Road Atlanta: Peugeot race report

PEUGEOT GO ALL THE WAY IN AN INCREDIBLE PURSUIT RACE! 37 cars at the start, 11 safety car interventions, 394 laps of the exacting, hilly American circuit, temperatures in excess of 30C and just 4.512 seconds in it at the flag between the only ...

PEUGEOT GO ALL THE WAY IN AN INCREDIBLE PURSUIT RACE!

37 cars at the start, 11 safety car interventions, 394 laps of the exacting, hilly American circuit, temperatures in excess of 30C and just 4.512 seconds in it at the flag between the only Peugeot 908 HDi FAP present and the N o.1 Audi which finally took the spoils at Road Atlanta. Peugeot Sport came to the United States to gain experience as it prepares for its 2009 campaign, and that's exactly what it achieved!

The way qualifying unfolded suggested that the 2008 Petit Le Mans would be an extremely close and unrelenting race, and it ended up being an amazing 1,000-mile sprint which turned the best-laid strategies on their head from the start. In the hands of Nicolas Minassian, then Stephane Sarrazin and Christian Klien, the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP faced particularly stiff competition from the American Le Mans Series regulars, namely Audi, Porsche and Acura. And right from the beginning there was a spate of safety car interventions, with a total of seven in the first four hours! Six cars took turns at the front of the particularly buoyant pack and the Peugeot trio spent much of the race crossing swords with the N o.2 Audi of Werner/Luhr in particular. At the height of this extraordinarily intense fight, Christian Klien succeeded in posting the fastest race lap with a time of 1m 7.056s on Lap 173, shortly before the midpoint, at which stage there were still eight cars on the same lap!

The battle became fiercer still during the second half of the race as the N o.1 Audi (McNish/Capello/Pirro) fought back to figure amongst the front-runners after an accident during the formation lap. Helped by the numerous safety car interventions, it succeeded in making up lost ground after taking time to make repairs. The three cars (two Audis and the Peugeot) traded the provisional lead as a function of their refuelling stops and driver/tyre changes.

With some 20 laps remaining, Christian Klien, who was clearly faster, made an attempt to pass the then leader McNish who responded with a virile defensive manoeuvre which saw the Peugeot driver lose valuable seconds. A further safety car intervention deprived the Peugeot driver of a second chance and he ultimately crossed the line 4 seconds after the N o.1 Audi, and with the slenderest of cushions over his chasers. No fewer than five cars took the flag on the same lap after almost 10 hours of racing round a track on which the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP was competing for the very first time.

Michel BARGE: "We came to Road Atlanta to work on our approach to race strategy, gain pit-stop experience and push the car's reliability, and that's exactly what we achieved. Events like this confirm our belief that we need to race and glean extra experience as we prepare for 2009. We gave it our very best effort all the way to the flag and crossed the line just 4 seconds behind our rival which has gone unbeaten round this highly specific track for many years. We only had one 908 HDi FAP here but we didn't have a single technical problem and the team rose magnificently to the challenge of taking on the high level, battle-hardened competition we knew we would face this weekend."

-credit: peugeot

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