Monza: Series race report

Peugeot wins but Audi hot on its tail at sunny Monza The second race of the 2008 Le Mans Series was fought on the hallowed circuit of Monza and featured manufacturer teams battling for the overall lead, privateers fighting for their place on the...

Peugeot wins but Audi hot on its tail at sunny Monza

The second race of the 2008 Le Mans Series was fought on the hallowed circuit of Monza and featured manufacturer teams battling for the overall lead, privateers fighting for their place on the podium, and two accidents, the second of which saw Stephane Ortelli amazingly emerge with only a broken ankle.

Overall victory went to the Peugeot of Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy, less than a minute ahead of the Audi R10 TDI of Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat after a wonderful race.

The two had run close together in the final hour, and touched under braking with ten laps remaining. Lamy was served a penalty for passing a backmarker under a yellow flag but the Audi had a damaged wheel and could finish only second. Christophe Tinseau, driving for Henri Pescarolo, snatched third position away from the Creation AIM of Stuart Hall on the final lap after a closely contested battle.

Porsche filled the "LM" P2 podium with Casper Elgaard and John Nielsen taking their first win in the Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder. Jos Verstappen led before a collision in traffic which damaged the rear of his Porsche.

The Aston Martin of Team Modena won the "LM" GT1 class ahead of the Luc Alphand Corvette, Tomas Enge crossing the line just 12 seconds clear of Olivier Beretta, while in GT2, Porsche scored its first win of the year. Raymond Narac and Richard Lietz crossed the line first, but were later excluded for a technical infringement. Richard Westbrook, Lars Eric Nielsen and Allan Simonsen inherited the win.

Peugeot takes dramatic win

Peugeot won for the second time in the Le Mans Series, but this time it was Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin who crossed the line first to win the Monza 1000kms. They finished less than a minute ahead of Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat who, with their second place finish, move to the lead of the drivers' title standings.

The battle was hard fought between the two manufacturers, both of which have their eyes firmly focussed on Le Mans. Peugeot had a driveshaft break on the Nicolas Minassian/Marc Gene car and the pair were delayed during the race with the same problem.

Rockenfeller started from the pit lane having had a fuel feed problem and through clever pit work they got back into the lead of the race. Rinaldo Capello had an accident with Vanina Ickx which sent the Audi R10 TDI flying through the air at 280km/h, though he was able to return to the pits and, with Allan McNish, continued to finish sixth.

The Scottish driver was lucky to escape unhurt as Stephane Ortelli's ORECA Courage narrowly missed his head mid-accident in the final hour. The Frenchman's car snapped sideways under braking for the first chicane and rolled many times, hitting the barrier on the exit of the first chicane but was later diagnosed with nothing more than a broken ankle.

That accident brought out the safety car and bunched up the field, Rockenfeller leading from Lamy, and the German looked to have the advantage after Lamy was penalised for overtaking a back marker in a bid to keep up with the Audi. However, the two continued to race, and collided at the first corner, puncturing Rockenfeller's front tyre.

The German completed the lap slowly, which allowed Lamy to take his penalty and return to the track before the Audi even made it to the pits.

That decided the race, but Christophe Tinseau and Stuart Hall fought for third place overall in their Pescarolo and Creation. Hall, who switched from the sister car following Jamie Campbell- Walter's accident in qualifying, appeared to have the pace to claim the position, but on the last lap the Pescarolo out-braked him into the first corner, and Tinseau went on to finish third, just two seconds clear.

Gene and Minassian recovered to finish fifth and take vital points towards the drivers' title, while Ickx, DUncan Tappy and Martin Short finished a creditable sevent in class.

The Lola Aston Martin of Stefan Mucke and Jan Charouz showed strongly in the opening stages, challenging McNish's Audi, but had an ignition problem in the second hour and they were classed eighth in category.

Essex take first win

Porsche filled the podium places in the "LM" P2 class, but it was no easy race for Casper Elgaard and John Nielsen, who were awarded a one minute penalty for a pit lane infringement and yet went on to win by 26 seconds.

The category had some of the best racing with Jos Verstappen leading the opening stages before getting hit by a back marker at the second chicane. That caused bodywork damage that needed to be repaired in the pits and cost them more than five minutes. Peter van Merksteijn took over the car and over the next two stints pulled back to the leaders, helped when the Essex car took its penalty.

"We want to compete to win, and this came a little early, but we will take it," said Nielsen. "It was not easy at all, and the one minute penalty made it tight at the end but we were first over the line, have the points and the trophy."

The Horag Porsche lost time when Jan Lammers went off at the second Lesmo corner, and lost more than a lap getting pulled out of the gravel. The Speedy Racing Team Sebah ran strongly at the front of the class in the hands of Andrea Belicchi, Steve Zacchia and Xavier Pompidou before a loose door on the Lola coupe came open, losing them time in the pits repairing the problem.

Aston Martin triumphs at Monza

The Team Modena Aston Martin of Tomas Enge and Antonio Garcia had a trouble free race and took its first win of the year after a fantastic battle with the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette of Olivier Beretta, Guilllaume Moreau and Patrice Goueslard.

The lead of the class was rarely more than 15 seconds and after five hours of hard racing, the margin of victory between the two was just 12 seconds.

"It was a hard race to the end," confirmed Garcia. "The car was running really well, and there was only one pit stop that was a bit slow. The rest ran well."

The Corvette lost a lot of time behind the safety car which stretched the lead from two seconds to nearly 20 in the final run to the flag.

"We were unlucky with the safety car but we have to say that the Aston Martin team did a good job," said Beretta. "I think that Le Mans will be very interesting this year."

The second Corvette of Jean-Luc Blanchemain, Sebastien Dumez and Patrice Manopoulos took the final podium position, ahead of the Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Roman Rusinov which recovered from an accident in the warm up to complete the race six laps down on the winners.

Farnbacher takes victory as IMSA excluded

Richard Lietz and Raymond Narac won the "LM" GT2 class in their IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche, but were later excluded from the results for a technical infringement after a fantastic race.

They were chased over the line by the Farnbacher Racing Porsche of Richard Westbrook, Lars Eric Nielsen and Allan Simonsen which inherited the win. They lost time with a puncture behind a safety car which led to a damaged bumper and an extra pit stop.

Their team-mates Pierre Kaffer and Pierre Ehret ran second in their Ferrari before two pit stops at the end of the race dropped them to third. "We finished third, with both cars on the podium so this is a great result," said the German.

The Virgo Motorsport Ferrari led for much of the opening half of the race before suffering a puncture which forced Rob Bell into the pits. Gianmaria Bruni returned to the track, but immediately suffered another puncture and a third deflation led to a decision to retire the car.

The race had already lost the Team Felbermayr Porsche of Marc Lieb and Alex Davison who pulled into the pits in the opening laps with a front suspension problem. They returned to the track and finished seventh in class following a fantastic fight back.

-credit: lemans-series.com

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Gianmaria Bruni , Tomas Enge , Antonio Garcia , Henri Pescarolo , Rinaldo Capello , Allan McNish , Nicolas Minassian , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Christophe Tinseau , Stéphane Ortelli , Rob Bell , Peter Kox , Pierre Ehret , Luc Alphand , John Nielsen , Martin Short , Marc Lieb , Alex Davison , Olivier Beretta , Alexandre Prémat , Mike Rockenfeller , Sebastien Dumez , Peter van Merksteijn , Roman Rusinov , Pierre Kaffer , Casper Elgaard , Stuart Hall , Steve Zacchia , Stefan Mücke , Raymond Narac , Jan Charouz , Richard Westbrook , Richard Lietz , Patrice Manopoulos