FROM THE 207 SPIDER TO THE 908 HDi FAP Dino LUNARDI's enviable reward Peugeot Sport had promised that the winner of the inaugural 207 Spider Cup would win a 207 Coupe Cabriolet road car plus a day of testing with the 908 HDi FAP. That ...
FROM THE 207 SPIDER TO THE 908 HDi FAP
Dino LUNARDI's enviable reward Peugeot Sport had promised that the winner of the inaugural 207 Spider Cup would win a 207 Coupe Cabriolet road car plus a day of testing with the 908 HDi FAP. That bombshell announcement had an immediate effect and turned the fight for the trophy into an eagerly-chased grail.
The final outcome of the first 207 Spider Cup went down to the wire and was only decided at the final meeting at Magny-Cours on October 12-14. Prior to the French meeting, four drivers - all French - were still in with a chance of winning the top prize. In the end, the series was clinched by Dino Lunardi who had emerged on top after the previous meeting at Silverstone, Great Britain.
A LOOK BACK AT THE 2007 207 SPIDER CUP
Twenty drivers registered for the 2007 207 Spider Cup. Six nationalities were represented, with entrants hailing from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain. Thanks to the combined efforts of Maxime Soulet, Stephane Lemeret and Maxime Martin, whose cars were run by Team Boutsen Energy Racing, the Nations Cup was awarded to Belgium.
Despite the teething troubles encountered at the beginning of the year, the Spiders put on an exciting show at all seven meetings, five of which were part of the programme of different rounds of the 2007 Le Mans Series (which starred the 908 HDi FAP), plus two other meetings in France, in Pau (part of the WTCC bill) and at Magny-Cours (the final encounter of the Super Serie FFSA).
The tone was set at the competition's curtain-raiser at Monza which saw Maxime Dubrulle emerge as the early pace-setter. He was soon toppled by Gregory Guilvert, who was in turn passed by Julien Schell after the visit to the Nurburgring in Germany. Schell then briefly handed the baton back to Guilvert before Dino Lunardi finally put an end to the suspense late in the season.
All the races were marked by close, spectacular action, as well as by some pretty virile dicing at times!
Racing in the colours of Team RBA, Dino Lunardi enjoyed a strong and consistent end to the season and finished on the podium each time out from the Nurburgring meeting on.
Dino LUNARDI : " "I couldn't have wished for a better finish to the year. Peugeot Sport sprang a fantastic surprise on me at Magny-Cours by giving me a chance to sit briefly in the 908 they had brought to the circuit just before the podium ceremony. It was obviously a highly positive season because I ended up winning. I have to admit, though, that the first half of the year was quite difficult because of the teething problems we encountered with the car and which influenced the way the early races unfolded. Everybody worked very hard, including Peugeot Sport, as well as all those involved in my programme - namely RBA, the Peugeot Nimes dealership and me, too - and we made good progress. Our hard work paid off during the second half of the year and I enjoyed a run of podium finishes which coincided with the various misfortunes and errors of my rivals. After Pau, at the beginning of June, I had a 60-point deficit to make up. Pau was my worst memory of the year, not just because the car wasn't competitive but also because I was incapable of driving well because I was suffering from a bad fever. Then came the Nurburgring at the end of the same month and I was in far better shape. It was really my last chance and I managed to reverse the trend and pick up my first win of the season. It was a great feeling and a turning point in the season."
THE STATISTICS OF DINO LUNARDI'S 2007 SEASON (7 MEETINGS 14 RACES)
9 podiums, including 8 in a row (from the Nurburgring to Magny-Cours)
2 second places
2 third places
7 pole positions (an average of one in two)
6 fastest race laps
30 points: the gap between Dino Lunardi and runner-up Julien Briche in the final overall standings
Dino LUNARDI: "In 2005, I was on the point of giving up racing when the Peugeot dealership in Nimes (Grands Garages du Gard) approached me to compete in the RC CUP. That was initially just for the race at Ledenon which I won. With continued backing from Peugeot Nimes, we tried to complete the season and I ended up finishing second. I then won the 2006 RC Cup and the prize from Peugeot Sport was a Spider 207 plus a budget to contest the pan-European 207 Spider Cup. I managed to prove myself worthy of that prize and I will now get a drive in the 908!"
Michel BARGE: "I would like to say how grateful Peugeot Sport is to the Grands Garages du Gard dealership for their commitment to the sport. They helped Dino in 2005 and supported him each time he raced. They cannot be dissociated from his success and will be present, in the person of their director Olivier Varlez, on Saturday December8."
FROM THE 207 SPIDER TO THE 908 HDI FAP
Michel BARGE (Peugeot Sport Director): "2007 was the first year of the 207 Spider Cup. As part of the Le Mans Series, it took competitors to some of Europe's finest and most legendary circuits where it served as curtain-raiser before the 908 HDi FAP's turn to race. That's what gave us the idea of putting up this exceptional award."
That prize involved much more than just spending a day pounding round a track in the diesel- powered prototype since Dino Lunardi has faced a very busy programme since securing the title back in October.
* Participation in a fitness training week in Anglet, southwest France,
along with the 2007 factory team drivers, Marc Gene, Nicolas Minassian,
Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin (October 22- 26)
* A day at Peugeot Sport's premises in Velizy, near Paris (November 30)
* A test day at Paul Ricard, France (December 8)
Serge SAULNIER (Team Manager): "All this has given us an opportunity to get better acquainted with Dino and see how he performs in areas such as his physical fitness, overall approach, professionalism, ability to adapt and listen, and also his scope for progress. It is too early at the moment to say whether the test day will lead to other things in the Le Mans programme. That is a big step."
