Overall podium now the objective
Benoît Tréluyer’s chances of scoring victory at the latest Super GT round in Fuji evaporated last weekend when tyre temperature issues dropped his co-driver out of contention. The subsequent sixth place finish cost the Motul-Autech Nissan crew valuable championship points, even though the pair still have their sights set on a top-three overall finish.
Post race, round six of eight in 2011, Tréluyer naturally had some regrets. Whilst waiting for the helicopter that would whisk him and friend André Lotterer to Tokyo-Narita airport en route to the Frankfurt Motorshow, he could not escape from the same recurring conclusion as the race replayed in his mind: increasing tyre temperature at the beginning of the second stint was the cause of the team’s problems.
Nevertheless, after all of the Nissan runners – save for a Michelin-shod car – had endured difficult qualifying sessions, when Benoît had failed to advance into Q2, come race day he was able to magnificently correct the situation.
“By just a few hundredths we were on the cusp of the top 10,” he lamented. “So I had to start from 11th place the next day.”
After scaling Mount Fuji on Thursday, Benoît was faced with another mountain to climb during his opening stint when excellent racecraft, as so often in 2011, helped him carve through the field.
“I got up to sixth place and was fighting in the middle of a group made up of the Kogure/Duval #1 Honda, Kaneishi-Tsukakoshi #17 Honda and Matsuda-De Oliveira Nissan, all of which finished in the top four. Unfortunately, when Satoshi took over behind the wheel, he faced a lot of difficulties in getting the tyres back up to temperature.”
Having lost contact with the group in which the Frenchman was fighting, Motoyama was soon forced to give best to the #100 Honda of Izawa and Yamamoto.
“We ended up sixth overall which saw us loose several championship positions too,” he said. “In part that’s due to the regulations: cars with less ballast can make a late challenge for the title. At Autopolis, during the next round, everyone will be able to remove half of their weight penalty which should make it very tight until the end of the season.”
It’s a championship that Benoît has not lost all hope of winning, even if he admits that a place on the final podium is a more realistic goal than the title.
“Two races remain which means 40 points are still available. Winning the championship will be difficult even if it is still mathematically possible, but to finish in the top three is still within our reach. We are going to give everything in order to achieve that!”
Benoît and team-mate Motoyama now sit fifth in the championship standings on 39 points some way adrift of leaders Yanagida and Quintarelli, who have 60. Kogure/Duval are next up on 52 followed by Matsuda/de Oliveira (46) and Kaneishi/Tsukakoshi (41). With the Motul-Autech crew therefore just seven points shy of the podium, the reigning Le Mans 24 Hours winner has made it his objective over the final two rounds to finish inside the top three.