Audi R18 TDIIt is with great eagerness that Benoît Tréluyer awaits the start of the World Endurance Championship in America on March 17, for the revival of this historic contest also heralds a new start for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours winner.

And for Benoît the launch of this new season cannot come quickly enough following two months away from the cockpit. It is incredible to note that the Audi Motorsport driver has not experienced such a long winter break in a decade. “I was so relieved after the recent two days of testing,” he explains. “It was a great feeling and nice to receive a proper dose of adrenaline. It was important for me to get back behind the wheel and back into routine.”

Despite not yet knowing whether he will contest the entire World Endurance Championship (WEC), which blasts back into life at Sebring after twenty years of silence, Benoît does not regret the decision to end his Super GT involvement in Japan.

“The important thing is that I will be focusing on Audi’s programme this year. To offer everything I could meant it was necessary to make a choice and I opted for Audi. I was not tired of racing in Japan, where I have enjoyed some fantastic moments, but in the end I could not resist the appeal of the unknown. It is very exciting to be part of motorsport heritage reborn. I remember Group C at the beginning of the nineties. Those cars were fabulous and I dreamt about racing them so, being there at the first race of its spiritual successor really means something. The feeling takes me back to the start of my career when everything was new, or when I first landed in Japan. I have missed that feeling of discovery.”

For the Audi driver, that exploration begins with the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, a classic race on the US calendar and a piece of world motorsport history in its own right.

“I know the Sebring circuit because I’ve tested there with Audi for the past two years, but never raced the 12 Hours,” underlines Benoît. “It’s a nice track and quite unusual but this time I’m not going to be alone. There will be 60-plus other cars around me! It’s quite a daunting race to start with so it’s very important to stay calm at the beginning. Traffic will certainly be the key. Those who make it to the chequered flag have a great chance of reaching the podium. Also, there are some critical corners like Turn 1 and 17, namely the first and last where it is very easy to make mistakes!”

Benoît, along with familiar team-mates André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler (Audi has reunited last year’s Le Mans-winning line-up), is well aware that the testing sessions on Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 of March will be crucial if the team is to go into Thursday’s official free practice full of confidence. “We will be driving an updated version of the Audi R18 TDI from last year which means switching from the all-new hybrid Audi R18 e-tron Quattro. We will have to adapt slightly as the cars are rather different despite looking quite similar. They do not share the same characteristics so we will need a bit of time to find our feet again,” explains the Frenchman who flew to the US at the beginning of the month.

“I came with my family to get some rest and even went to watch Supercross – my first passion – in St Louis before heading to Miami. I cannot wait to plunge back into the special atmosphere that is unique to American racing!”

It’s an atmosphere Benoît would love to toast with a drop of French champagne…

12 Hours of Sebring Timetable (CET minus 6 hours):

Thursday 15 March:
10h00 – 11h00: Practice 1
14h50 – 15h50: Practice 2
19h35 – 21h20: Practice 3 (night)

Friday 16 March:
09h35 – 10h55: Practice 4
15h55 – 16h10: Qualifying LMP1/LMP2

Saturday 17 March:
08h00 – 08h25: Warm-Up
10h30: 12 Hours of Sebring