Le Mans 2010 preview 24 questions for 24 hours! After signing for Audi Sport during the winter, BenoÃ®t Treluyer is on the brink of his best-ever experience at La Sarthe. Before taking the wheel of the Audi R15 TDI prototype in an attempt to add...
Le Mans 2010 preview 24 questions for 24 hours!
After signing for Audi Sport during the winter, Benoît Treluyer is on the brink of his best-ever experience at La Sarthe. Before taking the wheel of the Audi R15 TDI prototype in an attempt to add a win at the world's biggest motor race to his CV, he talks about 'his' 24 hours....
1. First memory of the 24 Hours?
The victory by the rotary-engined Mazda 787B in 1991! I was 15-years-old and I remember being fascinated watching the cars from under the Dunlop bridge. My passion for Le Mans was sparked in that moment.
2. First participation?
2002 in the 'Equipe de France/FFSA' Dodge Viper run by Oreca. My team-mates were Jean-Philippe Belloc and Jonathan Cochet. I think I drove for more than 11 hours that year because Jonathan fainted due to the heat in the cockpit. We finished third in our class.
3. Best memory as a driver?
In 2002 again and the last lap in the Viper. I finished my first '24 Hours' feeling that I had done a good job. The marshals waving their flags and the crowd starting to invade the track are images that stick in my mind and memories that have always stayed with me.
4. Worst memory as a driver?
Last year with the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP! Not long after 4am, and just as we had climbed back up the field to fourth place just behind the factory cars, the car suddenly snapped sideways and hit the barriers violently in the Tertre Rouge esses. It was the first time I hadn't seen the chequered flag at Le Mans.
5. Alencon, your home town, is not far away?
I don't want to put myself under any additional pressure but, yes, it's a great feeling to race so close to home. As someone who spends a lot of time away from home in Japan, when I see my childhood friends turning up to the race, it is very special. My family will be there as well.
6. Henri Pescarolo?
He is 'Mr Le Mans' but, more than that, Henri is also one of the greatest men in motorsport full stop. He has taught me a lot and has enabled me to live moments of a rare intensity in my career. This year I will have Dr Ullrich on the pitwall. He is another giant of racing and I learn a bit more about him every time I meet him.
7. 2010 objective?
Make sure Audi wins! We have a very competitive car, a good line-up with Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and I and more motivation than ever. Kristensen, McNish and Capello have way more history and experience than us at Le Mans and with Audi, but we have the freshness of a new partnership!
8. 2010 preparation?
It's the best I have ever had! This is the first time that I have been able to prepare for the event since January. Normally at that time of the year I don't even know if I will be racing at Le Mans. In previous years my drive has only been finalised one month before the race.
9. Le Mans week?
It starts on the Saturday a week before the event when you move into your room where you sleep and keep your personal belongings. Everything must be perfectly organised so that nothing distracts you from your final objective.
10. The kick off?
I would say scrutineering in Jacobins Square. This is our first contact with the public and is also when you say to yourself, 'this is it, it has started'.
11. First contact with Audi?
Via a journalist friend who couldn't understand why nobody was thinking of running the likes of Andre Lotterer and I in Europe. After she continued pestering the people at Audi, they finally agreed to give us a DTM test two years ago, but I couldn't attend due to my commitments with Nissan. They contacted us again to talk about Le Mans at the end of last year.
12. First meeting with the team?
It was a bit stressful as I wanted to do well, but I started to calm down immediately. The atmosphere was professional but also relaxed. There was no pressure and everything was clear and precise. The objective of those first three days was to learn about the car and the team with no complications.
13. Qualities of the Audi R15 TDI?
It's easy to drive, comfortable in the cockpit and the dashboard commands are uncomplicated. Everything is designed with the driver in mind so he is relaxed and can give his maximum. The engine is fantastic and the car is very aero efficient, which is important in terms of performance.
14. Le Mans, still an endurance race?
Yes! Even though the pace is very high, I still think that the endurance aspect is the most important as was proved last year when the winning car wasn't the fastest of the Peugeots. You need to be vigilant in traffic and you must avoid all the incidents which are bound to happen in an event that is so long. You must also be fast without pushing your equipment to its limit and you must stay lucid and aware throughout!
15. The Mulsanne Straight?
I have never driven the old main straight! It must have been very long. Today's chicanes are such that the challenge is not the same, but when you exit Tertre Rouge, the straight opens out in front of you and still provides an incredible sensation.
16. The biggest worry?
Having contact with another car. With the GTs, it can happen very quickly.
17. Rain or shine?
Sunshine without any doubt! In the rain, and with the speeds we reach in a prototype car, it is never very enjoyable. Normally I don't mind racing in the rain, but at Le Mans I would rather have sunshine.
18. Best bit of the race?
I love it when the sun goes down. The twilight hours or, as we say in French, 'entre chien et loup' - between dog and wolf! Amazing things always happen then and we can see people leaving the circuit giving us the perception that things are changing.
Outside the car, this is our main concern; you have to sleep! That's the reason I like long stints because then you have time to do things correctly; eat well, see the physio, sleep and then wake up calmly. When you have three hours between two stints you don't even get to sleep for one hour.
20. Hunter or hunted?
First position is always the best one! You cannot control the race any better than when you are at the front. Also, being chased means that you are going faster.
21. Relationships with team mates?
We must all act as one! If the communication between drivers isn't good, then information is less accurate for the team and the engineers. All it takes is for one driver to change the brake balance without telling anyone and the next driver ends up in the gravel trap at the first corner of his stint. There must be perfect communication and absolute trust between team-mates. If not it cannot work.
22. Pit stops?
You can lose seven to ten seconds during a bad pit stop. In everyday life that is nothing, but at Le Mans it can take a full stint, maybe more, to get that time back on the track. The 24 Hours is also won in the pits!
23. Start or finish?
I've never taken the start of the race, so I would say the finish. The finish is also more important emotionally. You're stressed at the start but happy at the finish. Nowadays the race ends too quickly after the chequered flag. In the old days we used to do a full lap of honour. It was a great moment for the drivers, but nowadays we have to park the cars as soon as we cross the finish line.
24. The podium?
At Le Mans the podium befits the massive size of the event! It is also the place where I want to be on 13 June at 3pm.
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