The Lion Roars - Peugeot defeats Audi at Le Mans
Peugeot led from the drop of the green flag and were never headed in a complete domination by the French team after years of getting beaten by the mighty German Audi team.
"Unbelievable, I know there's a lot of fans out there. To stand here and talk to you having just won this race is a pretty amazing feeling,'' said driver David Brabham, who watched his brother Geoff win the race 16 years prior. "You can't do this unless you've got great people and a great car. We had an absolutely flawless race.''
It had been 16 years since Peugeot won the French classic in front of a record home crowd.
Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais, who has struggled in his jump from Champ Car to Formula One, likely would've won the race had it not been for a suspension change on the No. 8 car, but his Peugeot team did score a runner-up finish.
Peugeot Sport Director, Olivier Quesnel: "Before the start, I used a French cycling analogy to describe the crew of the N°8 car as 'sprinters', the N°7 crew as 'road sprinters' and the N°9 drivers as 'warriors'. Today, it was the 'warriors' who won. I really sense that the public and Automobiles Peugeot wanted this result. We faced a huge challenge and we succeeded in rising to it. We were here as challengers, and our mission was to try to topple the favorites. And that is exactly what we did, essentially by steering clear of the different potential pitfalls in our path. It turned out to be a terrific race, and Peugeot Sport is a truly magnificent team. I am so proud of all the people who were involved in this project. This win is Peugeot Sport's win."
The N°9 Peugeot's distinctly international line-up of Spaniard Marc Gené, Australia's David Brabham and Austrian driver Alexander Wurz owed their victory to a trouble-free run which saw them take over at the top when the other two 908 HDi FAPs were delayed during the first quarter of the race. After that, the experienced trio focused on driving as quickly and as consistently as possible in order to push home their advantage and force their rivals to do all the chasing. "It's such a great feeling to have won," beamed David Brabham for whom victory comes at his 16th attempt and whose brother Geoff formed part of Peugeot's winning trio back in 1993. "Peugeot Sport did a tremendous job; they really did. It's a great team, they gave us a 100 per cent reliable car and the three of us drove a faultless race."
Alexander Wurz, the youngest driver ever to win the endurance classic (1996), notched up his second success in La Sarthe today: "What made the difference? The fact that we kept it on the track without picking up any damage. We also had a great team behind us, and a phenomenal car. It's a fantastic feeling to have won in France in a French car." "To have won a race this big is the best thing that has ever happened to me," concluded Marc Gené. "I've never experienced anything like it. It really is a very emotional moment for me."
The early pace was in fact set by the all-French crew sharing the N°8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, thanks initially to an assertive, quadruple opening stint from Franck Montagny who powered away from pole position before spending three hours building up a handsome cushion at the hottest moment of the race on Saturday afternoon (28°C). The Frenchman's efforts were then relayed by crew-mate and pole-winner Stéphane Sarrazin.
Soon afterwards, however, the N°8 car lost the ground that would later cost it first place – and victory – when Sébastien Bourdais, the third man in the car, pitted with a broken disc bell. That cost the trio almost 10 minutes in repairs. The Le Mans-born driver then collided with a backmarker, damaging the front of his 908, and the time required to replace the front part of the body cost a further lap. "It's a great day for Peugeot," underlined Sébastien Bourdais. "They have worked so hard for this success and they really deserve it. I have a personal challenge which is to one day win what is my home race. It was a close-run thing this year, but I will be back until I succeed!"
"Franck, Sébastien and I are all obviously disappointed not to have won, but how can I not be happy for the team which wanted this result so much?" recognized Stéphane Sarrazin.
The Essex team Porsche Spyder, which led much of the way won the LMP2 class.
Corvette Racing, Risi Competizione and Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s David Brabham were the big winners from the American Le Mans Series at the 77th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Corvette ended its GT1 reign with a sixth class win, Risi repeated in GT2 and took two podium spots, and Brabham scored a long-awaited overall victory in the world’s greatest race.
Jan Magnussen, Johnny O’Connell and Antonio Garcia won in their Corvette C6.R over the independent entry from Luc Alphand Aventures. The winning trio, also victorious in the season-opening 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, had no issues in the final GT1 race for Corvette Racing. O’Connell became the first American to win Le Mans four times. Magnussen also won for the fourth time (all with Corvette Racing), and Garcia added a second straight championship after taking victory in 2008 with Aston Martin Racing.
"I've been coming here, this is my eighth time, and I've never won one,'' said Corvette's Dan Binks, a member of the winning team. "This is amazing. I've won 15 championships and this is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's amazing.''
The sister Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Marcel Fässler were on the same lap through 22 hours before losing drive and grinding to a halt just shy of pit lane. The car still finished third in class.
Corvette Racing will move to GT2 in August at the Mid-Ohio round of the American Le Mans Series.
Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Eric van de Poele finished third in class in the second Risi entry in partnership with Krohn Racing. The green F430 also finished on the class podium in 2007. So this makes three straight GT2/GT podium finishes for the same entrant, a rarity at Le Mans.
The Ferrari 430 GT of Jaime Melo, Mika Salo and Pierre Kaffer was not only joined on the podium by its sister Ferrari which finished third – crewed by Krohn Racing’s Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Eric van de Poele – but they led an astonishing Ferrari result which shows that nine of the ten Ferrari 430s entered in the race were classified in the top 11 places in class. Only a Spyker intruded in an all-Ferrari top ten.
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