15 June 2008
Le Mans 24 Hrs 2008: Audi defends title.
Minassian nursed the car back to the pits to make another change as Kristensen himself pitted for the final time having put a lap on the Peugeot and although the Frenchman unlapped himself on the final tour as Kristensen slowed on the run to the flag, it was the Dane who took the flag as the 24 hours ticked down to give the R10 another La Sarthe win.
Had it not been for extra time spent in the pits during the race, Peugeot may well have been able to celebrate victory, but second for Minassian, Gene and Pedro Lamy was still a fine result while the #9 Peugeot of Franck Montagny, Christian Klien and Ricardo Zonta ensured there would be two 908s on the podium at the finish.
Audi's young guns Alex Premat, Mike Rockenfeller and Lucas Luhr were unable to match the pace of the front-runners and had to settle for fourth place ahead of the third of the Peugeots, which seemed to suffer the majority of problems to befall the team en-route to fifth place – the one consolation being the quickest lap of the race for pole-man Stephane Sarrazin.
The #1 Audi of Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner finished in sixth place, losing time on Sunday morning with a clutch issue but, like the #3 car, being unable to challenge the pace of the front-runners through the race itself.
Petrol honours, in the so called second LMP1 class, went the way of Pescarolo with the #17 car of Harald Primat, Benoit Treluyer and Christophe Tinseau finishing well ahead of the Team ORECA-Matmut entry of Soheil Ayari, Laurent Groppi and Loic Duval.
A stunning recovery drive, not too dissimilar to that of the #8 Audi, saw the Charouz Lola Aston Martin take a top ten finish despite a huge accident for Jan Charouz in the early hours that looked like it could have put the car into retirement, while the top ten was completed by the leading LMP2 car, the van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder.
Elsewhere amongst the LMP1 teams, Rollcentre Racing just missed out on the top ten as its Pescarolo took the flag in eleventh place, while the Creation AIM team finish 24th and the Saulnier Racing squad took 26th. The Japanese Dome Racing squad had run well inside the top ten on Saturday before suffering a range of mechanical issues and a number of trips off track but the team worked hard to ensure the car was on to take the flag in 33rd place while the Terramos Courage was also running at the flag but failed to be classified as a finisher having not completed 70 per cent of the race distance.
The LMP2 win for van Merksteijn capped a fine Le Mans debut for the Porsche and came after the Dutch team had been involved in the battle for class honours throughout with the similar car of John Nielsen's Team Essex Unfortunately, the Danish car would be hit by a misfire during the second half of the race which saw it gradually slip back and it finished seven laps behind the van Merksteijn in twelfth overall.
Despite an incident in the final three hours when Matheu Lahaye suffered a spin and collected a GT2 Ferrari, the Saulnier Racing team secured the final place on the podium making Frankie Cheng the first Chinese driver to stand on the La Sarthe podium in his debut in the race.
As per usual, the LMP2 race was one of attrition and the Quifel-ASM, Barazi-Epsilon and Bruichladdich Radical teams were the only other three to be running at the finish.
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