Though lady luck was not on their side during the 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours Audi Sport drivers Benoît Tréluyer, André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler were nevertheless proud of their performance at the La Sarthe circuit. And in a race struck by tragedy, the competitors were reminded that to reach the chequered flag in the world’s greatest endurance event is a victory in itself.
Benoît did not know Allan Simonsen personally, but when the time came to assess this year’s 24 Hours it was the memory of the Danish driver, who lost his life aboard the #95 Aston Martin shortly after the start, which first came to mind.
“Over time racing cars have become so safe that we’ve almost forgotten that motorsport can be extremely dangerous,” he said with seriousness. “Before beginning my stint I asked our engineer, Leena, how Allan was, but there was still no news. Then, when I handed the car to Marcel, Doctor Ullrich took me aside to inform me of the terrible news. He wanted to break it to me properly as it is not an easy thing to hear. This tragedy isn’t all I will remember from this year’s race, but it unquestionably puts our result into perspective. To finish this event is a victory of its own.”
“During the race you are in an altered state of mind. Of course you are shocked by that sort of news, but you remain focused. You think about it before you climb back into the car, but it is only after the finish that it truly sinks in. I found myself alone in a corner collecting my things, and it was then that it finally overwhelmed me. I’d never met him, but he was part of our little world and Tom (Kristensen) knew him well, as did Oliver (Jarvis) as they had been team-mates. Allan was a young man and a father which makes it all the worse. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”
But amidst the tragedy there was also a race to run at La Sarthe, which Benoît and his team-mates had led before an alternator issue saw them drop to 21st during the eighth hour of competition.
“Everyone did a great job – the mechanics, engineers and drivers – but in motorsport you are at the mercy of mechanical factors. You can be the best-prepared crew with the fastest and most reliable car, but something like this can always happen. The alternator has completed many endurance tests without a single problem, so the cause of our issue will need to be learned by analysing the part. As I’ve said many times before, to win this race you also need a bit of luck. We lacked that this year, but you must endure defeats to really enjoy the victories. We had everything except that little bit extra which you cannot control. It tipped the scale to the other side.”
But with that ‘other side’ being their fellow Audi crew of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval the result was still of great satisfaction for Benoît.
“Though it was not our car that crossed the finish line first Audi have still won and that’s what matters. Loïc, Allan and Tom did a great job throughout the week, setting pole position and managing their race perfectly on the way to a deserved victory. 12 months ago Loïc and his team-mates (Romain Dumas and Marc Gené) had the fastest car, but circumstances prevented them from fighting for the victory. This year it was the opposite and I am happy for him to have secured his first win at La Sarthe. Allan meanwhile has given a great deal to this team and has been quite unlucky in recent years, while Tom works like crazy and has not had an easy time of late following the death of his father and the loss of a friend on Sunday. I was happy for all three following their victory.”
“After our problem we pushed extremely hard so as to score as many points as possible at Le Mans, and eventually this earned us fifth place. Of course, points are worth double at the 24 Hours so we lost a lot of ground, but there are still five rounds remaining and we are all highly motivated. We will try to win every race and then see where we are in terms of points come the season’s end.”
After missing out on victory at La Sarthe Benoît, André and Marcel will hope to triumph again when the FIA World Endurance Championship resumes at Brazilian circuit Interlagos on 1 September.