Fitness training week (October 22-26)
The five-day programme in France's Basque country saw Dino Lunardi join the four drivers who made up Peugeot Sport's factory line-up in 2007. The week was based on a variety of sporting and fun activities, including tennis, athletics, cycling, the local sport 'pelote basque', rowing, golf, surfing, etc.
Physio Jean-Pierre Buisson used the week to gauge the newcomer's fitness: "I got him to do a basic test to measure his VO2 max which I suppose you could describe as being an individual's cubic capacity! It allowed me to get a feel for his overall level of fitness and also come up with a customised training programme. Dino is in good shape but I steered his personal programme to developing his basic endurance ability, muscle building and developing his speed, the objective of course being to make him fitter to ensure he had the best chance of success. I know he follows his programme scrupulously. We talk once a week. He is applied and easy to get along with, as well as discreet and respectful, and he takes in as much information as he can."
"It didn't take him long to carve out a place for himself in the squad," "points out Serge Saulnier. He was neither withdrawn nor did he think he "had it made."
Dino LUNARDI : "I felt like a little boy being part of a top team alongside professional drivers. I was amazed by how easy everybody was and I immediately got on well with Marc Gene. He arrived a little late because he had been to the Brazilian Grand Prix where he had contributed to Ferrari's title. He sat next to me at dinner and appeased my anxiety by giving me a few tips. He told me how he had felt the first time he had sat in a Formula 1 car. He said it had been a magical moment but that the job he was expected to do soon took the upper hand. Given his experience and status, I felt very touched that he should take time to give me a helping hand. It was obvious that I wasn't as fit as the four Le Mans Series drivers. It's difficult for me to find time to work out every day because of my workload with the family karting business. I have a healthy lifestyle but I'm a long way off the level you need to contest a year-long Le Mans Series programme. I now know the level you have to reach to be able to race at this level but I won't be able to get there overnight, although I have been following the recommendations of Jean-Pierre Buisson to the letter. It's a long-term thing.".
A day at Peugeot Sport (November 30)
After his fitness training week, Dino Lunardi paid an all-too-brief visit to Peugeot Sport's premises in Velizy, near Paris:
Equipment: Dino was handed a 908 HDi FAP racesuit with his name on it and a helmet equipped with the team radio
Factory visit: Dino was able to get an overview of the different phases of the design of the 908 HDi FAP
The car: Dino sat in the car to determine his ideal driving position. He was also talked through its different functions (steering wheel, etc.) and also looked at data acquisition in the company of the race engineer of the N8 car, Christophe Besse.
Seat-fitment for the development Spider,
Dino LUNARDI : "Once again, I felt like a small kid! Bruno Famin showed me round the factory and talked me through the different phases of the 908's design and development (aerodynamics, dyno, etc.). It was another world. I was very impressed by the precise, surgical work of the mechanics in the workshops. Everything is meticulously planned and calculated. Once in the car, I pulled myself together because I wanted to understand everything. Christophe Besse went into a great deal of detail and, believe me, I drank in every word. Then someone came and showed me the sticker he was about to put on the 908; it had my name on it along with the French national flag. It was a moment I don't think I'll ever forget!"
Test day in the 908 HDi FAP at Paul Ricard, France (December 8)
Dino Lunardi kicked off the weekend on the Thursday and Friday by working on the development of the 2008-spec 207 Spider which will be known as the THP Spider. This gave the Nimes-based youngster a chance to get to know the team and familiarise himself with the Paul Ricard track which he didn't know.
On the Saturday (Dec 8), it was time at last for serious business to begin with the 908 HDi FAP. This was not just a quick test run since the winner of the 207 Spider Cup was expected to contribute to the day's development programme along with Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin who were also present and who also took turns at the wheel of THP Spider. Dino's work involved gathering fuel tank and gearbox data.
He spent the day in the company of the team's two full-time drivers who happily gave him tips and took time to analyse the youngster's data with a view to helping him progress. Dino completed several runs of five, six, seven and even ten laps at a time and perfectly fulfilled his mission as he made his way through the different steps planned for the day. He took to the track at 9.40am and totalled 57 laps of the 3.8km circuit.
Serge SAULNIER: "The programme worked up to a crescendo. I told him that I would be more impressed if he succeeded in not making any big mistakes than if he posted a stunning lap but then went off next time round. He clearly took that on board because he produced his fastest lap during his final run, so that was very positive. He managed to keep a clear head in the car, answered all our questions and lived up every bit to our expectations. His head is well screwed on his shoulders. We now need to have a clearer picture of our 2008 programme before commenting on a possible future for Dino with us. It is not out of the question that we might ask him to come to another test session. We will take the decision at the beginning of next year."
Christophe BESSE (race engineer): "I have to say that Dino took us aback! Given the huge difference between a Spider and a 908, I didn't think he would feel as comfortable as he did. He rose to the occasion perfectly and supplied us with everything we asked of him on the technical front."
Dino LUNARDI : "I have to admit that I had trouble sleeping before going to the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit. The worst thing was not really knowing what to expect; everything was so different to what I was accustomed to. It was unknown territory for me, from the dimensions of the car to its power which was a huge jump from 175bhp in the case of the Spider to more than 700bhp for the 908! To help quell my apprehension, the team came up with the surprise idea of giving me three laps in the car on the Friday... in the rain! Even so, that allowed me to feel more relaxed for the big day. The 908 HDi FAP is just so quick. It is awesomely easy to drive and very powerful. My neck was beginning to feel the strain by the end of the day, though! I listened to all the advice Nicolas and Stephane gave me and did everything they suggested. I tried to do all that was expected of me. I am still a little shell-shocked by the whole experience and I would obviously love to do it all over again. It was simply magic!"