Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Minassian claimed victory at the Silverstone 1000 km for Peugeot, giving the French manufacturer the victory they were hoping for, but it turned out to be a much easier task than anyone had anticipated, as they took the chequered flag with a comfortable 43-second margin to the second Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, entered by ORECA Racing.
"I felt very confident on my arrival at Silverstone and I was looking forward to the prospect of racing in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP again. Anthony did an excellent job during the early part of the race and all he left me to do was control from in front! This win is a great way to celebrate my final competitive outing in this car which is quite simply fantastic. This was my second win in the 908," smiled Minassian.
The prospects were good for a hard-fought race early, with the rival Audi R15 TDIs having claimed the front row, but with two Peugeots waiting to pounce. The early stages of the race proved that: although the #8 Audi could not fight for the lead, Allan McNish in the pole-sitting #8 took the lead at the start, holding off Davidson in the lad Peugeot as the two fought wheel to wheel.
Nine laps into the race, Davidson made a bold move on McNish into Abbey, and made it stick, taking the lead for the first time -- and for good, as it turned out. McNish now took over pressuring Davidson for the lead, but it was not to last for long: the Scot pulled off the track after just 15 laps, with a failed differential. Amazingly, it was the first mechanical DNF for the Audi works team since the introduction of the original R10 TDI at the beginning of the 2006 season.
"I thoroughly enjoyed myself during the early part of the race for two reasons: it was the first time I had been given the task of starting in the Peugeot, and also because it was such an exciting scrap," said Davidson. "It's a shame that McNish left me on my own! Today's result is a great way to kick off the championship for Peugeot." Davidson was referring to the 2010 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup contest championship.
After the retirement of McNish, Davidson and Minassian controlled the pace, easily maintaining the gap to the ORECA entry of Nicolas Lapierre and Stephane Sarrazin. For the latter pair, though, there was more than just consolation as the second place clinched for them the 2010 Le Mans Series title.
ORECA Group president, Hugues de Chaunac, was estactic over the triple championship and said: "It's a clean sweep! The Team ORECA-Matmut had only one car so there was no room for errors. We finished second helping Peugeot to score a double and bag the maximum number of points in the ILMC, as well as winning the Drivers', Teams' and Manufacturers' titles for the Lion."
The #8 Audi, piloted by Rinaldo Capello and Timo Bernhard, was never able to mount a challenge to the two Peugeots, suffering from severe understeer in key parts of the circuit, as Audi's new high-downforce configuration underwent some teething pains in its first race. They finished just over a minute adrift of the second Peugeot.
"Our rivals were a bit quicker, particularly in traffic," said Capello. "We had some problems with understeer, that's why our car wasn't agile enough to keep up with them in traffic. That was the crucial factor. We made the maximum of the situation. We learned some more things with the new aerodynamics package and will continue to improve the car for the next race. It's a shame that our team mates retired so early. Audi hasn't had a technical defect in ages. And I'm sure that it won't happen again very soon either."
The LM P2 class, though, provided more excitement than was anticipated: the dominant Strakka Racing HPD ARX-01 was well on its way to cruising to victory, when Nick Leventis made contact with the LM GT2 Spyker, forcing the team into the pits for repairs.
The team ended up racing against time, as Danny Watts fought to catch up with the Quifel-ASM Team's Ginetta Zytek, with Olivier Pla at the wheel. In the end, Watts, Leventis and Jonny Kane made it back to the top of the podium, with Pla and Miguel Amaral in close second.
"It's a great way to finish off the year," said Kane. "We can't be disappointed with this season in any way. We've achieved so much. We said at the start of the year that we wanted to win Le Mans and a Le Mans Series race outright, and we've done both. The whole team should feel very proud of everything they've achieved."
Richard Bell and Darren Turner looked to be on the way to taking the LM GT2 victory for JMW Motorsport in their Aston Martin Vantage, but they received a late-race drive-through penalty, allowing Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni to take the class victory for AF Corse Ferrari instead. Marco Holzer and Richard Westbrook also slipped by to take second in class in a Porsche 911 RSR GT3.