André Lotterer: "Le Mans is where I've had my best successes. My first 24 Hours came together kind of at the least minute." It was on 8 June 2009, during Scrutineering, that his name first appeared on the entry list. "I was given the opportunity to do Le Mans with Team Kolles fielding two Audi R10s. At the time, Benoît Tréluyer and Loïc Duval (a close friend, Ed.) often talked to me about the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They were telling me I needed to do it. So I took my chance, with a small budget, I even paid out of my own pocket to be able to take the start." The race became a true test of physical and mental stamina when Audi driver Narayn Karthikeyan was injured jumping the pit wall before the start and Lotterer was forced to do the race as a duo with his only other teammate Charles Zwolsman.
This setback pushed Lotterer to his absolute limit. The pair finished seventh, behind factory cars. "I was able to show my potential, what I was capable of and especially that I was ready for any challenge. After the race, the Audi Sport engineers told me there was perhaps a spot for me in the official team."
In 2010, Lotterer found himself at the helm of the R15+, finishing second. He could already tell that Le Mans was a race tailor-made for him. "At the time, I was doing Super Formula and Super GT. So I was familiar with the speed requirements of single-seaters and managing GT traffic in endurance racing. For me, LMP1 was a combination of the two, a good formula. I understood that Le Mans was what I needed."
Audi decided to switch to a closed car in 2011 with the R18 TDI, and it proved a success. Driving the ultimate R18 TDI to take on the Peugeot 908s, Lotterer and his teammates Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer won with a lead of almost 14 minutes on the French cars, becoming motorsport legends in the process. "I felt really comfortable with that car, I could really go for its full potential. It was exceptional. To work with a constructor who put so much into it was fantastic. I know we were lucky, we could do what we needed to at the right time."
Now, with 11 participations (consecutive since 2009), Lotterer is the most experienced in the entire class. At the age of 37, he finds himself in a sort of "boss" roll. "Now, I choose my moments to go on attack. I prefer to take my time, to set my car up well and then go for it. The 'kids' attack all the time, but in the end you get the same result." Lotterer and his teammates Neel Jani and Bruno Senna are proud of the #1 emblazened on their Rebellion R13-Gibson. For 24 hours starting Saturday at 15:00, they are going to be attacking Toyotas!
PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES DU MANS, TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2019. André Lotterer at the 24 Hours of Le Mans autograph session.