The world at your fingertips
Benoît Tréluyer and his Audi Sport team-mates Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer head to this weekend’s 6 Hours of Shanghai (28 October) targeting victory aboard the German manufacturer’s R18 e-tron quattro and, when the dust has settled on the Chinese contest, could find themselves crowned FIA World Endurance champions.
"It’s best described as a ‘bad boy’ version of the original Forza Motorsport, which put more emphasis on racing, car performance and therefore lap times. Forza Horizon is about the freedom of open spaces, with races taking place on roads around the madness of the Horizon music festival. At the same time, it maintains the DNA that the Forza franchise is known for: the perfection of the driving experience and extremely realistic vehicles. As part of the launch I spent a day at the wheel of an Audi R8 V10, giving 80 journalists high-speed passenger rides on the runway of Le Bourget airport where the game was presented under the wing of a Concorde. Then the doors of the aircraft hanger opened and I emerged on to the tarmac sideways. For once I was told to push the tyres to their limit and I didn’t need to be asked twice! As someone who spends a great deal of time in simulators being part of this launch was a real honour."
After learning the Silverstone, Interlagos and Sakhir circuits virtually, Benoît has also been getting to grips with the Shanghai track aboard his simulator. It mixes tight corners, where the power needs to be delivered at low revs, with long sweeping curves that demand top-end speed, making it equally suited to Audi and their Japanese opponents Toyota.
"We must not lose sight of the fact that we race for a manufacturer," emphasises Benoît. "The priority for myself, André and Marcel is to put Audi on the top step of the podium. We will give everything we have to win this race and only after the chequered flag has fallen will we look at the drivers’ championship. Of course I’d like to win the title, but if we have to take risks to secure the race victory we will do so."
Championship leaders ahead of this weekend’s season-closing round, the trio has already claimed victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours, 6 Hours of Silverstone and 6 Hours of Bahrain and know that a place on the podium would guarantee them the title.
"Andre, Marcel and I are not three – we are one! So winning a title with them would be fantastic. To be the first world champions for Audi in sports-prototype racing and the first World Endurance Championship winners would obviously be something very special too, while it would also be great for the mechanics and engineers who have worked so hard on the car all season."
But while the trio’s desire to claim the world title is strong, the Frenchman is quick to point out that it would not register the same emotional intensity as victory at Le Mans.
"For me – and I think the same goes for my team-mates – Le Mans remains the most difficult and therefore most satisfying race in the world. The WEC drivers’ title was not our top priority this year. We would be very proud and happy to become world champions for Audi, but the 24 Hours is something else altogether. It won’t have the same impact, but for now we’re not thinking about it. We will celebrate if things go our way, but we should remain grounded: we know very well that nothing is ever guaranteed in motor racing."
Having claimed titles in Formula 3, Formula Nippon and Super GT Benoît is well aware of what it takes to win a championship. And, regardless of the prize at stake, he believes that the path to victory remains the same.
"A championship is a championship," he insists. "The processes and work required are the same. Were we to win it, I guess the significance would perhaps dawn on us during the FIA prize-giving ceremony. When I won titles in Japan it was also against drivers from all over the world, but it didn’t have the same gravitas. Being crowned world champion speaks for itself – it is a status."
To be racing for a world title is not a common occurrence in any driver’s career, so it is important for Benoît, André and Marcel to remain calm ahead of Sunday’s six-hour event. A steady hand is required when you have the world at your fingertips.
Source: Benoît Tréluyer