By Mikko Jalonen (Mixa), LMS correspondent
LMP1: Peugeot wins, takes 1-2
After 6 hours of racing and 161 laps of the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit, it was Peugeot Sport Total's number 7 car of Alexander Wurz, Marc Gené and Anthony Davidson who took the honors of winning the Spa 1000km race. The 2nd place overall also went to Peugeot Sport Total when the number 8 car of Franck Montagny, Stéphane Sarrazin and Nicolas Minassian crossed the line before the first Audi R18 driven by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello. After Peugeot's disastrous qualifying yesterday the team was forced to start behind their main rivals Audi Sport and other LMP1 entrants, but they quickly gained positions with all 3 cars after the start. Just after 15 minutes from the start Peugeot was already challenging the R18's of Audi Sport for the lead of the race.
“The main thing we have learned from this race is that the 24 Hours of Le Mans is going to be a very hotly contested race. It looks set to be the most open race in the last five years. This is a great result, but Spa is nothing like Le Mans. We showed how efficient and reliable the car is today,” said Gené.
After the first hour, the Peugeot Sport Total number 7 car started to gain some ground to the Audis and didn't look back. Especially when most of the R18s were suffering from a various number of unexpected problems, including the rear bonnet changes for two of their cars, while the number 9 Peugeot went off the track just after halfway of the race. For awhile it already looked like the lost time at the gravel would take away the any chance of a 1-2-3 for Peugeot, but while charging back the lost time, even bigger problems started to haunt the crew. Also Team Oreca Matmut's hopes for winning were vanished after 2 hours of racing when the team lost 15 minutes at the pits as the fuel pump had to be replaced. Team Oreca Matmut finished the race at 10th, 9 laps behind the winning Peugeot.
Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich commented after the race: "Naturally, the result of the race at Spa is disappointing for us because the Audi R18 TDI was clearly beaten below its potential on its debut. We were on a par with Peugeot in terms of pure speed but there were simply too may small things that went wrong - and unfortunately with all three cars. That was certainly frustrating. We’ll take hom the positive finding of having a fast car that we’ll have to make better use of though. We’ve learned a lot today in racing conditions. Now we’ve got to put these findings into action before Le Mans."
The best petrol car and the winner of maximum points for the Le Mans Series went to Pescarolo Sport (6th overall) followed by both cars of Rebellion Racing (7th and 9th overall). For awhile it looked like ASM Quifel Team with their Zytek would be scoring the 3rd highest points for the Le Mans Series but an engine failure at the 4th hour ruined all hopes of a good result.
The win of Peugeot Sport Total also means that the team is now light favorites going into the Le Mans 24 hours race at June. Also Audi Sport with its R18 failed to win the debut race of the car for the first time since starting their Le Mans programme in 1999.
LMP2: A win for TDS Racing, Oreca 03 still the car to beat
LMP2 wasn't as close as expected but in the end it was TDS Racing, after controlling most of the race, scoring the win and also the maximum points of the Le Mans Series. TDS Racing with their drivers Mathias Beche, Pierre Thiriet, Jody Firth had a trouble free run and made the win even look pretty easy. Second place of the class went to Boutsen Energy Racing while 3rd highest points went to the pole sitting team, Strakka Racing, giving some confidence to the HPD using teams considering the 24 hours of Le Mans.
FLM: Hope Racing wins, another great performance for Pegasus Racing
FLM proved once again that when you have the speed, you stay out of trouble and cope with the traffic. All three are very important at gaining results within the Le Mans sportscars. Hope Racing did exactly this by gaining a very important victory for the team. After doing the 2nd fastest time on the board in yesterday's FLM qualifying, Hope Racing bettered by one and was leading most of the race, taking the win ahead of Pegasus Racing.
Pegasus Racing, the team that we have seen being among the slowest during qualifying instead, won at 6 hours of Le Castellet and at Spa 1000km came 2nd, leading the FLM standings after round 2. The strong favorites at the early season due to great ALMS results, Genoa Racing came 3rd after another troubled race finishing 3 laps down the class winner.
LM GTE PRO: Ferrari's the stars of the weekend. AF Corse wins
After qualifying, it was expected to be a show of Ferraris and so it was, AF Corse's number 51 of Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni took a win ahead of Hankook Team Farnbacher Porsche and the BMW Motorsport entries of M3's . AF Corse was running strong with both of their cars for the whole race and were fighting against each other for the class win.
Just at the last few hours the fight was settled when at first Jaime Melo in the number 71 car was hit with the stop and go penalty after passing one of the BMW Motorsport cars coming into the bus stop under the yellow flags caused by a damaged LMP2 OAK Pescarolo-Judd that got stuck on the curbs after trying to avoid the faster cars while going into the pits. Melo had given his place back after noticing this and passed the BMW again at the Kemmel straight, but the judges didn't agree and the penalty was a fact. After the penalty, AF Corse number 71 changed their driver to the Finn Toni Vilander, but Vilander collided with a slower LM GTE AM entry of Larbre Competition, damaging the cooling system and therefore gaining an early retirement just a few minutes before the end of the race.
As in qualifying, the Ferraris were just dominating, only some problems by some of the teams stopped the Italian manufacturer from achieving an even better result. It will be interesting to see if Ferrari F458 Italia will be the car to beat at the 24 hours of Le Mans.
LM GTE AM: IMSA Performance Matmut leads from start to finish
In LM GTE AM after many spins and happenings, it was IMSA Performance Matmut team driven by Raymond Narac and Nicolas Armindo which took the win and maximum points of the championship. The team using the Porsche 911 RSR (997) was in excellent form during the whole weekend, mostly being among the quickest during the weekend's practice sessions and took class pole position at yesterday's qualifying. A great and decent drive by both of the drivers made the team to score their first win of the season for the Le Mans Series, even lapping most of their LM GTE competitors except the Ferrari F430 number 61 of AF Corse. Third place at the class went to Larbre Competition's Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 despite the late collision with Vilander's AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia.
The next race of Le Mans Series (Round 3) will take place at Imola during the 1-3 of July 2011. It´s also the 4th race of the year for Intercontinental Le Mans Cup .
Next race of Intercontinental Le Mans Cup is the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, the highlight of the season, and for many teams the main race of the season.
Full results of Spa 1000km