2011 is in sight! Whilst the Motul-Autech team's ...
2011 is in sight!
Whilst the Motul-Autech team's #23 Nissan GT-R was still in the hunt for the title entering the final round of the Super GT championship, Benoit Treluyer knew that the task was going to be a difficult one. After all, only a victory would do.
During practice and qualifying the Frenchman followed the risky tyre choice made by his engineer, but could not achieve better than ninth fastest.
"In addition to this," says Benoit, "the pressures were too low and I could not brake late as I was bottoming-out too much. My team-mate also couldn't get the most from the tyres, so we ended up on row five."
For the warm-up, run with a full tank and tyres closer to those used during the race, the car behaved well and expectations were raised when the #23 set the third fastest time.
"During the first stint I was able to climb from ninth to fourth," says a delighted Benoit. "The tyres were working really well and I was able to overtake two other Nissans. The most difficult to make it past was the one fitted with Bridgestone tyres. I had to drive off the racing line in order to make this happen, covering my tyres with marbles and other pick-up. It took me at least six laps to clean them and the team began to think that I must be having problems. With the radio malfunctioning the guys did not understand my explanation of the situation and brought me into the pits."
Satoshi Motoyama took over from Benoit behind the wheel of the GT-R and very quickly faced the same pick-up problem as the Frenchman. From fourth place the #23 dropped to eighth at the chequered flag.
"We were expecting difficulties because of the cold weather but we were positively surprised," says Benoit. "The Michelin tyres have faced major degradation and grip issues in cold weather, but not this time. This shows that we have progressed well during the season and it is a relief to realise that the work we've done is beginning to pay off. It is the same on the engine side. We have made a huge step forward. Add to that the fact that we have found a good working direction with Michelin and I can only be optimistic for next year."
Finishing seventh in the Drivers' Championship, the Frenchman could have had some regrets, even if the fact that he remained in the hunt for the title until the last race was an achievement in itself.
"What cost us a real shot at the title was the two victories we lost out on during the season. Firstly there was Sepang, where we received a penalty for contact during an overtaking manoeuvre. Then, at Sugo, a piece of debris managed to hit the outside kill-switch at the bottom of the windscreen," he says ruefully.
Before looking towards the season's final non-championship race, Benoit wanted to give a special mention to his mechanics. They were able to complete a pit stop - tyre change included - in just 24 seconds, whilst the #24 Nissan took 26 seconds without changing rubber!
"It is even more incredible that there are only two mechanics changing four wheels," says Benoit admiringly.
During the final race of the season the 'jugglers' will not be called into action as there will be no tyre changes. This time, each driver will compete in a sprint race. It should provide much entertainment for the Frenchman, whose winter will be even busier ahead of an increasingly promising looking 2011 campaign.