Mild frustration but great expectation!
Victory looked like a distinct possibility for the Audi R18 TDI of Benoît Tréluyer and his team-mates André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler in round two of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Spa-Francorchamps last Saturday, before issues ultimately left them fifth.
With a trio of Audi R18 TDI locking out the top three grid positions, while Peugeot’s three entries started in the midfield, the race promised much excitement, and so it proved. Lotterer lined up second but immediately relieved pole sitter Timo Bernhard (Audi #1) of the lead while the #3 car of Allan McNish lost precious seconds by spinning. As expected, further back the Peugeots had made progress and with 43 minutes gone, Alex Wurz was right with Lotterer before taking the lead. The Austrian maintained his advantage after the first round of pit stops while Bernhard re-took Lotterer for second.
“In fact,” noted Benoît, “all had gone well for us until qualifying. After good set-up work, André was in a position to challenge for pole position.”
The short 45-minute practice sessions forced teams to give the driver who would qualify the car the most amount of track time. Tréluyer, who had not been nominated, therefore set just four flying laps before the race, although this lack of running didn’t appear to hinder the Frenchman during Saturday’s morning warm-up.
“When André in the race handed the car over to me, we were third,” continued Benoît. “The beginning of my first stint went well, but I started to get marble pick-up issues. Then, at the final corner, I got a piece so big that it forced me to make an unplanned pit stop. The bad luck then continued when I got stopped by the red light at the end of the pit lane.”
Owing to the race being neutralised following an accident, the red light – a precautionary measure – ensured Tréluyer lost further precious seconds.
“Once I rejoined the track fitted with new tyres, all went very well and I was able to set some very competitive lap times. Unfortunately, I again picked up another large piece of rubber and this time went straight on through the corner.”
Benoît was once more forced into the pits for another new set of tyres before then suffering from a slow puncture at the end of his stint.
“At the end of the day, it could have gone better,” he said. “It is always frustrating to miss out on a good result, but it’s important not to forget that we were there to complete a competitive test before the Le Mans 24 Hours. With this in mind, we learnt a lot, which is the most significant thing. In terms of raw speed, we were at the same level as Peugeot, but suffered too many small problems. It is frustrating but at the same time very encouraging! We have a fast car which we must utilise in the best possible way. We gained a lot of experience in race conditions. Regarding the marble pick-up problem that handicapped us, without any doubt it was due to overtaking GT cars off the racing line. It is an explanation that we need to look at. Again, the good news is that the car is very fast and I was able to reduce the gap to the Peugeots when things were going well.”
Now certain of the Audi R18 TDI’s speed, Benoît and his fellow team members will use the final test sessions planned before Le Mans to address the small issues faced at Spa, the objective being to confirm their expectations on June 11/12 at La Sarthe.
-source: benoit treluyer