First points and win in 2009 for Treluyer!
No incident or slow puncture was to deny Benoit Treluyer from crossing the finish line at the third round of the 2009 Super GT500 championship at Fuji on Sunday. Indeed, any remaining mishaps were duly used up on the Friday before entering the circuit...
"Not very professional to arrive at a circuit without toothbrush or cash", laughed Benoit on Monday night at the platform of Gotemba train station. "Luckily, I was able to remember my helmet..."
Not that he needed it come Saturday. Serving a penalty handed out at the previous GT race in Suzuka, Treluyer remained sidelined during the opening practice sessions for his indiscretion.
"I was nevertheless authorised to take part in qualifying so the stewards could check that I was within the mandatory 107% rule," he explained. "But, I was not allowed to do the 'Super Lap' which my team mate, Satoshi Motoyama, did instead without too many difficulties!..."
Running with no ballast, Motoyama made the most of his team mate's absence by securing pole position in the Motul-Autech-run Nissan GT-R, although he had to dig deep to keep the group of Toyota SC 430s at bay around the manufacturer's home venue.
"I made some set-up changes during Sunday morning's warm-up to adapt the car to my driving style and, especially, to the heavier fuel load," continued Benoit. "We were okay, but not by much!"
With two mandatory pit stops and driver changes, the Fuji 400kms looked set to be an unpredictable and competitive race. With Benoit unable to afford the luxury of incurring more penalties, the team entrusted him with the long middle stint while Motoyama would take care of the two shorter runs at the beginning and end.
"Satoshi maintained his lead at the first corner and remained there until he caught the GT300 backmarkers, when he was overtaken by Oliveira and Ara's Yokohama-shod Nissan GT-R. He'd also made contact with another car while lapping in traffic and decided to come in earlier than planned. He pitted on lap 26, which turned out to be the same lap as the lead GT-R, although the team's good pit work meant that I rejoined just in front.
"Meanwhile, the Lotterer/Wakisaka Tom's Toyota had been on a longer strategy and, having stopped some laps later, managed to rejoin the track ahead of me. With a car still heavy on fuel and tyres already a good ten laps old, it was better to take it easy. I tried two or three overtaking manoeuvres, but I did not want to risk incurring another penalty, so I concentrated on keeping a high rhythm, relying on the quality of the team's final pit stop to find the advantage.
"I eventually pitted a lap after the Toyota and the mechanics did a fantastic job which allowed Satoshi to rejoin the track with a lead of 10 seconds. In the last stint, he was able to manage the advantage before being delayed in traffic and caught by the pursuing Toyota with only two laps to go. It was close, but he held on. The two were running nose to tail at the line."
At the end of an enthralling race, Treluyer and Motoyama's victory was enough to hoist them back up to sixth in the championship standings with 20 points. The win comes just in time for the series' month-long break, returning a week after the Le Mans 24 Hours in mid-June for the fourth round at Sepang, Malaysia.
Before returning to Gotemba train station, Benoit, trophy tucked under one arm, was required at the local police station following an altercation with a 4x4 in his hotel car park.
"The driver reversed without checking, and his vehicle climbed up the bonnet of my rental car," concluded the Frenchman. "After the race, I had to pay a visit to the police station to sign some paperwork. It was more like signing autographs as, in fact, the policemen had lost all the documents--"
The next instalment of the video animation series "Benoit-poy", which features characters and stories inspired by Benoit's real life racing adventures, looks set to be a classic. Catch it on Benoit's blog online at www.benoittreluyer.com.