second consecutive year, Benoît Tréluyer is well aware that first he must overcome the many hidden perils standing in a driver’s way at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Fortunately he has mastered a few tricks during his seven previous appearances there…
The temptation to chase ever faster lap times is a constant threat at Le Mans where the circuit can all too often bear its teeth to an overenthusiastic driver who asks too much of his machinery. Railing against the lure of speed requires both a mastery of oneself and perfect concentration. The biggest event in world motorsport cannot be won through impulsion or temper, but instead requires a well thought-out and pragmatic approach. Every second demands constant vigilance and caution. Despite this being his eighth appearance, the reigning winner understands the temptation is always there, be it bumping over a kerb to shave a couple of tenths or rushing to overtake a slower GT car. But he also knows one must retain their focus. Before defending his crown, Benoît reveals his personal pressures, the seven little sins standing between him and victory.
It is hard to accept but nevertheless crucial.
“The Le Mans 24 Hours is very unforgiving, especially when it comes to humility. One must not arrive at La Sarthe overly confident. No win is ever guaranteed, regardless of whether you have the world’s best car and preparation at your disposal.”
“You can’t have too much! It is absolutely fantastic to set pole position as we did last year, but one must not take too many risks in order to achieve it. You can’t take the chance of crashing the car and compromising the rest of your weekend. You have to restrain yourself, reign in the temptation and accept when to say ‘no’!”
“Obviously you want to be out front straight away but really this has little meaning. It is only when the sun rises that you know whether you can challenge for victory or not. Last year I started the race in the lead. While out on my own all was going well. I was running at my pace and in complete control until encountering traffic. That’s when I was nearly taken off by a Porsche. It’s in those instances that you have to control yourself and relax. It is hard to accept but nevertheless crucial. While you have to maintain a good pace to stay on the lead lap, it must be your own pace, without over-driving, and always looking after the car.”
“Cohesion within the driver line-up is key. You have to think about the others before yourself. In fact, you must not be selfish. You must work the car as little as possible in order to return it in the best shape for your team-mates and not overload the mechanics with work. You have to bring the car back to the pits in the same condition as you would want to receive it from your team-mates. It is important not to ride over the kerbs too often, wear the brakes too much and to look after the gearbox, etc.”
“It probably sounds obvious, but you cannot eat too much fat. That’s not always easy following a double or triple stint when you are feeling really hungry. You want a significant meal but you must resist the urge.”
“You can’t become distracted. Never. Although you must find ways to release pressure, you can’t take your eye off of the final objective. You must remain in the bubble that has been built day after day around your team-mates and the team. You have to remain focused throughout the week and not only during the race. For example, I forbid myself from eating at a friend’s – despite having many in the region – during Le Mans week. Nothing can distract your attention. You must also rest as much as possible, forcing yourself despite the attraction of wanting to follow the car’s progress when not behind the wheel. It’s important to relax so that you are in good shape the moment your stint begins. As well as his machinery, at dawn it’s important for the driver to be feeling fresh.”
“You cannot make unsporting gestures as they always backfire against you. Squeezing a GT car because it did not let you past or lacking respect for other cars and drivers are acts that you will always end up paying for. Some sports prototype drivers do not realise that racing in a GT car can be more difficult than in an LMP1. If you want to win, you must respect everyone.”
It is only by being alert to all of these potential pitfalls each time around the 13.629km-long Le Mans circuit, while remaining confident in his ability and that of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, that the Alençon-born driver will take the start of his eighth 24 Hours on June 16. It’s an eighth appearance that he hopes will bring much joy and happiness.