Drama unfolds in opening two hours at Silverstone

Peugeot's bid for the 2008 Le Mans Series championship appears to be over following two separate accidents in the opening two hours of the season-ending Silverstone 1000km. First, it was points leader Nicolas Minasssian in the No. 7 Team Peugeot...

Peugeot's bid for the 2008 Le Mans Series championship appears to be over following two separate accidents in the opening two hours of the season-ending Silverstone 1000km. First, it was points leader Nicolas Minasssian in the No. 7 Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi-FAP who suffered a massive crash. Then, just twenty minutes later, the No. 1 Audi Sport Team Joest R10 TDI of Dindo Capello and No. 8 Peugeot of Stephane Sarrazin collided while battling for second place, sending both cars into the gravel trap. This has given Alexandre Premat in the No. 2 Audi a clear lead in both the race and the drivers' championship.

The first major twist came with one hours and 17 minutes complete when Minassian crashed out on the Hangar Straight. The Frenchman, who was in third at the time, collided with the No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche of Richard Lietz while trying to get around a slow LMP car. Minassian's Peugeot spun around and caught air, luckily not turning over. The heavy impact, though, signaled an end to Minassian and co-drivers Marc Gene's race, and presumably championship bid as well. The accident brought out the safety car for the first time in the race.

Just minutes after the field took the green for the restart, Sarrazin and Capello collided heading into Turn 1. The two diesel contenders were fighting for second overall, and ended up both getting beached in the gravel trap. Capello got out of the gravel and was able to limp back to pits for what appeared to be fuel and tires-only. Sarrazin also got his car back to the pits, but his Peugeot suffered considerably more damage, mostly suspension-related. Miraculously, Capello rejoined the fray only two laps down, but out of the top-10 overall. However, the No. 8 Peugeot remains in the garage undergoing repairs.

These two unexpected turns have given Alexandre Premat and Mike Rockenfeller a clear lead out front in the race, and also in the drivers' championship. Audi's young guns came into today's battle with a two-point deficit on Minassian and Gene. But with the No. 7 car now out of the race, all Premat and Rocky will need is to bring the car home in one piece to score Audi's first LMS race win this season, and bag the championship as well.

Jan Charouz now runs in second overall in the No. 10 Charouz Racing System Lola B08/60 Aston Martin, with Olivier Panis in the No. 6 Team Oreca Matmut Courage-Oreca LC70 Judd in a fine third. Both teams have benefited from the misfortunes of the diesel juggernauts, but there is still a long way to go.

Van Merksteijn Motorsport has led the LM P2 class since the start of the race, with Jos Verstappen in the Dutch Porsche RS Spyder enjoying a fourth place overall run, followed by the Speed Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 Judd in second. In LM GT1, Antonio Garcia leads the way in the Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9, while the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari F430 GT of Rob Bell and Jamie Melo continue to pace LM GT2.

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