27 September 2009
Peugeot wins Petit Le Mans
Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin won a weather-shortened Petit Le Mans, giving Peugeot its first American Le Mans Series victory after race officials called the race at just before the nine-hour mark, citing hazardous conditions due to torrential rains that fell at Road Atlanta.
Peugeot's two diesel-powered factory prototype coupes finished 1-2, with the pole-sitting 908 HDi of Pedro Lamy and Nic Minassian coming in second. The first of Audi Sport Team Joest's Audi R15 TDIs, driven by Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, finished third, helpless to prevent the German marque's nine-year unbeaten Petit streak from ending. The Peugeot-Peugeot-Audi finish mirrored the result at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, giving the French team a notable double.
“We only did three races this year,” Montagny noted, “We missed Sebring by only 22 seconds, and it was a win for the Peugeot team at Le Mans and a win here. I think, if we had a full time [race], we really would have battled it out with the Audis.”
McNish and Capello dominated the race before the rains fell, and led all but five of the first 168 laps, but the two Peugeots got past under yellow, when the Scot uncharacteristically looped the Audi under wet conditions. A few minutes later, the skies opened and officials parked the cars in pit-lane.
“We started in the wet and it was difficult with a dry set-up,” Sarrazin said, “We were very far behind but, in the dry, we could push very hard and make up time. I could catch the two Audis and it was not too hard to overtake them. But, in the big rain, it was just okay. We did our best in the time we had and the team did a great job.”
The highly anticipated battle between the Peugeots and the Audis lived up to expectations in qualifying and the early part of the race. Both Montagny and Sarrazin had to fight back from a lap down on more than one occasion after the Peugeots' early race set-up struggles, but the result was sweet redemption for a team that lost out in last year's race by a little more than four seconds to McNish and Capello.
“We travelled thousands of miles to race here, so we'd love to have had a full race, but we also enjoyed it,” Montagny admitted, “However, at 300 kph, you hit the water and you just keep going... it's not so much fun.”
“The mechanics here have won Le Mans, so they are very good and they know what they can do,” Sarrazin added, “We are improving all the time, in the race and in testing. I think we show that. And the drivers, we are always giving the maximum, just like our crew does.”
Dyson Racing took its first Petit Le Mans victory with a victory in LMP2 for Marino Franchitti, Butch Leitzinger and Ben Devlin. Their Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe had problems with gear selection early, but the Acura ARX-01b of Lowe's Fernandez Racing's Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz experienced steering issues throughout, handing Dyson an opening.
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