6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas - FIA World Endurance Championship, Round 5
By Mel Fabrikant Tuesday, September 17, 2013, 07:33 PM EDT
FIA WEC Drivers' Points:
1. Kristensen/ McNish/Duval (Audi) 112
2. Treluyer/Fassler/Lotterer (Audi) 90
3. Sarrazin/Davidson/Buemi (Toyota) 63
Next Race: Circuit of the Americas
USA, September 22
Length: 3.4 miles / 5.5kms
Benoit's 2012 result: N/A
This weekend, near the wild western Texan town of Elroy, not far from Austin, Benoît Tréluyer and his two Audi Sport accomplices – André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler – are planning to break the WEC bank. Their aim? To ride off into the sunset with another 25 points in the bag.
Naturally there’s now a price on these outlaws’ heads. Since their last successful raid ‘south of the border’ in Sao Paulo the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro bandits find themselves squarely in the crosshairs of the #2 sister machine driven by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval. But while their conflict is intense, there also exists a friendly rivalry between Ingolstadt’s world championship-chasing gang members.
“We’re taking it one event at a time,” insists Benoît, “and we’re on a mission to score maximum points at the remaining races. We clawed back eight in Brazil and will attempt to gain at least as many in Austin. We will attack provided that it doesn’t go too far, of course. That’s one of the reasons why Dr Ullrich selected us all in the first place, because he knows that we will always put the interests of the team before our own. There’s a great relationship between us and the #2 crew: we might be pushing each other very hard on track but we eat together in the evening!”
Despite trailing by 22 points with four rounds remaining, striking gold at season’s end remains the three close friends’ objective, even if the slightest mishap would likely end their attempted heist. That explains why the Frenchman has undertaken significant preparation since returning from Interlagos.
“Austin is a very technical track that includes some sections based on famous corners, like the Maggots/Becketts combination at Silverstone, Hockenheim’s stadium entry and the quadruple left ‘Turn 8’ at Istanbul Park. It also has its own signature corner, the tight Turn 1 located at the top of a steep slope after the start/finish straight. I know exactly what to expect after preparing with my simulator partners ellip6, who are based in France, just as I always do when tackling a new circuit. For their part, the team has already accumulated track data and undertaken theoretical simulations. When the car heads out for the first time it will have the correct gear ratios installed and 90% of the final set-up configured. It will be up to myself, André and Marcel to refine it,” says Benoît, who will be heading to the US a little earlier than normal.
“Marcel and I will be out there early to help get over the jet lag and do some sightseeing, while André will be joining us a bit later. We’ve heard that Austin is an amazing city, with lots of music on 6th Street in the Warehouse, South Lamar and Market districts. Each night there are more than 100 concerts in the city, which deserves its reputation as the world’s live music capital. There won’t be time to see much, but we can gain a little insight.”
Benoît is also impatient to experience the same sort of atmosphere he’s encountered at other North American races like Sebring and Road Atlanta. “American motor racing fans have their own culture. They remind me of the Japanese fans but are more demonstrative. I have no doubt that the atmosphere will be hot on the track and in the stands, but also in the cockpit of our R18 e-tron quattro as the heat in Texas can be overwhelming at this time of year.”
That’s certainly something Benoît has not underestimated during his preparation and, according to the man himself, it’s an element that will play an important role in the six-hour race.
“The air flow is pretty good inside the car but the heat remains oppressive. As well as the tyres, it will be important to keep an eye on the drivers.”
On all counts then the temperature looks set to rise in Austin on Sunday.
You can catch the race live on Motors TV and Eurosport across Europe this Sunday from 17:50 CET, while www.fiawec.com will be streaming live action from qualifying and the race throughout the weekend.
6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas Schedule *
Friday 20 September:
Free Practice 1: 09:15 – 10:45
Free Practice 2: 15:25 – 16:55
Saturday 21 September:
Free Practice 3: 08:40 – 09:40
LMP Qualifying: 13:35 – 14:00
Sunday 22 September:
Race: 11:00 – 17:00
*All times local