The two titans of sports car racing prepare to square off against each other once more at this Saturday’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Audi missed the first race at Sebring this year which saw Peugeot take an uncomplicated victory. Those fortunes changed when the German marque returned for the the 24 Hours of Le Mans and swept the podium. The first shot across the bow hand been delivered and Peugeot were on notice.
Three weeks ago, Peugeot redeemed themselves with a victory at the Silverstone and served notice that Petit Le Mans was not going to be a easy race for Audi. Trading blows and bloody noses, this rivalry has been shaping up to be one fo the best in motorsport history. Both marque’s have combined to win the last seven 24 Hours of Le Mans and dominated the LMP category.
The struggle for dominance at the Petit Le Mans has an added element this year as the race has been included in the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup or ILMC. The series is an international competition that includes a handful of races including the Petit Le Mans, Silverstone , Zuhai. Audi and Peugeot have a keen interest in the cup and this weekend’s Petit Le Mans is the first act of a play that is sure to be dramatic.
The rivalry between Audi and Peugeot has been raging for a few years now with both marque’s evolving to a diesel engine technology built for racing. It has been a revolutionary evolution for both teams and provided ALMS and Le Mans fans some terrific racing. Audi’s Allan McNish, former formula 1 driver and Le Mans legend, said:
â€œIâ€™m really looking forward to Petit â€“ itâ€™s a race that I love,â€ confirmed McNish. â€œThe circuit suits my style because it is very fast and flowing and you need to be aggressive. Itâ€™s always an intense race which will see us [Audi] renewing our battle with Peugeot which gives us something to get our teeth into.â€
Allan is no stranger to winning at Petit but last years rained-out race was a bitter disappointment and McNish is looking for redemption:
â€œDindo [Capello] and I led for the opening four hours but I then spun and dropped to third moments before the race went in to a Safety Car period as the rain intensified. It was ultimately stopped with almost five hours run and we then waited for almost another four hours to see whether the conditions improved but quite rightly the organisers decided not to re-start the event which left us in third-place. It was a disappointing way for the race to end but I felt robbed and frustrated at the time.â€
No matter the outcome, the race is proving to be a real battle with over 78% of the lap on full throttle and the weather slated for no rain. The big question remainsâ€“â€“has Audi made the right tweaks and corrections on the R15 TDI car to deliver a blow to Peugeot or will the French team continue the dominance many believe they have?