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Last weekend saw Benoît Tréluyer record his second successive victory at La Sarthe and the first for hybrid technology. With his Audi team making history, the French ace once again experienced thousands of emotions. Below are just a few.
How difficult is it to describe one’s emotions and share with others just a tiny slice of the experience to stand atop Le Mans’ famous podium while, at your feet, thousands of fans gather having also battled the night and tiredness? A few days after his second victory in a row, the Alençon-born driver – rather than explain what cannot be described – sat down to discuss a few of the small, intimate moments that, although occasionally lacking significance, have all contributed towards Benoît’s victory at the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours. Here are seven small wonders from his own personal experience…
Returning to Le Mans
“Although the Le Mans Test Day is not part of Le Mans week it is, for me, nevertheless still part of the event. I had not returned to the circuit since winning in 2011 but when I passed through the gates and entered the circuit, I shivered. Shivers of happiness! I hope that will happen again in 2013.”
“I didn’t know how the fans would welcome me as one of the reigning winners. I must say that to have won Le Mans makes a major difference. Before, I was only slightly known to fans of motorsport. This time, that recognition was significantly wider. Never before had I heard my name chanted by fans. I do not strive to be famous, quite the opposite actually. But, on the other hand, I like having a relationship with people, with the fans. Appearing on TV is not really my thing. I have never dreamt of it. But it is quite nice to receive messages of encouragement and to know that you are being supported. These exchanges, however fleeting, are very important moments.”
“This year we organised ourselves a bit differently within the team. I was responsible for the car’s basic set-up before André (Lotterer) was the first to use a new set of tyres due to the favourable track conditions. As he was doing well we decided to let him carry on. Last year I set the pole position lap. This time André really wanted to do it. He loves qualifying, loves to ‘go for it’ and it all just happened naturally. Marcel (Fassler) and I were never in doubt, except perhaps when Loïc (Duval) began to lower his lap times. He was really fast. At the time we were not on the correct tyres and he had us slightly worried. I know what you’re thinking, that I am the first to say pole position is not important but, anyhow, in the heat of the moment it is always tempting to go for something that is right there to be grabbed. We succumbed to temptation!”
Vigil before the fight
“On Friday night, after the Drivers’ Parade, we all got together back at the hotel restaurant; all of the Audi drivers with their wives and children. That was a real moment of friendship and sharing. For a while we forgot – a little bit – about the race and enjoyed the time relaxing. Doctor Ullrich was also nearby on another table. I think he was happy to see ‘his’ drivers spontaneously sharing a genuine moment of complicity. It’s a philosophy that corresponds with his vision of racing and the values he wants the team to uphold. Perhaps it is trivial, but it remains one of the strongest moments of my 2012 event.”
Starting grid build-up
“Mechanics pushing cars, the drivers’ group photo, manoeuvring cars into their diagonal positions and the nostalgic flavour all of this brings, final embraces, an opportunity to at last see mates from other teams having been flat-out since you arrived, and then the tension builds, you can feel it. Just mentioning all this gives me goose bumps.”
“This was the moment I gave everything I had! Up until then I had followed the advice of my old boss Henri (Pescarolo), which is to return the car to your team-mates in good condition having not taken any risks. In addition to this, during my night stint, the choice of tyres had proven a bit too safe which had a negative impact on my times towards the end. When I climbed aboard it was definitely the moment to attack. Last year we followed the same strategy and that happened to be the correct one. I pushed and pushed. When Allan (McNish) went off, I questioned whether I had gone a bit too far in attacking. Then reassuring news came; he was okay and the #2 Audi’s race could continue! Now, I must admit that I felt relieved when noting the lead we then enjoyed and the margin we had to defend.”
“In 2010 I scored my first podium and, like this year, it was 100% Audi. I was over the moon but I was only second. Then, in 2011, we won after a fierce battle against Peugeot. Still there was a lot of emotion, it was something extraordinary but totally different from the previous year. Now, in 2012, we again find three Audi crews on the podium and us on the highest step. The joy is as deep but perhaps a little less obvious. Despite Peugeot’s absence we put on a great show for the fans. The duel, which went on all the way to the finish, was a great expression of Audi’s sporting spirit. On the podium, with André and Marcel, we also spared a thought for our friends Guillaume Moreau and Anthony Davidson who encountered the ‘Old Lady’s’ cruelty at this 80th edition. We wish them both a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing them on-track again soon.”
Aside from the accidents of his two friends, Benoît has just one other regret: the flu-like symptoms that blighted his enjoyment. In his own words though, “I will just have to come back and win for a third time!”
To keep up to date with Benoît please visit www.benoittreluyer.com.