Audi played it safe during the first day of practice for this weekend’s Silverstone round of the FIA World Endurance Championship, according to driver Benoit Treluyer.
The Frenchman, who is sharing the new #7 Audi R18 with Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler, said the team is taking extra care to ensure its new car is capable of a good result in Sunday’s race.
“I think Porsche is ahead of everyone but in the fight between us and Toyota it is pretty close,” Treluyer told The Checkered Flag. “After yesterday morning the mechanics have been working hard on the car. Some of the other teams have been trying different things but we are not looking at the others because we have enough to concentrate on with our car.”
“In qualifying we will see how everyone else is getting on, but at the moment we are having to work hard to make things right – I wouldn’t say we have problems but there is plenty of planning to do.”
During free practice on Friday the #7 car was intertwined on the timesheets with the sister #8 machine and the Toyota TS050s. Treluyer’s fastest lap of 1:41.714s came in the second session, when the track started to develop a dry line. But despite the clear 1.7 second advantage held by Porsche after practice, the three time Le Mans winner is confident that Audi can challenge at the front.
“What you definitely don’t want is to wreck the car in the free practice sessions,” he explains. “I only did one flying lap in the Friday morning session so we played it really safe. I was pushing pretty hard on my flying lap and I knew I could go even quicker so I’m not stressed at all.”
“I think we are in a completely different position now to last year. We have a completely new car and understand that it will be really difficult – but not impossible – to win the race. I think we are going to have to fight to get on the podium, and we have been objective about it; we’ve said it’s going to be really hard.”
“We want this car to be ready for Spa and especially Le Mans, so we don’t want to be going too quick in practice.”
This season’s R18 is even more off-the-wall than last year’s model, featuring radically enhanced bodywork to improve airflow under the car. Treluyer was present at Audi’s recent Monza closed test, where the team was able to gather data on aerodynamic performance.
“This car is really radical in aerodynamic design, and is also great fun. I have great confidence in the car and once we fix some of the little details we will be fine. It is a really complex machine – everything works with everything else. So, if one thing goes wrong or is not set up well, then the whole system will be interfered.”
“The test was mainly about top speeds because we’ve got a long straight at Monza. We also tested tyres and we think this car will be good on tyres at Le Mans. We were working well together and it was interesting to see how the car worked with the different aero.”
Treluyer and co will embark on their 2016 FIA WEC title pursuit tomorrow (April 17), with the 6 Hours of Silverstone getting underway at 12:00 local time.