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Benoît Tréluyer, Marcel Fässler and André Lotterer wrote their names in the history books at Sunday’s 6 Hours of Shanghai (28 October) by clinching the first drivers’ title in the revived FIA World Endurance Championship. The Alençon native thus becomes the third Frenchman after Jean-Louis Schlesser (1989, 1990) and Yannick Dalmas (1992) to claim the crown of World Endurance Champion while also helping to secure a clean sweep of the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles for his Audi Sport team.
You knew beforehand that a podium in Shanghai would secure you the title…
Yes, but we came here to win the race, though early on we realised it would be difficult to fight for victory. Our Audi R18 e-tron quattro is best suited to fast tracks and struggled in comparison with the Toyota in the slow corners that characterise the Shanghai circuit. We were quicker in a straight line thanks to our lower aerodynamic drag, but we ran out of downforce in the tight sections.
What were the last few laps like?
I was very calm. I knew that only a racing incident could prevent us from becoming champions as reliability wasn’t a problem. Securing a championship is not like winning Le Mans where everything happens within 24 hours. The experience isn’t nearly as intense, so at the moment André, Marcel and I do not really know how to feel. Of course, we are very proud to finish ahead of Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish who are fantastic drivers. Maybe we managed our races better, despite the handicap of scoring only 1.5 points in the opening round of the championship at the 12 Hours of Sebring. We stayed focused, reduced the gap and didn’t put ourselves under needless pressure.
If you could pick a word to sum up this title, what would it be?
Friendship. Though this is a drivers’ championship, it was acquired as a team and is the result of a fabulous car, fantastic engineers and mechanics as well as three good friends behind the wheel. We’ve enjoyed some incredible moments together, both at Le Mans and elsewhere. Now that we have this title I want to be back with my family. After the finish, my first call was to my wife Melanie and son Jules. I could tell that they were very happy and proud, and that’s when the tears came.
You are only the third Frenchman to become World Endurance Champion. Did the previous winners inspire you?
Jean-Louis Schlesser and Yannick Dalmas were stars when I was a kid thanks to their achievements at Le Mans, so obviously to follow in their footsteps is something very special. Yannick came to see me before the start and shared a few things he’d noticed while driving the safety car, which was greatly appreciated.
Do you think this title will change your life at all?
No, though a few friends who have always introduced me as the World Champion of Super GT will now be a little less wrong! Joking aside, I think it will be with those not involved in motorsport that I will feel the impact of this title. At the moment it’s still hard to tell what it means. I think that when I meet people in everyday life and mention it to them I will realise we have achieved something special.
What did Audi Motorsport boss Dr. Ullrich say when you embraced at the finish?
He simply said: “That’s it, you are world champions.” He knows that we have done a good job, but Dr. Ullrich is not the kind of guy who overstates these things. He appreciates achievements for their real value.
And your next big day will be the FIA prize-giving ceremony on 7 December…
Yes, and this just happens to be my birthday! I could not have asked for a better gift.
To keep up to date with Benoît on and off the circuit please visit www.benoittreluyer.com, follow him on Twitter @BenoitTreluyer and like his Facebook page.