This is only ‘au revoir’
After displaying race-winning pace in his Motul-Autech Nissan GT-R Benoît Tréluyer saw any hope of victory in Saturday’s Super GT Fuji Sprint Cup disappear with a puncture. It was a major disappointment for the Frenchman, who had desperately wanted to cap his season with a strong result.
Tréluyer was in an uncertain situation following Japanese motorsport’s annual end-of-season party, knowing he may have just given his final performance for the fans he holds so close to his heart.
“The World Endurance Championship calendar has just been released and the Spa-Francorchamps event coincides with a round of the 2012 Super GT series,” explained the reigning Le Mans 24 Hours champion. “I don’t have any formal offers to race in the WEC yet, but if I receive one it would undoubtedly be the best direction for my career.”
During the Fuji weekend Benoît tried to put this conflict to one side to focus all his energy on driving a strong race for Nissan and his beloved Japanese fans.
“When I saw that rain had arrived for Saturday’s qualifying I could not help but smile,” said Tréluyer. “We know how good we are in the wet so felt very confident. Unfortunately, I set my time a little too late in the session and was only able to complete one flying lap before the rain started to fall heavily. I qualified fifth, but I truly believe pole was possible.”
Unlike regular Super GT events the Sprint Cup consists of two 22-lap races with no driver change. Tréluyer contested Saturday’s opening run, which started badly thanks to a long-ratio first gear.
“The clutch nearly broke and I was forced to back off,” he reported afterwards. “A few people overtook me, but several cars then made contact at turn one, allowing me to exit the corner back in P5.”
With no positions lost the Frenchman now resolved to put on a show for the crowd. However as he lined-up a move for third spot, disaster struck: he suffered a puncture that forced him back to the pits.
“I stopped for a new set of tyres and rejoined a long way down the order. When back on track I had great pace, around four or five tenths per lap faster than the leading cars, but I had lost too much ground to get back to the front of the field.”
The next day, after being invited to commentate on race two with a pair of his fellow drivers, Benoît watched team-mate Satoshi Motoyama hopeful that the Japanese pilot could score the Motul-Autech team a final podium finish of 2011.
“Satoshi struggled a bit during qualifying as the car was not really set-up for a damp track,” said Tréluyer. “From eighth on the grid he made a good start to the race but then received a totally unjustified penalty. At the start another car cut him up, but the stewards decided that he was responsible. We have not been very lucky this weekend, but at least we have again shown that we know how to get the job done and we were the fastest car out there. It is a shame that it took us such a long time to adapt to the Bridgestones and understand how to get the maximum out of them this season. If it was not for this we would undoubtedly have put an even stronger title bid together.”
As he left Mount Fuji on Sunday evening Benoît was uncertain when he would next see the eternal snow of the sacred mountain. “If the Super GT calendar does not change we will have to make a choice,” he reaffirmed. “But whatever happens, it will only be a temporary goodbye: just an au revoir and not a farewell.”