10 points now separate Tréluyer and crew-mates Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer from the Porsche spearheaded by ex-grand prix star Mark Webber.
Benoit Tréluyer and his #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro co-drivers secured a fifth consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship podium of the season by finishing second in the Texan desert on Saturday (September 19). The points-leading trio must now halt the #17 Porsche’s winning streak next time out at Fuji in order to maintain its title challenge.
The anticipated fight back from the 2015 championship leaders didn’t materialise in Austin where Porsche cut to the chase by employing its full eight megajoules of recovered energy while the #7 crew were forced to miss opening free practice.
“It was a slightly difficult weekend,” says Benoit. “We were only able to complete four laps during the first session, which delayed us in terms of set-up. As a result, we were unable to eradicate some of the car’s understeer. It got slightly better during the race, but in qualifying it was difficult.”
Japan is a special place for both myself and Andre but neither of us has ever won an FIA WEC round at Fuji before, so we’re itching to get back there.
Determined to retain their points’ advantage in the Wild West, the trio went for a different strategy and started the race with harder compound tyres.
“We took a risk that paid off, but we did have some trouble with a wheel during a pit-stop and lost some time,” confirms the frustrated Frenchman. “I then lost precious seconds when I found myself stuck behind a slow-running car. We were under yellow flags and I could not overtake… I lost between six and 10 seconds per lap for four laps compared to the leading Porsche, which is quite a lot!”
Lady luck ultimately delivered for Ben and his team-mates, though, when the #17 Porsche was hit by a one-minute penalty after overshooting its pit-box during a stop, while the #18 sister car suffered an electrical problem.
“Everyone had small issues,” adds the Normandy-born driver. “On our side, thanks to the incredible work of the mechanics and engineers over the entire weekend, we finished second and minimised our points’ loss.
“There are some upgrades planned for the next race but we will need to find a solution to avoid losing five seconds to the Porsche during each pit-stop! What’s certain is that we will keep pushing non-stop!
“We have a fantastic chassis, which will help us offset Porsche’s eight-megajoule hybrid system. Our best race lap is only one tenth shy of the fastest Porsche when there is no traffic. However, at the same time we struggle more when in amongst traffic because we have less of a boost with our hybrid system.
“Fuji’s (9-11 October) layout will be more favourable for us than Austin as we’ll be able to exploit the Audi R18 e-tron quattro’s stronger characteristics, such as its excellent aerodynamics,” enthuses the 2012 World Champion. “If we manage to find good mechanical grip in the last sector we will be impressively quick.
“Japan is a special place for both myself and Andre but neither of us has ever won an FIA WEC round at Fuji before, so we’re itching to get back there. It’s definitely a circuit where we would like to return to our usual form by scoring a great victory.”
They’ll certainly need it to solidify their championship charge and break the spell of bad luck!