Three weeks after winning Silverstone’s FIA World Endurance Championship season opener, Benoît Treluyer and his Audi Sport crew-mates Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer did it again at last weekend’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
The No. 7 Audi Sport trio were pushed all the way en route to their second straight victory and, despite the confidence boost, are now keeping their feet firmly on the ground ahead of Le Mans.
The FIA WEC ratcheted up another notch in Belgium thanks to an absorbing encounter that would leave several sprint categories drooling.
These endurance events now better resemble a six-hour dash to the flag in which the slightest slip-up will likely cost victory.
Fortunately Treluyer, Lotterer and Fassler didn’t put a foot wrong during another relentless performance.
“This was another classic race where we had to attack from start to finish,” Treluyer said. “Marcel drove a good opening stint while simultaneously fine-tuning the car’s set-up and adjusting its brakes as we’d not had much opportunity to run in dry conditions before the race.
“Andre then took over for a single stint as we weren’t too sure about tyre wear. But the rubber looked OK, so he went back out for a double.
“Actually, I should say ‘super double’ because he managed to keep pace with the leading Porsche, which gave us a great opportunity to fight for the win.”
When Lotterer finally relinquished the low downforce, Le Mans-spec R18 e-tron quattro, Treluyer – who had only completed a three-lap dry run in practice – could feel the pressure beginning to mount.
“I’d not even gone through Eau Rouge flat-out up to that point,” he said. “But I still went on maximum attack and produced a decent first stint. My pace was good and I managed the traffic well.
“Then, during my second spell, I ran a bit wide at Pouhon and it took a little while to clean up my tyres. But I was still able to maintain a strong pace.
“I was right behind the No. 18 Porsche at the end of my second stint and launched the first attack exiting Turn 8. They aren’t easy to overtake so you’ve got to try something different and surprise them.
“Marc Lieb wasn’t really fast through that hairpin and knew if I used my boost correctly that I might just get past him under braking at Turn 9. Unfortunately, I realized I was a bit short and took evasive action onto the curb.
“We still had a slight tap and he stayed in front, but I eventually made a move stick around the outside of Pif-Paf at Fagnes. It was a pretty bold move but it worked out quite well!
“Lieb stopped a short while later and Neel Jani came back out on much fresher rubber. He just whizzed past me in a straight line and there was nothing I could do about it, but I was able to reclaim the lead at the final round of pit-stops. And then managed to stay put.”
After such a strong start to their 2015 campaign, the triple Le Mans winners will undoubtedly enter next month’s edition amongst the favorites.
“It’ll be nice to arrive at Circuit de la Sarthe having secured a pair of wins on two very different circuits,” Treluyer said. “It shows we’re performing well everywhere, but need to remain humble.
“The biggest mistake you can make at Le Mans is turning up over-confident. We’ve got to keep working.
“Porsche is looking good this year and we have to hang in there. We managed the race better, but they have the edge in terms of raw performance. That said, Le Mans is also about experience.”