Following his second place finish at the South American round of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship in Sao Paulo last weekend, Benoit Tréluyer and his team-mates Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer are eager to impress in the Middle East.
With the thermometer climbing in Brazil, so circumstances appeared to shift in the favour of Toyota who secured their first victory since returning to the top echelon of sportscar racing.
Audi has already won the Manufacturers’ championship and we head the Drivers’ standings so everything is still on course, but there is a little disappointment.
What happened in Brazil is good for the championship as a whole but we will be doing everything in our power to take first place from Bahrain onwards.”
From now, the remaining three rounds come thick and fast until arriving at the season finale in Shanghai on October 28, during which time the battle for victory looks set to be a thrilling one. Needless to say the Frenchman is relishing every moment.
Nevertheless, last week at Interlagos the Frenchman and his crew were reminded that prior experience can count for a lot. “We knew the Toyota was fast but we thought we had their measure!
We had gone well in testing and made some strategic choices in terms of set-up and tyres that we thought would work well.
Certainly, with its high downforce, we expected Toyota to have a small advantage over Interlagos’ smooth track surface, but we missed out on previous experience in other areas, the sort Toyota had acquired during its time in F1!”
Qualifying saw the trio line-up third behind Brazilian Lucas di Grassi who made the most of his R18 Ultra’s greater agility at a circuit he knew well. “My team-mates and me weren’t fully prepared because of sharing seat time equally in order to learn the track,” confirmed Benoit.
Benoit took the opening stint and had soon passed Allan McNish – who along with co-driver Tom Kristensen is the main rival for this year’s Drivers’ championship – before clinging on to the Toyota’s coattails.
“My first stint was good but on the second one the tyre temperatures were too high. That caused us to lose some time. We opted to pit early in the hope that Marcel’s double stint would go more smoothly.
He did a great job during his first stint but suffered after the Safety Car period.”
While their second place in Sao Paulo helped the trio extend their world championship lead, the 6 Hours of Bahrain at Sakhir on September 29 will provide a potentially perilous test of the double Le Mans 24 Hours winners, who will be on the attack in order to beat Toyota while at the same time trying to avoid crucial championship points from slipping away.
“Sakhir is a technical circuit which again requires good downforce levels,” says Benoit, who will only have two days in his simulator to learn a circuit famed for its lack of grip due to the desert sand that often blows across it. “We will do our best without taking risks.”
With just three rounds remaining the final weekend in September could prove a crucial one for Benoit and his team-mates. Victory in Bahrain’s desert would be the ideal way to start the championship run-in.
Source: Benoit Treluyer