Zhuhai 6 Hours: Bourdais and Davidson win for Peugeot
The seventh and last round of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup ended with a brace of doubles, one by Peugeot, outright winner of the Zhuhai 6 Hours, and the other by BMW in LM GTE Pro. However, the German cars’ performance was not enough to prevent Ferrari from retaining its manufacturers’ crown in LM GTE Pro.
Although the LM P1 titles were already awarded before the Zhuhai 6 Hours the two main protagonists in the category, Peugeot and Audi, went at it hammer and tongs for the beauty of the sport and the prestige of victory in the only race held in China, the biggest car market in the world.
Pole sitter Sébastien Bourdais took the lead straight away in the first corner with the two Audis in hot pursuit. The two German cars overtook the Frenchman just after the first half-hour of the race thanks to the heavy traffic. But it was a flash in the pan! During the second round of refueling stops, Peugeot retook a lead it was never to lose. In addition, the no. 2 Audi was delayed after a collision with the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyota, which damaged the electrical harness of the R18 and led to its retirement on lap 139. The Fässler-Bernhard Audi was unable to match the searing pace of the 908s, and the French cars drove on to an unchallenged victory.
The winners of the Zhuhai 6 Hours Sébastien Bourdais and Anthony Davidson added another success to their incredible 2011 results, as they have scored three wins each including two together. For Peugeot, already assured of the manufacturers’ and teams’ titles before the final round, its Chinese victory was the sixth of the year out of seven events.
Behind the Fässler-Bernhard Audi R18 in third place came the first of the petrol-engined cars in fourth, the Prost-Jani Lola-Toyota followed by the Pla-Premat-Nicolet OAK Pescarolo after a closely-fought scrap for the honor of first place of the petrol-engined brigade.
In LM GTE Pro, BMW dominated the category in much the same way as Peugeot in LM P1. The German make had little difficulty seeing off the Ferrari F458 Italia GTCs. Fisichella-Bruni, the make’s spearhead, were delayed by hub carrier problems while the Beltoise-Farnbacher-Firman entry retired. The third Prancing Horse car, the sole survivor, driven by Makowiecki-Ortelli saw the flag in third place scored crucial points that enabled the Italian manufacturer to retain its 2010 ILMC GTE Manufacturers’ title.
BMW finished the season as it had begun, with a double, the second victory in GTE Pro for the Munich manufacturer this year after Sebring. But the accumulated gap to AF Corse was too big, and the leading Ferrari driver line-up won the teams’ crown in LM GTE Pro.
In LM P2, Mailleux-Ordonez-Vernay scored an untroubled victory in their Oreca 03-Nissan. Their team, Signatech-Nissan, already assured of the LM P2 teams’ title, increased its winning margin even further.
Lietz-Roda-Ried emerged victorious in LM GTE Am, their first success of the season. Larbre Competition, which clinched the LM GTE Am teams’ title at the Petit Le Mans on 1st October, finished second with their Corvette driven by Bornhauser-Canal-Beretta whose race was hindered by gearbox problems.
After its 2-year existence the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup bowed out after the Zhuhai 6 Hours. This series launched in 2010 by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest will be replaced by the FIA World Endurance Championship, in partnership with ACO. Eight events are on the 2012 calendar starting with the Sebring 12 Hours in Florida (USA) on 17th March 2012.