PEUGEOT OUT TO DEFEND ITS 2007 TITLE The 2008 Le Mans Series features a calendar of five rounds, the first of which takes teams to the Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona, Spain, on the weekend of April 4-6. Le Mans Series title holder Peugeot...
PEUGEOT OUT TO DEFEND ITS 2007 TITLE
The 2008 Le Mans Series features a calendar of five rounds, the first of which takes teams to the Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona, Spain, on the weekend of April 4-6. Le Mans Series title holder Peugeot will contest the race with a brace of 908 HDi FAPs for the same crews as 2007, and the team will be looking to defend its crown while staying concentrated on its priority objective for 2008: the Le Mans 24 Hours.
All Peugeot Sport's resources and energy have been focused on this goal and the team's 2008 programme kicked off with a full-scale dress rehearsal in the United States thanks to the entry of a 908 HDi FAP for Pedro Lamy, Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin on the 12 Hours of Sebring. The American race ended with the trio pocketing 11th place at the flag, and this encouraging basic performance enabled the team to gauge how competitive it was on such a unique, one-off circuit. Meanwhile, a raft of data was collected in a way that wouldn't have been possible during an ordinary private test session. "Our visit to Sebring was globally positive," confirms Peugeot Sport Director Michel Barge. "Stephane posted the fastest lap in the shortened and ultimately cancelled qualifying session, Nicolas got off to a great start and was first through the opening corner, while Pedro recorded the fastest race lap. We were always amongst the fastest cars throughout the race which shows that the 908 HDi FAP certainly has the pace. Sebring also served as an excellent first outing this year for everyone in the squad. Between now and Le Mans, we will use the Le Mans Series races to validate modifications to the car and improve reliability, an area in which we still have plenty of work."
The first three races of the Le Mans Series take place in the space of just two months upstream of the Le Mans 24 Hours and will consequently also serve as validation tests for the new parts fitted to the 908 in preparation for the French endurance classic. Despite this tight schedule, which has necessitated complex logistics on both the human and technical fronts, everything has been put into place to enhance the team's chances of winning THE race of the year.
Meanwhile, everybody at Peugeot Sport is intent on defending the team's 2007 Le Mans Series title, and the same driver line-up that performed so well last year has been kept on. Marc Gene, who will be on home ground in Spain, will share the wheel of the predominantly red N7 908 HDI FAP with Nicolas Minassian, while N8 car (blue) will be in the hands of 2007 champions Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin. For the record, these two crews claimed the same number of wins last season, namely three apiece.
Portugal's Pedro Lamy is feeling optimistic going into the first round: "The car is quick and, although we encountered a problem with reliability at Sebring, I have total confidence in the work of Peugeot Sport and in the improvements to come. We tested at Barcelona at the beginning of the year and I believe we should be competitive."
Said Spaniard Marc Gene: "Barcelona is a very special venue for me. It's the start of the championship and also home soil! I have tested a great deal at this track but my last race there dates back to my Formula 1 days in 2000 with Minardi. Barcelona is by far my favourite circuit, although the new portion doesn't call for so much driving skill. I made my Formula 1 debut at the Circuit de Catalunya in 1999, as well as my first tests with Ferrari, and I have to say that I'm really looking forward to racing there with Nicolas in the 908 HDi FAP. I hope there will be a big crowd because endurance cars are spectacular, fast and permit plenty of overtaking. They are by no means pale imitations of F1 cars. On the contrary! It will be very close."
The fifty-strong field will start the 1,000km race on Sunday April 6 at 11.35am local time. Good news for the Le Mans Series: Eurosport will be showing the first half-hour live before broadcasting highlights later the same evening, as well as on the following Monday and Tuesday. Motors TV continues its loyalty to the discipline by covering the entire race live.