Audi Sport trio Benoît Tréluyer, Marcel Fässler and Oliver Jarvis clinched victory in America’s most celebrated endurance race last weekend (March 16) following an intense final stint at the 12 Hours of Sebring. The Frenchman has thus added another of world motorsport’s most prestigious honours to his CV and helped confirm Audi Sport’s lofty ambitions for the season ahead.
After eleven hours of intense competition the final showdown took place between Benoît and fellow Audi driver Tom Kristensen, who was sharing with Allan McNish and Lucas di Grassi at the American classic. The deciding fight possessed all the suspense of a Hitchcock thriller and was made still more exhilarating by the Ingolstadt firm allowing their cars to race to the finish without team orders.
“Everything was decided during the closing stints when we had to put up a bit of a fight,” the Frenchman explains calmly. “We still had the advantage of a shorter refuelling period however, a bonus of around six seconds, which would have allowed us to win even if Tom had managed to overtake me during the penultimate stint. I took no risks when I re-joined the track and struggled to get my tyres up to temperature. In keeping with the usual approach, Audi did not issue team orders and it was up to us to sort it out on-track. It was a great race, very competitive and close-fought between both Audi cars. Fantastic!”
With significant changes arriving in US-based sportscar racing next year the 2013 event will remain forever engraved in the archives of this iconic American contest. An event rich in history, it has witnessed some of the sport’s finest drivers demonstrating their competitive abilities.
“My team-mates and I had only competed at Sebring once before (2012) and this year was the final chance to enter with an LMP1 car, so the whole team was determined to take victory. With half of the race run we saw that we had a good chance to achieve our goal. When we arrived here, we knew that the 2013-spec R18 e-tron quattro being run by Tom, Allan and Lucas was faster. Unfortunately, our team-mates’ preparations were delayed by an off-track excursion during first practice which cost them quite a lot of time. They were not able to put as much work into set-up as we were and, on top of that, Marcel, (race engineer) Leena Gade and I had the advantage of knowing our 2012-spec R18 e-tron quattro extremely well. We set it up nicely with a good balance to compensate for the lack of performance we had compared with the new car.”
This balance was to serve Fässler well in qualifying as he delivered a brilliant performance to clinch pole and set a new lap record for the Florida circuit.
“Marcel was on fire this weekend! Along with Leena, I really felt he was on the case and that he could take pole. He accepted the challenge and produced a mega time. Allan did two more laps in an effort to beat Marcel, but he couldn’t quite manage it. Olly – who joined us in place of André (Lotterer) – also did a great job. Marcel and I were thinking of our regular team-mate this weekend as we missed him a lot, but André showed what a fantastic team player he is by giving up his seat for Olly to allow him more track time. It was not an easy call for him as this is the last time that we’ll race at Sebring. Olly thanked him in the best way possible, delivering a great performance during the week and a superb night stint which allowed us to get the edge over the sister car and maintain our advantage.”
Benoît’s next competitive outing will be during the season-opening FIA World Endurance Championship round when the Audi Sport team will take on LMP1 class rivals Toyota in the 6 Hours of Silverstone (April 14).
“It’s going to be a very challenging season and we will need to grab every possible victory with both hands,” warns Benoît. “The level of competition should be extremely high as Toyota has worked hard over the winter, so we will have to continue to do the same. The fact that the new R18 e-tron quattro was able to finish the 12 Hours of Sebring during what represented its first real endurance test is very promising. Now we must keep up the development work for the season ahead.”
Having given the 2012 car a winning end to its competitive career, Benoît and his team-mates will next aim to record the new spec machine’s first victory at the Silverstone contest.
“In order to fine tune our preparations, we’re staying in Sebring for a few more days,” concludes the 2012 World Champion, who will then take a detour through Toronto to attend a round of the AMA Supercross series, a sport of which he is a big fan. It will represent a final opportunity for Benoît to catch his breath before the curtain comes up on the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship.