Benoît Tréluyer helped the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro claim a podium finish on its maiden competitive outing following a fierce battle for victory in the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (5 May).
The Frenchman's first rostrum for Audi Sport away from the Le Mans 24 Hours, the result secured the German marque a clean sweep of the top four positions and bodes well for the hybrid machine's potential ahead of next month's showpiece event at La Sarthe.
"We were fastest during free practice but weren't quite able to make good on that during qualifying and the race," explained Benoît after the podium ceremony. "We just lacked a bit of experience with the hybrid technology, which we are not yet getting the maximum from. The R18 Ultra on the other hand is already fully developed and, while the #3 car that won was not as fast in qualifying or warm-up, it benefited from a good setup and the right choice of tyres."
Starting from the second row with rubber that had not fully come up to temperature, Tréluyer worked to get heat into the tyres during his opening stint while also contending with a brake bias issue. That allowed the Audi R18 Ultra of fellow countryman Loïc Duval past, the #3 enjoying better pace at this stage of the race, with Tréluyer then matching the leader during his second stint.
"We were also a little unlucky with the safety car," said Benoît. "I was 15 to 20 seconds behind Loïc after my first stop, but we were more than 50 seconds behind when the caution period ended. We pitted just before the safety car came out, so logically we should have ended up ahead of him. We'll have to try and understand what happened there."
But with final preparations ahead of Le Mans the primary objective for the #1 car crew during the trip to Belgium the race was extremely promising. "There are a lot of positives to take away as we have learnt a great deal," said Tréluyer. "We were lacking running in racing conditions and in the rain but we put that right here, and we were also able to get to grips with and develop the hybrid system.
"The cohesion we have here is also very positive," he continued. "Our team is both strong and united. André (Lotterer), Marcel (Fässler) and I are over the moon as we can see a real difference from when we raced here 12 months ago. There is some progress to be made on the car to fully exploit the hybrid system's potential, but we are all feeling ready to face the challenge of Le Mans."