Treluyer increases his championship lead! Benoit Treluyer increased his lead at the top of the Formula Nippon championship thanks to a runners-up spot in the second round at Suzuka on Sunday. Saturday's qualifying session had been a closely ...
Treluyer increases his championship lead!
Benoit Treluyer increased his lead at the top of the Formula Nippon championship thanks to a runners-up spot in the second round at Suzuka on Sunday.
Saturday's qualifying session had been a closely fought and unpredictable affair thanks to rain showers in Q1. The reigning Super GT champion mastered the conditions though to finish fastest before comfortably making the final knockout session with the fifth fastest time in Q2.
With the rain having subsided for Q3, Treluyer was able to go even faster and topped the session to grab pole position, despite trying to be conservative! "We made some set-up changes after Q2," said the Lawson-Impul driver, "but were careful not to be too aggressive because we are still learning how the car works."
Sunday morning brought with it dry conditions which Treluyer used to fine tune his race set-up.
"With a full fuel load and used tyres, we weren't that fast but still competitive enough to be confident. Ordinarily, it is quite difficult to find a good set-up at Suzuka because of the diversity of fast and slow corners, but it is even harder this season due to the phenomenal amount of grip generated by the new tarmac on the first part of the track."
In true Suzuka fashion however, the rain returned just two minutes before the start. With the entire field now opting for wet weather tyres, Benoit and his Lawson-Impul squad did likewise, adding a minimum risk set-up to the car to compromise for the lower grip levels.
At the start, Treluyer made the most of his pole position to a build a comfortable cushion in the first 15 laps over the chasing pack. With his fuel levels getting ever lower however, so the car's weight decreased, increasing the ride height which had a dramatic effect on his levels of grip. Loic Duval's set-up was better prepared for this and the Frenchman was able to peg the gap to his fellow countryman.
"I maintained the gap back to him until the middle of the race before making a small mistake at the exit of the hairpin due to a lack of traction," confessed Benoit at the finish. "Loic was able to get on the inside where he was quicker and I did not want to take any risk. Straight away I radioed my pitwall to ask to stop and refuel, although I had to wait one more lap. I'd asked for a new set of wet tyres as I didn't know whether I had blistered the rears. I was stationary for about twenty seconds, which was a few more than Duval who didn't change tyres. I have no regrets as he was quicker towards the end of the race anyway."
Holding on to take second, Treluyer's excellent result moves him onto 19 points, actually increasing his lead at the top of the standings to four from Duval.
"Except for the Nakajima team, who seem to have a good understanding of how to make the Swift more stable over the bumps, everyone else is still learning," explained Treluyer. "The chassis has more aero grip than the Lola from last year, and we need to integrate the mechanical grip without destroying that generated by the aero. We'll be working on this for the Motegi round in two weeks."
An intensive fortnight now follows for Benoit who will be busy again at Suzuka this coming Wednesday and Thursday for test days with his Nissan Super GT squad before flying back to native France.
"After a quick visit to the Pescarolo Sport factory in Le Mans to have my seat fitting, I'll be at Magny-Cours for my first taste of Peugeot's 908 HDI," he added. "We'll have two days there to run through a programme, discovering the car and working on set-ups ahead of Le Mans."
By the time he returns to Japan, the latest animated episode of "Benoit-poy" will have been uploaded to his blog (www.benoittreluyer.com). It may also not be long before the cartoon becomes available to a wider audience, with Japanese TV in talks to broadcast the series to promote its Super GT and Formula Nippon coverage.