Peugeot wins first race of 2008 LMS Series
The No7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP driven by Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gené won yesterday’s 1,000 km of Catalunya, by over one lap from the No2 Audi R10 TDi. With Automobiles Peugeot’s new Managing Director Jean-Philippe Collin in attendance, Team Peugeot Total set the pace in Barcelona, qualifying both cars on the front row of the grid.
As the start lights changed to green, the N°8 pole position car driven by Pedro Lamy lead the field from the lights. He then promptly proceeded to pull away from the rest of the field, including Nicolas Minassian in the No7 sister car, which had a poor start. The No7 car nevertheless soon eased into third place before engaging in a great battle with the N°1 Audi R10 TDi driven by Allan McNish. On Lap thirteen, Minassian passed the Audi and knuckled down in a bid to make up the seven seconds that distanced him from the leading 908.
Hardly had the gap been bridged, however, than their impending duel was interrupted when the Safety Car was sent out, a phase which allowed McNish to steal a march on his rivals. Sitting on the tail of the Audi driver as the all-clear was given once again, Stéphane Sarrazin tried to find a way past but was hit by an Aston Martin on Lap 42.
”I didn’t really understand McNish’s move,” stressed Stéphane. “For a moment, I thought he had a problem because he braked hard in an unusual place. I hit my brakes, too, but Enge wasn’t able to avoid me with his Aston Martin.” The N°8 908 HDi FAP’s rear right floor was damaged in the collision and the car had to pit for a new diffuser, losing eleven laps and all chance of victory in the process.
There was further drama on Lap 55 when Catalonia’s Marc Gené leapt more than a metre in the air after launching his car off a kerb. ”There was a misunderstanding with a backmarker. In trying to avoid him, I took off on a kerb and my car landed very awkwardly. I thought it was damaged, but I can tell you that the 908 is a really strong car!” Two laps later, despite his brief flight, Marc Gené found himself in front when the N°1 Audi hit mechanical trouble.
After that, the N°7 car enjoyed a trouble-free run all the way to the flag thanks to some consistent laps which allowed the crew to control the race from in front. Ten laps from home, however, a driver change suddenly became necessary when Gené started to suffer from a bad attack of pins and needles in his right leg. It was therefore Nicolas Minassian who crossed the line to hand Peugeot victory in the first LMS race of 2008.
Meanwhile, the two drivers of the N°8 car, Pedro Lamy and Stéphane Sarrazin, posted a series of fastest race laps before once again finding themselves in traffic. ”I was hit at the rear left by another car,” related Pedro Lamy. ”That sent me fishtailing and I couldn’t avoid hitting a Lamborghini. We both ended up parked in a gravel trap. I had to wait for help to get going again and then had to make a pit-stop to change the bonnet.” The N°8 car finally ended the race in 12th position, after their eventful race, but did post the fastest race lap, for their efforts.
Michel Barge: “This is a superb win on several accounts. First of all, it’s a great result for Marc Gené who does so much for Catalonian motor sport and for Nicolas Minassian who put in a great run. At the same time, we were joined here by Audi and that gave us a chance to confirm the 908 HDi FAP’s competitiveness. I believe we are on the right track to be able to put a strong performance over the coming races, especially with our good level of reliability.”
Bruno Famin: “It was a very good weekend technically because we didn’t have a single problem. All the drama resulted from racing incidents! We ran with the same specification as Sebring, and the N°7 car was fitted with a number of components – including the engine – that had already completed the American race. We have now completed a race distance of 5,500 km, which compares favourably to the Le Mans 24 Hours which will probably last something like 6,000 km!”
Nicolas Minassian: “It’s been a great day. The team is progressing all the time and is extremely reactive. We pushed as hard as we could and the car proved both quick and reliable. It was quite an easy win at the end of the day.”
Marc Gené: “I am above all delighted to have won my home race here in Catalonia. I would also like to thank Peugeot for giving us such a strong and competitive car. Our only problem came towards the end of the race when I got a bad case of pins and needles in my right leg. I was forced to hand over the wheel to Nicolas for the final laps.”
Next round: Monza (April 26-27)
Barcelona - final positions:
1. M. Gené/N. Minassian (Peugeot 908 HDi FAP), 215 laps in 5h 59m 30.812s (av: 167.030 kph)
2. A. Premat/M. Rockenfeller (Audi R10), +1 lap
3. S. Mucke/J. Charrouz (Lola Aston Martin), 3 laps
4. E. Collard/J-C. Boullion (Pescarolo), +5 laps
5. R. Capello/A. McNish (Audi R10), +6 laps
12. P. Lamy/S. Sarrazin (Peugeot 908 HDi FAP), +15 laps Etc.