LE MANS SERIES: NÜRBURGRING 1,000km
Two months after the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours, Team Peugeot Total was eager to pull off a win in Germany where its two 908 HDi FAPs both qualified on the front row of the grid. The two crews produced a perfect team effort to provide the French carmaker with its first one-two finish of the season, just as they had done at the Nürburgring this time last year. The result also hands Peugeot and its crews the provisional lead in both championships.
The start of the fourth round of the 2008 Le Mans Series saw the two 908 HDi FAPs pull away at a pace that enabled them to pull gradually clear of their pursuers. At the wheel of the N°7 car, Nicolas Minassian emerged as the early leader and he even succeeded in posting the fastest race lap in the opening stages, with Stéphane Sarrazin shadowing his team-mate in the N°8 car. Half an hour into the race, the latter profited from the heavy traffic to pass his team-mate and take control, but the lead switched back into the hands of the N°7 car shortly after the first round of pit-stops. Other than the obligation to keep their duel perfectly sportsmanlike, the Peugeot drivers were under no team orders and they proceeded to thrill the crowd with an exciting battle.
Their speed even allowed them to lap their main championship rivals at around the race's halfway mark which still saw heavy traffic on the track. Indeed, it was traffic that caused Marc Gené to lose more than 20 seconds in the N°7 908 HD FAP as he tried to find a way past the Lola Aston Martin for a full five laps. His car was also slightly delayed during a pit-stop because of a starter button issue and Pedro Lamy, who had just taken over in the N°8 Peugeot, became the leader.
With the gap stabilised at around the 23/30 seconds mark, Pedro Lamy and Stéphane Sarrazin – the reigning Le Mans Series champions – were able to go on to pick up their second success of the season, making it two wins apiece for each of the Peugeot Sport crews! Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gené crossed the line in second place –16.161s behind their team-mates – to hand Peugeot its first one-two finish of the year and enable the French carmaker to move to the top of the provisional standings, six points clear of Audi. In the Drivers' table, Minassian/Gené (N°7 Peugeot HDi FAP) now lead, two points ahead of Prémat/Rockenfeller (N°2 Audi).
Michel Barge: "I love Germany, and I love the Nürburgring! It was here in 2007 that we picked up our first one-two of the season and we've gone and done the same again this time round. This result is a fantastic reward for the whole team; they're all delighted. After finishing second and third at Le Mans, it was important for Peugeot to win this weekend and take the lead in both the Manufacturers' and Drivers' championships. The title will finally be decided at Silverstone. We preferred to let our crews fight it out between themselves here because it was too early to start thinking in terms of strategy for the Drivers' title. We took our decision out of respect for our drivers, who all put in great performances again despite the traffic, as well as for sporting reasons. We didn't want to influence the outcome. This is a great result not only for our brand but also for the PSA Group which scored two one-two finishes in Germany, with Citroën taking first and second in the country's round of the WRC."
Bruno Famin: "Our race-plan went perfectly. We stayed with our incisive strategy of starting strongly in order to pull out a gap and we lapped our closest rivals at the halfway point so as not to lose the benefit of our hard work should the safety car come out. The aerodynamic set-up of the 2008 'sprint'-spec 908 proved very competitive."
Pedro Lamy: "I am proud of our performance for Peugeot today. It was very important to get both cars to the finish with a view to scoring championship points. And after June's Le Mans 24 Hours, it was also important for Stéphane and me to get back onto the podium. There's nothing like winning! I am really delighted with this result because there were no team orders, which goes to show what a sporting team Peugeot is."
Stéphane Sarrazin: "It's a fantastic result for us and for the whole team. Our car was perfectly balanced and the mechanics did a terrific job which enabled us to claim our second win of the year following our victory at Monza. We had a good fight with the N°7 car and there was never much in it, so nobody could afford to make a mistake."
Marc Gené: "We lost a lot of time in the traffic, especially behind the Lola Aston Martin. That cost us the lead, and we then dropped a further 30 seconds to the N°8 car when we had a small problem with the starter."
Nicolas Minassian: "This result is very positive for us in terms of the Drivers’ championship. It was nice to start from pole-position and we also posted the fastest race lap. The title decision will now go down to the wire at Silverstone, which is a circuit I love."
Nürburgring – final positions:1. Lamy/Sarrazin Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (car N°8), 195 laps in 5h 44m 58.174s2. Gené/Minassian Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (car N°7), +16.161s3. Prémat/Rockenfeller Audi R10, +1 lap4. Capello/McNish Audi R10, +1 lap5. Mucke/Charouz Lola Aston Martin, +6 laps
Fastest race lap: Nicolas Minassian (Peugeot), 1m 40.501s
Manufacturers' championship: Drivers' championship:
1. Peugeot 53 points 1. Minassian/Gené 32 points 2. Audi 47 points 2. Rockenfeller/Prémat 30 points 3. Pescarolo 22 points 3. Sarrazin/Lamy 21 points 4. McNish/Capello 17 points
Silverstone (GB), September 13-14