The day-long battle between Peugeot and Audi rivaled some of the best motorsport duals in history. The race started like many battles with swords drawn and slashes taken. The bravado of driving for 1,000 miles as if each lap were a qualifying lap was astounding. Early race incidents for Audi cost them dearly as the Peugeotâ€™s were consistently showing pace and durabilityâ€“â€“something that betrayed them at the 24 hours of Le Mans this year with mechanical failure.
Ultimately you could reduce this race to a balaclava. All the time, toil and resources equalized by a simple under-the-helmet head cover that Dindo Capello struggled with approximately mid-race. As he entered the esses, the balaclava slipped down over his eyes temporarily blocking his vision and forcing him to pit so veteran teammate Allan McNish could take over driving duties. That unscheduled stop placed the team a lap down and was nigh on impossible to make up given Peugeotâ€™s stellar pace.
The dual had been close the entire day with Audi and Peugeot trading the lead with each pit stop and Audi beating Peugeot in the pit stop times. This left many Audi team members wondering what might have happened if the balaclava had not decided to assault Capello and foiled Audiâ€™s race. The race, quite honestly, was insane! The lap times being set by Audi and Peugeot was on record pace and the cars were never more than 20 seconds apart from each other lap for lap. It was boiling down to a tactical battle of pace, skill, pit stops and brain power. It was going to be epic in scope and result.
This, as they say, is racing and anything can happen. Balaclava or not, Peugeot was the best LMP team today taking their second Petit Le Mans win in a row. The French team is making a habit of unseating Audi as the dominant force in LMP class sports car racing with their 1,2 victory at the Petit LeMans today. They were there at the finish even after some dodgy moments themselves. They faced Audi lap for lap and matched the pace with stellar drives from Franck Montagny, Anthony Davidson and Marc Gene. Stephane Sarrazin who brought the number 08 Puegeot home for the victory but he nearly cost them the race with a suspect passing move early in the day.
Peugeot have come of age in the world of sports car racing and have risen to the challenge offered by the world dominating Audi. They called Audiâ€™s bluff, matched their tactical skills and outpaced them as well as pounced when the Audi stumbled. It was precision work from a team who has served notice that they are here and willing to take on all comers. Audi was looking for redemption this weekend and only found remorse while Peugeot earned a well-deserved victory and convincingly so. It should lead to an interesting race in China in three weeks time.
The GT2 class battle was anyoneâ€™s game for the entire day. Risi Competizione certainly seemed destined to take the victory with car 61 as drivers Jaime Melo, Mika Salo and Giancarlo Fisichella were setting a blistering pace all day. Then disaster struck. The GT class leader #61 came into the pits at 4:49 pm while pits were closed to GT cars for urgent refueling (5 seconds worth of fuel allowed under regulations).Â Unfortunately due to a team communication mix up, drivers started to effect a change over.Â This was stopped, and the team pitted again 5 minutes later for full driver change and new tires.Â The team was given a 60 second penalty for servicing in a closed pit. Fisichella said:
â€œI had a problem with the fuel and the engine stopped as I was coming through Turn 10.Â I was lucky to be coming towards the pits so I came in for the 5 seconds of fuel.Â But then I had to come back again to change drivers and tires.Â It was a shame because until then we were leading and it was going very well.Â The handling was good and the Michelin tires were fine â€“ everything was good until the stop but the race is long so we shall see what happens.
The sister car picked up the slack and had sure victory until running out of fuel on the last lap handing Corvette the victory. A amazing finish that also delivered manufacturer and team championships to the BMW team. Anything can happen in racing and today it did.
Leading the P2 class is none other than ALMS veteran David Brabham in the HPD ARX car. The closest competitor was 2 laps down but that doesnâ€™t negate the terrific drive and performance by the Patron Highcroft team.
08 Stephane Sarrazin Peugeot
07 Anthony Davidson Peugeot
7 Tom Kristensen Audi
1 David Brabham HDP ARC-01c
6 Klaus Graf Porsche RS Spyder
35 Jacques Nicolet Pescarolo P01 Judd
4 Oliver Gavin Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
01 Dominik Farnbacher Ferrari 430 GT
62 Toni Vilander Ferrari 430 GT
95 Marco Werner Oreca FLM09
89 Kyle Marcelli Oreca FLM09
52 Luis Diaz Oreca FLM09
63 Andy Lally Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
54 Jeroen Bleekmoien Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
77 Andrew Davis Porsche 911 GT3 Cup