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Spa Francorchamps, May 9, 2010

An action-packed race The weekend’s weather and the day’s variety of unexpected incidents lived up every bit to the Belgian circuit’s reputation. The first drops of rain that fell as the cars were lined up on the grid gave cause for concern, and the start itself provided the day’s first drama. Pedro Lamy started from pole-position in the N°3 car but a small mistake at the first turn dropped him to ninth overall. Meanwhile, first time up Le Raidillon, the Oreca-run 908 was hit from behind and eliminated from the race just after an early safety car intervention. Working to the latest safety car-related regulations – which were not applied with the greatest of precision – proved a complex exercise! As a result, although the three Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs had topped the leaderboard, the N°7 Audi suddenly found itself in front after pitting with an advantage of almost a minute because the red light at the pit-lane exit had not been switched on!

The race red flagged…
With its determination undented, Team Peugeot Total fine-tuned its strategy and upped its pace, both in the pits and on the racetrack, with a view to making up the gap. Its bid was interrupted when an electricity power-cut affected the region and compelled the organisers to suspend the race for safety reasons. It was a godsend for Franck Montagny who was able to pit for repairs after going off in the N°2 Peugeot, just before the red flag was shown.

The Frenchman was able to rejoin, albeit a lap down, and he then proceeded to beat the fastest race lap on several occasions. Indeed, he was the only driver to get beneath the two-minute barrier, despite having been in the car for almost 3½ hours!

An exceptional end to the race

The second part of the race provided spectators with a thrilling fight as the Peugeot drivers did everything in their power to haul in the front-running Audi. Sébastien Bourdais, then second overall in the N°3 car, managed to bridge the gap to Capello on Lap 64. That sparked off a breathtaking scrap between the two drivers which led to some exceptionally virile passing manoeuvres before the Peugeot ultimately took command on Lap 71. Sébastien then handed over to Simon Pagenaud who valiantly defended his advantage, despite a rain shower an hour before the finish. He took the risk of staying out on medium-compound tyres in the delicate conditions, unlike his Audi rival who opted for ’intermediates’. This gamble, which was guided by the advice provided by Météo France, paid off handsomely, since Pagenaud, Bourdais and Lamy went on to win by more than a minute. It was Bourdais’ first victory with Peugeot which has now gone unbeaten at Spa since 2007. Stéphane Sarrazin also stayed out on slicks in the N°2 Peugeot, although he did switch to soft tyres as he called on every bit of his talent to home in on the Audi. He passed the German machine two laps from home to secure Team Peugeot Total’s fourth consecutive one-two finish after Le Mans and Petit Le Mans in 2009, and last March’s visit to Sebring. The N°1 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP shared by Marc Gené, Anthony Davidson and Alexander Wurz finished just shy of the podium after a mistake by Marc Gené with half an hour remaining caused by the highly delicate track conditions. After winning the 12 Hours of Sebring, the trio played another front-running role which saw it figure at the top of the order on occasions.

And now on to Le Mans…

With a month to go until the big race, Team Peugeot Total will take time to savour today’s win, but without taking its eye off the ball in any way. Once everyone is back at the workshops in Vélizy, what happened at Spa will be analysed in detail. The 908s will then be stripped and carefully rebuilt before travelling to Le Mans for scrutineering on Sunday, June 6 at 2:30pm.

Michael Tange - www.mtange.nl

2010 Le Mans 24 Hours: June 12-13, 2010

2010 1,000km de Spa-Francorchamps – final positions:
Pos. N° Cat. Team Voiture Tour
1 3 "LM"P1 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP 139
2 2 "LM"P1 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP 139
3 7 "LM"P1 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R15 TDI 139

6 40 "LM"P2 Quifel - ASM Team Ginetta-Zytek 09S 130
7 25 "LM"P2 RML Lola HPD Coupé 130
8 35 "LM"P2 Oak Racing Pescarolo - Judd 129

17 70 "LM"GT1 Marc VDS Racing Team Ford GT 123
23 60 "LM"GT1 Matech Competition Ford GT 123
28 61 "LM"GT1 Matech Competition Ford GT 121

15 77 "LM"GT2 Team Felbermayr Proton Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 124
19 96 "LM"GT2 AF Corse Ferrari F430 GT 123
20 95 "LM"GT2 AF Corse Ferrari F430 GT 123

14 47 FLM Hope Polevision Racing Formula le Mans - Oreca 09 124
18 45 FLM Boutsen Energy Racing Formula le Mans - Oreca 09 123
36 46 FLM JMB Racing Formula le Mans - Oreca 10 117