The Peugeots Strike Back at Imola

Peugeot Sport Total scored a 1 -2 finish in the 6 Hours of Imola in the third round of the 2011 Le Mans Series & the fourth round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup yesterday. Following their disappointment at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Bourdais in the no.7 Peugeot 908 took the chequered flag ahead of Stéphane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny in the sister Peugeot 908. Marcel Fässler and Timo Bernhard completed the podium in the no. 1 Audi R18 TDI having struggled to match the Peugeots’ pace through traffic on the winding Imola circuit.

Elesewhere in the LM P1 class, Rebellion Racing had a great race finishing 5th & 6th overall but winning the unofficial fastest petrol powered race. They are now level with Team Pescarolo in the Le Mans Series championship and still have everything to fight for in the last two events of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone and Estoril in September.

The other wins went to Greaves Motorsport in LM P2, AF Corse in LM GTE Pro, IMSA Performance Matmut in LME GTE Am and JMB Racing in Formula Le Mans. In many cases it was a question of forgetting the Le Mans 24 Hours at the Autodrome Enzo e Dino Ferrari since the start of practice on Friday. Le Mans had been a triumph for some and a race to forget for others so everybody arrived determined to concentrate on the Imola 6 Hours. In fact none of the Le Mans 24 Hours winners were on pole in any of the classes at Imola.

LM P1: Peugeot at the double
Peugeot, Audi, Peugeot, Audi lined up in that order. The four cars got away without any problems. However, Bourdais, Fässler, Montagny and McNish took only four laps to catch the slowest LM GTEs. So traffic became an issue almost from the start. The first three cars were covered by under four seconds as the first round of scheduled refuelling stops took place while McNish gradually fell back following a different strategy.

In the petrol‐engined camp, Guillaume Moreau, in the Oak Racing car managed to hang on to the lead before being overtaken by the two Lolas of Rebellion Racing. The two Peugeot 908s seem to enjoy better fuel consumption in traffic than that of the Audi R18 TDIs, and spent around two laps more on the track between refuelling stops compared to their German rivals. The Peugeot No. 8 passed the n°7 during the second round of refuelling stops taking advantage of the fact that Bourdais overshot his pit which slowed Davidson’s departure. The Englishman, came out ten seconds behind, and pushed hard to catch Sarrazin. When they were covered by under two seconds the drivers were ordered not to attack. After the third refuelling stops, Davidson came out in front of his team‐mate. A few minutes later the British driver had a slight coming‐together with Tom Kristensen who he was lapping, but this was not the object of an investigation by Race Control.

Peugeot Sport had a scare with a puncture on each car but they were still ahead of Audi on the track, and Sébastien Bourdais set the fastest lap in no. 7 in the final hour in 1m 33.112s, before he saw the flag with a minute in hand over its sister car, no. 8, and a lap over the Audi R18 TDIs with no. 1 leading home no. 2. Rebellion Racing’s two Lola B10/60‐Toyota coupes finished in fifth and sixth places, leading the petrol‐engined cars, no. 12 finishing in front of no. 13, while Pescarolo Team was seventh.

LM P2: Greaves Motorsport repeat Le Mans win
Dominik Kraihamer in the no.45 Boutsen Energy Racing car, that started in second place in the LMP2 class ended up in the gravel trap after just nineteen minutes, allowing Jody Firth in the no. 46 TDS Racing car to pull away in the lead. Mathias Beche and Pierre Thiriet consolidated this position for over four hours. But the TDS Racing car was undone when it spent over twenty minutes in its pit during the fifth hour and lost all hopes of a victory.

The Level 5 Motorsports Lola Coupé inherited the lead but then had to stop with under twenty minutes to go to the finish with technical problems. As at Le Mans, the No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek driven by Karim Ojjeh, Tom Kimber‐Smith and Olivier Lombard snatched victory in front of the No. 26 Signatech – Nissan with Franck Mailleux, Lucas Ordonez and Soheil Ayari at the wheel. The Level 5 Motorsports Lola managed to recover to claim third in class.

LM GTE Pro: AF Corse secure win on home soil
The BMW Motorsport cars were very much at home on this circuit and Jörg Müller and Dirk Werner dominated the early stages of the race. However, they were caught by the two AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italias, first by Gianmaria Bruni & Giancarlo Fisichella followed by Jaime Melo & Toni Vilander. AF Corse managed to stop only five times and gained a crucial advantage in the last hour over the No. 55 BMW that had to come in on seven occasions. Toni Vilander & Jaime Melo won ahead of their team‐mates Giancarlo Fisichella & Gianmaria Bruni with Jörg Müller &Augusto Farfus bringing home their BMW in third.

LM GTE Am: IMSA Performance Matmut hold on
Patrick Long had set pole in the No. 63 Proton Compétition, Porsche 911 with a considerably faster time than his rivals, and he reaffirmed his superior speed early on. But Raymond Narac & Nicolas Armindo in the No. 67 IMSA Performance Matmut, Porsche 911, managed to steal the lead using traffic and pit stop strategy. After Gianluca Roda and Christian Ried’s stints in the car, Patrick Long got back in for a final charge and fought back to within less than a second of Narac. However as the race continued in to its final lap, he had to pit with under 3 minters to go to the flag to avoid running out of fuel, and had to make do with second place. The Larbre Competition Corvette driven by Patrick Bornhauser, Julien Canal and Gabriele Gardel completed the podium.

The Le Mans Series and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup entrants now move on to the UK. The 6 hours of Silverstone will take place between the 9th & 11th September 2011. Special offer tickets and hospitality suite access for this event are available now by calling 0844 873 0203.

Photos courtesy of DPPI