An emotional Benoît Tréluyer has confessed that his and team-mates André Lotterer and Marcel Fässler's brilliant success in last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours made him 'cry like a baby' – as he described the result as a victory for the entire Audi team, and the race as one that caused him more stress than he had ever previously experienced.
Tréluyer impressed with pole position in qualifying aboard Audi's all-new R18 TDi, and after a steady start during which it fleetingly gave best to the two sister cars, the #2 machine soon settled into the lead. What's more, barring brief battles with the #7 and #9 Peugeots, there it generally remained.
From 11pm onwards on Saturday night, indeed, the Tréluyer car was the sole remaining Audi in contention following the dramatic accidents that claimed the #3 driven by Allan McNish and the #1 of Mike Rockenfeller, and the Frenchman admits that at first he feared the old adage about bad luck coming in threes would come to cost the Ingolstadt manufacturer dear.
“Honestly, when you see an accident like that, you don't feel that good,” he told Crash.net
of Rockenfeller's high-speed shunt, “and when you jump in the car after that, you say, 'it's happened twice…and we're in the third car!' You don't want it to happen to you as well, so you're a bit stressful!”
There were further nail-biting moments, Tréluyer recalled, in the closing stages of the race, as he sat in the garage watching Lotterer out on-track endeavouring to stave off the chasing Peugeot of Simon Pagenaud – “It was terrible, honestly terrible...I'd never had such stress in my life!” he quips – and you could add to that a number of close calls with other Peugeot drivers palpably unwilling to be lapped, which he magnanimously concedes 'was a bit of a shame, but that's racing'.
In truth, though, much of the hard work had already been done thanks to a superbly aggressive performance by a driver who clearly wanted to do his overtaking on the circuit rather than in the pits.
“It's a fight everywhere,” the former Japanese Super GT and Formula Nippon Champion reasons. “You cannot wait for the effort only from the mechanics in the pits. You have to do your job on the track, and okay, you take risks, but that's part of the race.
“It was a great moment [when Lotterer took the chequered flag]. I couldn't control myself, and I just cried so much. I got that feeling when I won the Formula Nippon Championship. When you work really hard for many years for a target and you achieve it, the pressure is just released and you cry like a baby.
“I realised that it's just super-cool to win Le Mans. We won an incredible race, and it was a super feeling. The team did a great job, and thanks to all the people who worked on the car; they were so disappointed by the incidents in the race for the two other cars, because they knew the R18 could win. It was big pressure for us after that to win this race for all the people who have worked on the project.