One-Two Finish Tops Off A Great Season
Peugeot finished 2011 in style with a sixth race win from seven races and a fourth one-two. Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Bourdais claimed victory at Zhuhai ahead of Franck Montagny and Stéphane Sarrazin, after a close race in which the Peugeot 908s once again combined performance, reliability and endurance. This one-two finish in China rounds off a successful year for Peugeot, which has seen them secure a second ILMC title.
Strategy proves key to victory
This one-two finish tops off a great season.
The final race of the 2011 season in Zhuhai was decided by strategy. “Given the heat and the track conditions, we chose to alter our strategy during the race”, explained Sébastien Bourdais. “So, I did a triple stint, two of which were on the same tyres. This enabled us to pull away from the Audis, who were very quick.” This bold choice paid dividends, as Sébastien Bourdais and Anthony Davidson secured their second win of the season together by adopting a good pace from start to finish. The number 7 car drivers held a narrow lead over Stéphane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny right to the very end of this exciting race. Lapping at the same pace, the two Peugeots controlled proceedings at the end of the race, gradually extending their lead over their rivals.
Traffic and tyres – the season's key factors
Like the intense battle that has raged throughout 2011, traffic management was once again one of the key factors in this race, as was tyre use. The expertise of the Team Peugeot Total drivers has often proved decisive in this key area of endurance racing. Yet again, on the winding Zhuhai racetrack, they produced a faultless performance.
A clean sweep for the Peugeot 908s
After making its competitive debut this season, the Peugeot 908 is today able to celebrate its fifth win in seven races. Exemplary reliability, with only one DNF this year, low fuel consumption and low tyre wear are just some of its strong points. “Today, the win took shape after a third of the race”, summarised Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport’s Technical Director. “Our rival started very quickly, so we adapted our strategy, especially as regards the choice of tyres. Winning here was the second of Peugeot’s objectives for the season, since the economic stakes are high in China for the brand. We did it in style here, with a one-two finish, an all-Peugeot front row in qualifying and the fastest race lap. This year we have won six of the seven races on the calendar. Every battle with our main rival has been exciting and very intensely fought. Technically, we only had a problem at Petit Le Mans, but we analysed it quickly and responded accordingly. Today’s race completes what has been a great season.”
The race starts off at a sprint
At 11.00am local time, under a blazing sun, the race began at an incredibly fast pace. Starting from pole position, Sébastien Bourdais turned into the first corner ahead of Franck Montagny. The no.8 driver found himself overtaken by both Audis before the end of the first lap. The top four, with Sébastien Bourdais ahead of Allan McNisch, Timo Bernhard and Franck Montagny, were lapping at a similar pace. With ten minutes gone, the first backmarkers were overtaken by the leading cars. Hampered by the traffic, Sébastien Bourdais lost three places, falling back to fourth. The first round of pit stops changed the leaderboard. The Audi no.1 opted for a double stint with the same set of tyres, whereas the Peugeot team decided to change the tyres on both cars. The German car therefore returned to the track in front with a twenty-second lead over Franck Montagny and Sébastien Bourdais. Meanwhile, Allan McNish lost a lap due to repairs being carried out on his car after a clash.
Each to their own strategy
Gradually, the pattern of the race was formed, with three cars lapping together at the front, the Audi no.1 ahead of the two Peugeots. Noticing that Sébastien Bourdais was pushing the pace, Franck Montagny let his team-mate past shortly before the second round of pit stops. This was the point at which different strategies were adopted. In the Peugeot no.8, Stéphane Sarrazin took over from Franck Montagny at 12.28pm, whereas Sébastien Bourdais refuelled and completed a triple stint, two of which he did on the same set of tyres. He therefore grabbed the lead, moving around fifteen seconds ahead of the Audi no.1, driven by that point by Marcel Fässler.
The race positions changed with each round of pit stops. At the start of his second stint, Marcel Fässler found himself at the front, ahead of Stéphane Sarrazin, whilst Anthony Davidson got into the Peugeot no.7. At the half-way stage of the race, both Peugeots, which were completing longer stints than their rivals, picked up the pace. Negotiating the traffic with ease, Stéphane Sarrazin moved past the Swiss driver on lap 113. Two laps later, Anthony Davidson produced a great overtaking move to take second place. The British driver only took a few laps to close the gap to Stéphane Sarrazin. He moved ahead at 1.56pm, just before Stéphane Sarrazin came into the pits to hand over to Franck Montagny.
A clear-cut race to the chequered flag
In his second stint, Anthony Davidson managed to build enough of a lead for Sébastien Bourdais to come back out onto the track in the lead after the Peugeot no.7’s fifth pit stop. With only a few seconds between them, it was only through being held up by slower cars that the Peugeot no.8 lost touch with the race leader. After successfully completing 249 laps, Sébastien Bourdais and Anthony Davidson were the first to take the chequered flag, followed by Franck Montagny and Stéphane Sarrazin, thus securing a fine one-two finish for Peugeot.
Sébastien Bourdais, Peugeot 908 no.7: “I made a good start, but got caught in the traffic and the other cars took advantage. It often works out like that when you’re the first to come up on slower cars. We then decided, successfully, to change tactics. This race is very much like the rest of the season: very closely contested at the start, and then gradually our rivals lost touch as the race went on. In terms of performance, it was much closer than the result would suggest. This one-two finish tops off a great season. For me, this is my third win. The team has been very strong this season and all the drivers have been consistent.”
Anthony Davidson, Peugeot 908 no.7: “It was an interesting race; very close and all about strategy. The car’s handling was perfect. The tyres weren’t working particularly well at the start of the race. We didn’t panic and changed the tyres at the first driver handover. The car worked very well from that point onwards. The hotter it became, the more rubber there was on the track, the better it was for us. We’re all very happy with the way the season has gone. We have shown the Peugeot 908 and Team Peugeot Total to have very good performance levels at all the tracks.”
It has been a good season for Peugeot, with a second consecutive ILMC title.
Stéphane Sarrazin, Peugeot 908 no.8: “This weekend, my three team-mates were very quick and nobody made even the slightest mistake. We gave everything and everyone did a great job. It has been a good season for Peugeot, with a second consecutive ILMC title and a win here in China for the second year running.”
Franck Montagny, Peugeot 908 no.8: “We were expecting a very close race. It was always going to be the way on this track. The top four cars all started the race with different tyre configurations. Our tyre set-up didn’t really suit me at the start. We were in with a shout of victory until my second stint in the car when I was held up badly by the traffic and lost about fifteen second due to a false safety car warning. I am pleased with the result and overall, am very happy with this season. We have proved that we can win with different ideas and technologies to those of our main rival.”