Despite setting a lap time good enough to take pole position for the 79th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend, Benoît Tréluyer insists Audi was not even looking to snare the top spot on the starting grid – suggesting that the new R18 TDi 'could be' even quicker than it looks.
After team-mate André Lotterer had put the #2 machine second in the provisional order during Wednesday evening's opening qualifying session – behind Peugeot's Le Mans single-lap specialist Stéphane Sarrazin – Tréluyer went even better on Thursday, pipping the defending race-winning #1 Audi by a scant six hundredths to move to the top of the pile. And he wasn't, he conceded, even aiming to do so.
“It's a pretty good start,” the Frenchman told Crash.net
. “We weren't chasing after that, but it was really great to get it and it shows our car performance. Marcel [Fässler] did a really great lap in second qualifying, and André was quick as well, so yeah, it's a pretty good start for our team and for Audi in general, because the other cars are quick, too. It's always better to start the race in that condition than if you are four seconds slower!”
Stressing that personal glory is not a priority within the Audi camp and that the R18 'could be quicker' than the pace that it showed, Tréluyer added that although 'most of the time in the wet I have good races', he would ideally prefer the upcoming 24 hours to remain dry – and in a race that has been billed as one of the toughest in recent memory between diesel behemoths Audi and Peugeot with as many as six or even seven potential winners, he acknowledges that keeping out-of-trouble will be absolutely key.
“We don't really care about [being the quickest in the team],” the 34-year-old underlined. “You feel more confident when you are the quickest, but it doesn't mean the others are slower, really, because it's just the timing [of the lap] and having no traffic. We are all pretty equal; it just depends on the day or the conditions. We are not racing against each other – we are racing together.
“The Peugeot is very quick, too, and it's very close [between the two cars], so it will be a nice race and a nice fight all the way through, which is great for the fans. The level is very high, so it's going to be a really difficult race. We have to push all the way through and we have to have an aggressive strategy and not have any mistakes if we want to win – it's going to be tough.”
Messrs. Tréluyer, Lotterer and Fässler finished as runners-up at La Sarthe in 2010, and the former quips that the goal twelve months on has to be 'to step up one'. If they can succeed in doing so, admits the ex-Formula Nippon and Japanese Super GT Champion, it would rank as one of the crowning achievements on his already impressive CV.
“I have had many targets in my career, and I have nearly achieved them all,” he concludes. “The next one is to win Le Mans, and I hope I can do it. We were very close last year for our first year with Audi, and we feel more confident this year. We need to have a race without any troubles, and if we can do it, it will be a nice present for all the people who have supported me from the beginning of my career.”