Benoit Treluyer could make his return to prototype competition, with the three-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner talking with “several teams” on a potential FIA World Endurance Championship program for the 2018-19 season.
The Frenchman, who remains an Audi-contracted driver this year, is reportedly close to signing with a LMP1 privateer team.
Both SMP Racing and the Manor-run CEFC TRSM Racing outfit are the leading LMP1 teams yet to finalize its full driver lineups, which will field two cars apiece in the revived top prototype class.
Treluyer, however, insists that a deal has yet to be reached but is hopeful of a comeback to the category.
“If I come back, it will be in LMP1 or in a very good LMP2 team,” he told Endurance-Info. “I want to have a chance to get on the podium.
“Winning Le Mans is again on my mind. I’ve been talking with several teams but nothing is finalized. I’ve been approached by different teams and my phone has been ringing more than in the past.”
While having received offers to remain in the prototype ranks, Treluyer shifted his focus to GT3 racing last year following’s Audi’s exit from LMP1, which saw the 41-year-old take on the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and make his debut in the Italian GT Championship.
Treluyer admitted that he needed a break from top-level prototype competition but is now ready to return.
“I think I needed a weaning after the Audi [LMP1] adventure,” he said. “More than a shock, the end of the LMP1 program was a disappointment. I needed a break and I didn’t feel like coming back.
“But the desire has now returned. Whenever I drive, I’ve always been honest with myself. If you don’t want to drive at Le Mans, then it’s better not to come at all.”
SMP and Manor are both coming off week-long tests at Motorland Aragon, which saw Mikhail Aleshin, Vitaly Petrov and 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP2 race winners Egor Orudzhev and Matevos Isaakyan share the wheel of a BR Engineering BR1 AER.
So far, only Aleshin and Petrov are confirmed at SMP, with Charlie Robertson and Oliver Rowland two of the expected six drivers for Manor’s pair of Ginetta G60-LT-P1 Mecachrome entries.
ByKolles, with its revised ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO, was also in attendance, although it’s understood Treluyer is not in contention for the team’s two remaining seats.
Treluyer/Lotterer/Fassler Reunion for Suzuka 10H?
The most successful LMP1 driver trio in WEC history could be reunited for the Suzuka 10 Hours in August, with Treluyer tipped to join Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS.
The new-for-2018 event will mark the third round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, in a race that will feature factory support from the German manufacturer.
Should the deal materialize, it would mark the first time all three drivers have shared the wheel of the same car since the end of the Audi R18 program in Bahrain 2016.
“That would be great if all three of us could do this race together,” Treluyer said. “But for that, it’s necessary that the budget is gathered.
“Driving in GT is different from a prototype but the desire to win is the same.”
Laurent Mercier contributed to this report