ILMC: Peugeot Zhuhai race report

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PEUGEOT SEALS ILMC TITLE IN CHINA Team Peugeot Total produced a blend of panache and suspense to round off the 908 HDi FAP's career with a resounding victory in Sunday's 1000km of Zhuhai (southeast China). After monopolising the front row of...

PEUGEOT SEALS ILMC TITLE IN CHINA

Team Peugeot Total produced a blend of panache and suspense to round off the 908 HDi FAP's career with a resounding victory in Sunday's 1000km of Zhuhai (southeast China). After monopolising the front row of the grid at the start, the two cars succeeded in dominating the early part of the race before coming under pressure themselves. The team's nerves held, however, and Peugeot helped by an assertive strategy went on to celebrate its fifth win of the season thanks to Stephane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny in the No.2908, as well as the Manufacturers' title in the inaugural ILMC (Intercontinental Le Mans Cup)!

In a little less than two months, Peugeot has succeeded in securing two one-two finishes (Silverstone and Road Atlanta) and a win at Zhuhaï, China, to claim both the Manufacturers' and Teams' crowns in the newly- created ILMC.

The race win went to Stephane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny in the No.2 908 HDi FAP which crossed the line with a cushion of 4.826 over the Audi of Kristensen/McNish. The other 908, which was shared by Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud, completed the distance in fourth place after running to a slightly different strategy and after surviving a tangle with another competitor with the flag in sight.

A thrilling end

Peugeot's opponents did all they could to apply pressure during the opening laps, and Capello (Audi No.8) briefly succeeded in splitting the two French cars before the latter began to pull clear after the first round of refuelling stops.

But as the afternoon progressed, The German machines succeeded in gaining ground again, and McNish emerged from the 150th lap in front. His move sparked the beginning of a particularly tense, nail-biting finale which saw the two teams trade the lead as a function of their respective pit stop strategies. But there were also a number of questions being asked in the Peugeot camp...

"From the start, we double stinted on the same tyres, whereas our rivals changed theirs each time they stopped," observed Simon Pagenaud during the race. "The problem was that our rears started to lose their edge towards the end of our second stints. We eventually decided to switch to the single-stint option, but we are still in the hunt, which goes to show how strong our original strategy was. Now, it's going to be an exciting sprint to the finish..."

The Frenchman's prediction was on the button, and the final phase of the 1000km of Zhuhaï proved to be an emotional roller-coaster for all the front-runners. Throwing all he had had into the fight, Franck Montagny lost a little ground after going wide into a gravel trap on Lap 162. Shortly afterwards, Bourdais was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop to change a number of damaged body parts following a tangle which earned him a one-second "stop&go". This left everything poised for the outcome to be settled by the speed of the last refuelling stop of Sarrazin who had recovered the lead when Kristensen (Audi) made his final stop. Peugeot Sport got its calculations spot on, however, calling the Frenchman in for a "splash and dash" on Lap 219 which enabled him to rejoin just in front of his Danish rival! From then on that, it was a case of trying to keep the gap stable or even increase it slightly during the dying laps to eventually hand a 19th win to the 908 HDi FAP which consequently ends its career on a high thanks to a great team effort.

After completing the 232 laps in 5hours 36minutes, Team Peugeot Total's drivers and team members could let their joy show after the incredible tension of the previous two hours or so. Sarrazin (Peugeot No.2) took the chequered flag with a lead of 4.826s over the best-placed Audi, a result which clinches both the Manufacturers' and Teams' titles in the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for Team Peugeot Total.

Stephane Sarrazin: "It was an extremely close race, and the last 20 or so laps were incredibly difficult. I just tried to stay concentrated all the way to the flag and not make any mistakes while at the same time driving absolutely flat out. The team did an amazing job and I am proud to have celebrated the 908's last competitive outing by qualifying on pole position and winning the race here in China."

Bruno Famin (Technical Director, Peugeot Sport): "The 908 has concluded its career the way it began it: with a win! True, today's success was a very close-run thing, but I think that only serves to underline how difficult our mission was today, and that makes it all the more satisfying! The race scenario was quite strange, because we started strongly before suffering one or two technical and sporting setbacks. Our biggest technical issue concerned the brakes of the No.2 Peugeot which tended to wear very quickly. As a result, we asked Stephane to modify his driving style and he had to live with the problem until the very last turn..."

Olivier Quesnel (Director, Peugeot Sport): "We are naturally delighted to have won the inaugural ILMC title, but this today's win is particularly satisfying. The race was quite simply magnificent, and the fact that it enabled the 908 to complete its career on a high note is magical. The car will now take its place as one of motor racing's legendary cars, and I am especially proud to have taken this win in China which is a market where Peugeot has high ambitions."

