POSITIVE ATMOSPHERE OUTWEIGHS TOUGH SEASON FOR TRÉLUYER

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Benoît Tréluyer would have preferred a much softer landing after the shock announcement of Audi’s withdrawal from the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class at the end of 2016. But it is in the face of adversity that champions shine through!

Following years of success within the Audi Sport Team Joest, the Frenchman faced the same challenges that he had to go through during the early stages of his career. For 2017, the triple Le Mans 24 Hours winner and 2012 World Endurance Champion moved into GT racing, where his only previous experience had come at the 2014 Spa 24 Hours.

Starting afresh after many years in LMP1, Tréluyer joined Belgian Audi Club Team WRT for the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, and Audi Sport Italia in the Italian GT Championship, driving the Audi R8 LMS GT3.

“Going into the Italian GT season, Monza was the only circuit I knew, so it was going to be a challenge to get used to tracks like Imola, Mugello, Vallelunga and Misano,” said Benoît. “Working on the simulator and watching on-board videos was very helpful, but it was always going to be a struggle against GT3 specialists on my first visit to the tracks.

“It wasn’t simple, but the Audi Sport Italia team supported my transition to both the circuits and car really well. Looking at the history of Emilio and Roberta Radaelli’s team, they’ve won everything over the years, and have run drivers like Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro, so they know exactly what they’re doing and act really professionally.

“Just to top it off, the Tuscany region of Italy where they are based is really beautiful with great local wine and restaurants, a very welcome distraction from any on-track challenges!

“Unfortunately, I made some major mistakes at the beginning of the season by overdriving and pushing too hard. I took some time to adapt, but podiums and a victory at the end of the season were a good reward for all our efforts. I have to say a big thank you to my young team-mate Vittorio Ghirelli, who I got on with very well!”

Tréluyer was also partnered with young co-drivers in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, with Nathanaël Berthon and Stéphane Richelmi joining him as his team-mates.

“I met Nathanaël last winter in the Andros Trophy, and he wanted to try GT racing,” remembers the Audi driver. “I spoke to Vincent Vosse at WRT, and we put together a programme. Stéphane is a friend of Nathanaël’s, who was also looking for a drive so he joined us.”

With Belgian Audi Club Team WRT’s previous achievements in the series, the Blancpain Endurance programme looked promising, but bad luck restricted the team’s results.

“I have never believed in luck in motorsport and this season doesn’t change that, but if it does exist, we had none of it,” adds the Frenchman. “There were many issues, like in Monza where Nathanaël was hit heavily by another competitor who forgot to switch on the ABS.

“From this moment, the car was never the same and we lost confidence. This was a totally new situation for me, and I must admit there were moments where I lost my temper, as I wanted things to change. I have always been very privileged in motorsport and this season was a reality check!

“But to be a good driver doesn’t just mean going fast, it also means to build a dynamic within the team, and we managed to create a very good atmosphere.

“If I decide to do the same programmes again next season, I know that we will be strong from the beginning. We have all learnt from our mistakes and now know the direction to go. It was a year of development for the three of us, but in the end it worked quite well.”

Whilst Benoît is thinking about his future, he believes that continuing in GT racing would be the logical way to go.

“I say to myself that it would be a shame to stop now as it’s starting to pay off,” he laughs. “With Vittorio, we won a race and scored podiums in Italy, while in Blancpain, we scored a top 10 finish during the last round without being able to set the car up properly. This season made us stronger and we are eager for pay back.”

But winning is what the Frenchman wants more than anything else! Although he is speaking with many people across several categories from LMP1 to GT, as well as rallycross and rally raid, he does not plan to leave the Audi family.

Benoit definitely will compete with Audi again this winter in the Andros Trophy.

“It will be my second season and my aim is to win,” he says. “It is going to be hard as drivers like Jean-Baptiste Dubourg are fantastic specialists, and have won numerous championships. Last campaign I learnt the discipline and circuits without any pressure, but this year will be different. I’m delighted to continue with Audi, a brand which is close to me and we share many great moments together.”

What’s also important for the Frenchman is that he continues to enjoy himself within the sport, whilst retaining a good relationship with those around him. With the 2017 season bringing big changes, this was more important than ever, and Tréluyer will be looking to carry this forward into 2018.