In company with fellow ex-F1 team-mates Anthony Davidson and Alex Wurz, Marc Gené was in arguably the quickest car in the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours, but like the other three ultra-fast but equally fragile Peugeots, the 908 HDi FAP the Spaniard was driving agonisingly failed to go the distance. Still, he insists, they'll be back!
Having led early on, the defending race-winning #1 entry was delayed by alternator woes as night set in on the Saturday at La Sarthe, but thanks to relentless commitment and searing pace from the trio behind the wheel, the car was back on the podium, within touching distance of the second-placed #8 Audi and less than a lap behind the leading #9 machine when a terminal engine failure suddenly and agonisingly brought an entirely 'unexpected' end to their charge with less than three hours to go.
What might have been achievable – and Davidson suggests victory was still potentially on the cards [see separate story – click here
] – is of course now wholly academic, and Gené admits that if the engine blowing was a surprise, then on the flipside, the sheer raw speed advantage Peugeot had over its rivals was encouraging indeed looking ahead.
“I don't think so,” the former Williams and Minardi ace told Crash.net Radio
, when asked if driving flat-out for so long might have contributed to the eventual retirement. “Cars are designed to be driven to the limit. Whenever we do a test, we always go to the limit and in testing it's always gone okay. It was just a part that had a problem, whether it was [down to] the supplier or whatever.
“I drove the car as fast as I had driven it in every other session and at Sebring, and we'd never had that problem before. We were maybe expecting the Audi to be quicker than us, or...I don't know – anything but having four cars out, three with the same problem, but it happens.
“Second place no doubt was possible, and it would have been very close for first. It's a shame, because it would have been so nice to come back from three laps down and make it or almost make it, but the team and the three drivers did a very good job and that's what I went home with – how competitive we were.
“The car was super-quick – we never would have expected to be so much quicker than our opposition – but in this race being quick is just one of the important factors. We'll learn from what happened and we want to work hard and be more prepared for 2011. The 908 won't be valid anymore next year because the rules are changing, but at least we know we had a very quick car and we're definitely coming back – and stronger.”
TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE