It may be one of the world’s most iconic motorsport events, but there’s so much more to Le Mans than just a race...
As Benoît Tréluyer prepares for the 83rd edition of the French endurance classic, where he hopes to be fighting for his fourth victory, the Frenchman takes us on a journey through his Le Mans experience.
1. Settling in
First priority is to get myself settled in the small bungalow the team provide for me, and start to focus on what lies ahead. It’s like my sanctuary between the real world and Le Mans.
2. Visiting my parents
Outside of racing, my annual trip to Le Mans gives me the opportunity to visit my parents at their house. Apart from the odd shower, the weather is normally good at this time of year in Alençon so we can enjoy a nice barbecue as a family.
3. Going to Scrutineering
This is the first time we get to meet the fans – but these are not your usual spectators. The people that come to ‘pesage’ are genuine experts on the 24-hour event, so no room for small talk there! And it’s lovely to see the same faces year-in, year-out.
4. Eating sushi
Marcel [Fässler], André [Lotterer] and I found a great little place during our first race for Audi back in 2010, and we go back every year. Want a clue on the restaurant’s whereabouts? It’s near the train station!
5. Getting reacquainted with Circuit de La Sarthe
Le Mans’ unique layout in terms of speed and corner sections is something that should never be taken lightly! Every time I tackle my first lap, I do so with humility and respect for the circuit.
6. Shaking Henri’s hand
I never plan to meet up with Henri (Pescarolo) at Le Mans, but I trust fate to make our paths cross over the course of the event. He is still something of a mentor to me so it’s always a tremendous pleasure to be reunited with him.
7. Bringing back memories
Driving around La Sarthe always makes me reminisce about my good and bad memories of the track. When I come to the Ford chicane for example, I remember overtaking the Peugeot on the outside there in 2011. Or when travelling through the Esses, I distinctly recall my 2009 experience when I went flying off track. But I also have fond memories of seeing all the French flags waving at Arnage when I raced the 2002 ‘Équipe de France’ Viper.
8. Catching up with friends
I began my career as a driver with the help of the Le Mans-based Elf Scholarship School, so racing at La Sarthe is always a good opportunity to see my old friends and partners. I love going back to my roots like this and always make sure I spend some time with them while I’m there.
9. Paying tribute to our heroes
Along with Henri Pescarolo, I thoroughly enjoy chatting to the legends of Le Mans like Jacky Ickx or Derek Bell, as well as my good friend and team-mate of many years, Tom (Kristensen).
10. The drivers’ parade
The parade is always a lot of fun; it’s a great opportunity to interact with the spectators, and really creates a feeling of togetherness. Something that has become far too rare in motorsport these days!
11. Watching the start of the race
When I am not starting the race myself the best place to be is in the garage with the guys, watching the cars as they exit the Ford chicane to the famous music. It’s a really magical sight, and a true moment of release after the stress of all the build-up! The fan in me loves experiencing it all from the sidelines.
12. Having a coffee with Marcel
When André is behind the wheel, Marcel and I need only glance at one another to know that it’s time for a coffee behind the garage. And of course we only talk about the race!
13. Watching the sunset
Watching the sun set from the cockpit is one of my personal favourite moments of the race. You enter a whole new dimension: the night! I enjoy radio silence at this time, as it’s when I feel the most connected to the event.
14. Speaking to Dr. Ullrich
I always benefit from my little chats with Dr. Ullrich. They’re never long, just a few words to see where we are in terms of strategy or to check what the other cars are doing.
15. Enjoying the silence
I know that being in contact with the team over the radio is hugely important, but sometimes I like some quiet time during the race. My engineer Leena Gade knows that so she allows me a bit of silence when possible.
16. Following live timing in the garage
For any driver, Le Mans comes down to four things: driving, eating, sleeping, and massages. In the moments in between I like to take a break, sit in the garage and watch the lap times.
17. Being a night owl
When you’re not in a heated battle and there isn’t too much pressure, you can really appreciate the beauty and magic of the night. With no distractions on the track you feel totally immersed in it. It’s a very serene experience.
18. Hitting the shower
Us drivers know we’re lucky to even get them seeing as the rest of the crew don’t, but there’s something very comforting about being able to shower before getting into bed – if you sleep that is!
19. Bumping into your team-mate
When your team-mate wakes up to take over in the car and you’re ready to go for a rest, there’s a chance to have a quick chat about the car, the race and things to look out for. These moments are actually the only times we see each other through the night!
20. Enjoying the wee hours
You can have a real blast when you’re in the car very early in the morning, when there’s lots of grip and a clean track. At the start you never know if the car will still be running or not at that time in the race, but it’s really incredible when you start to see the lap times tumble!
21. Kissing Mélanie and Jules
I only kiss them on Sunday around 10 or 11am, when there are only a few hours of the race left. We never plan anything. Melanie grew up around motor racing so she knows exactly when to be around and when to give us space!
22. Bringing out the champagne
I’ve had the honour of spraying champagne from the podium three times, but it is still a very special moment and quite indescribable! I’ve secured a few wins in my career, but I can assure you that champagne tastes a little different at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
23. The after-party
Whatever happens during the race, sharing a few drinks with the team after the event is very dear to my heart. Everybody heads back to base after the mammoth effort of the race: mechanics, engineers, drivers and managers.
24. Reading my texts
We drivers are a bit like singers after a concert – if we don’t receive any messages, it means the show wasn’t good! Here’s hoping I have plenty of texts come Sunday night!
2015 Le Mans 24 Hours Schedule
Sunday 7 June
14:20 – 14:50: Scrutineering for Benoît Tréluyer, Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer in the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Wednesday 10 June
16:00 – 20:00: Free Practice
22:00 – 00:00: Qualifying 1
Thursday 11 June
19:00 – 21:00: Qualifying 2
22:00 – 00:00: Qualifying 3
Friday 12 June
17:30 – 19:30: Drivers Parade, Le Mans
Saturday 13 June
09:00 – 09:45: Warm-up
15:00: 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours start
Sunday 14 June
15:00: 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours finish