Franck Montagny: "What an incredible way to end a race! I have to say that I share my car with a fantastic driver! At the beginning of my first stint, our car was really strong. But then its performance started to deteriorate, especially concerning its balance under braking."

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP: a legendary car

Following a successful career spanning four years, the 908's last competitive outing was the 1000km of Zhuhai in China. Thanks to a record totalling 19 race wins from 28 starts, the car will now join a long list of outstanding competition cars in the Peugeot museum. Between its debut at Monza, Italy (April 15, 2007) and its swansong appearance at Zhuhai (November 7, 2010), the 908 succeeded in winning every one of endurance racing's classics, from the Le Mans 24 Hours and the 12 Hours of Sebring to Petit Le Mans/Road Atlanta, the Silverstone 1000km, Spa, Interlagos, etc.

Bruno FAMIN (Technical Director): "The 908 was designed in a very short period of time. It was originally scheduled to make its Le Mans debut in June 2008, but the board decided to bring that date forward to June 2007. We were consequently forced to pack all the phases of its design into a shorter time scale. That wasn't easy since we started from a totally clean sheet of paper, not only with regard to the car but also concerning the putting together of a team. Decisions concerning the fundamental specification of the car were taken in autumn 2005 (engine and car architecture). We began with a single-cylinder engine and a full-scale model made from wood for wind-tunnel testing purposes in order to optimise each step. At two o'clock in the morning of September 30, 2006, we fired up the V12 HDi FAP for the very first time on the bench in Velizy. That was one of the most memorable moments of the 908's early development. We started to build the car on December 11, 2006, and the engine ran for the first time in the car (on axle stands) on December 22. The first track-test followed on December 31. It was an enormous challenge for us all, but we succeeded!"

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP statistics:
28 race starts (from Monza 2007 until Zhuhai 2010)
24 pole positions
19 wins
9 one-two finishes
25 fastest race laps

2007: 7 races, 7 pole positions, 6 wins, 2 one-two finishes, 6 fastest race laps
2008: 8 races, 7 pole positions, 4 wins, 1 one-two finish, 8 fastest race laps
2009: 4 races, 3 pole positions, 2 one-two finishes, 3 fastest race laps
2010: 9 races, 7 pole positions, 6 wins, 4 one-two finishes, 8 fastest race laps

Wins at: Le Mans (France), Monza (Italy, Valencia (Spain), Nurburgring (Germany), Spa (Belgium), Silverstone (Great Britain), Portimao (Portugal), Interlagos (Brazil), Sebring (USA), Road Atlanta (USA) and Zhuhai (China).

Titles:
Le Mans Series: 2007 and 2010
Intercontinental Le Mans Cup 2010

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP landmark dates:

November 4, 2004: halt of WRC programme announced
February 23, 2005: decision taken to compete in endurance racing
June 14, 2005: endurance programme announced
October 1, 2005: Bruno Famin appointed and his team chosen. Named Technical Director on January 1, 2006
February 12, 2006: wind-tunnel testing at Magny-Cours, France, for final test before choosing between an
open- or a closed-cockpit car using a 1:4 scale model
February 26, 2006: decision taken to run a closed-cockpit car
March 10, 2006: single-cylinder engine bench tested for the first time
April 18, 2006: first wind tunnel test with Peugeot Sport's model
May 23, 2006: ACO inspection (cockpit space) of wooden model
June 15, 2006: model of V12 HDi FAP engine unveiled at Le Mans
September 11, 2006: engine assembled for the first time
September 28, 2006: the 908 unveiled at the Paris Motor Show
September 302006: 2am, the V12 HDi FAP fired up for the first time on the bench in Velizy
December 10, 2006: 9am (Sunday), first tub delivered
December 11, 2006: building of car begins
December 20, 2006: engine cover delivered
December 22, 2006: 10pm, engine fired up in the car (on axle stands) for the first time
December 31, 2006: 8:46am (Sunday), first track run at Villacoublay
January 4, 2007: 9:08am, engine fired up to warm-up ahead of first test session at Le Castellet, France
January 10, 2007: Car presented to the international media at Mortefontaine, near Paris
April 15, 2007: first win at Monza, Italy
April 6, 2008: first win against Audi at Barcelona, Spain
June 14, 2009: one-two finish in Le Mans 24 Hours
November 7, 2010: last win of the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP at Zhuhai

-source: peugeot

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