Peugeot scored the first blow in the burgeoning diesel battle at the opening round of the Le Mans Series in Barcelona today, as the 908 HDi FAP of Marc Gene and Nicolas Minassian beat diesel rivals, Audi by a clear lap.
Marc Gene said, "I am above all delighted to have won my home race here in Catalonia. I would also like to thank Peugeot for giving us such a strong and competitive car. Our only problem came towards the end of the race when I got a bad case of pins and needles in my right leg. I was forced to hand over the wheel to Nicolas for the final laps.”
His team mate, Nicolas Minassian added, "“It's been a great day. The team is progressing all the time and is extremely reactive. We pushed as hard as we could and the car proved both quick and reliable. It was quite an easy win at the end of the day.”
Pole sitters, Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin, were unable to convert their front row position into a victory after a collision with Michael Vergers' LMP2 Zytek meant a lengthy stop for repairs. They would eventually come home in 12th place after another incident, later on in the race.
Reliability problems put paid to the battle everyone was expecting between the two diesel-powered outfits as a broken alternator belt and, later, slow punctures would mean an eventual fifth place was a strong result for the R10 of McNish and Capello. Mike Rockenfeller and Alex Premat in the 'junior' car piloted the R10 to an uneventful second position.
Rounding out the podium was the Aston Martin Lola – a spectacular debut for the Charouz Racing prototype, which was keeping pace with the better-tested Peugeot and Audi and stayed reliable throughout the six hour race.
Another impressive debut came from the LMP2 Porsche RS Spyders, three of which were racing in the LMS for the first time in Spain and finished 6th, 9th and 14th overall. It was the Van Merkstejin Motorsport car of Verstappen and Merkstejin who took class honours with the RML ERDOS Lola of Belicchi, Pompidou and Zacchia finishing just ahead of the second RS Spyder of Elgaard and Nielsen, which may have featured even higher in the results had it not been for a fuelling problem late on in the race.
The Luc Alphand Corvette took a fairly easy victory in the GT1 class, after the Team Modena Aston ran out of fuel. Virgo Motorsport won the GT2 category with its Ferrari 430 GT ahead of the Team Felbermayr-Proton and Imsa Performance Matmut Porsches.