Peugeot team not only clinched a trio of Le Mans Series (LMS) titles, but also put a significant lead in the standings for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) as the two 908 HDI FAP entered in the race dominated the 1000km of Silverstone.
The two French coupes, one entered by the works Peugeot Sport effort and the other by the Team ORECA Matmut squad which had contested the whole LMS season, had had to settle for the second row of the grid behind the pair of works Audi R15. However, the works Peugeot passed Timo Bernhard – who had suffered the ignominy of spinning the no.8 Audi on the warm-up lap before regaining his front row slot – on the opening lap.
Anthony Davidson, starting the works car he shared with Nicolas Minassian, began to apply pressure to Allan McNish in the lead before taking the lead in a swooping move inside the Audi at the fast right hander at Abbey where the circuit cuts onto the new Arena layout. Once ahead Davidson was able to pull away from McNish with familiar Peugeot pace. Pace that meant the overall race as a competition was all but over after just 15 laps when the diminutive Scot's charge ground to an agonising halt at the end of the Wellington Straight with a loss of drive. That became a loss of driver when, after a short while trying to coax the Audi back into life McNish abandoned the car to be pulled away by the marshalls.
The Audi's demise left the Peugeot's running one-two – ORECA’s Nicolas Lapierre having moved into what was then third on the same lap Davidson took the lead.
The early retirement of the lead Audi left Peugeot unchallenged for the race, though the works example survived two warnings for running outside of the track limits – something stewards were rigorously enforcing up and down the field.
The combined points from the one-two finish gave Peugeot 47 points in the ILMC standings, the surviving Audi's third scoring 21, leaving the Joest run team a fight which will resume on October 2 at Petit Le Mans. Drayson Racing, the other LMP1 team entered in the three race ILMC endured a difficult race, co-owner Paul Drayson having the left-front wheel part company with the Lola-Judd though Abbey. He was though able to return the car to the pits relatively undamaged, he and Jonny Cocker finishing eleventh overall and eighth in class.
Another team to suffer a difficult day was Rebellion Racing. Already facing a formidable task in defending two point lead in the manufacturers' championship from Peugeot their chances were all but ended with the Jean-Christophe Boullion/Andrea Belicchi no.13 car losing over an hour in the pits; including a 44 minute stay in the garage as the team battled mechanical problems. The manufacturer's title was, the no.12 car of Nicolas Prost and Neel Jani even missing out on finishing as the best petrol car – that title falling to the no.009 Aston Martin.
The recovery of McNish's Audi – pulled away onto a piece of the old grand prix circuit before being returned to the paddock – was just one of several incidents that could have called out the safety car, but the race remained uninterrupted by both safety cars and rain (though the clouds threatened what can only be described as apocalyptic rain at one point). Still, what the LMP1 battle lacked the fights in LMP2 and LMGT2 more than made up for.
LMP2 was expected to be the domain of the Strakka Racing HPD which had taken pole so convincingly. It easily converted pole into an early lead, which Jonny Kane then Nick Leventis held for the first third of the race, only ceding the point to the no.35 OAK Racing car after a three minute pitstop to allow the team to repair the rear of the car.
That began a fightback.
Further delayed by a stop and go for running outside the track the team installed Danny Watts – often the fastest of the three drivers, though Kane claimed the fastest lap in the class – in the cockpit. When Watts did re-take the lead, from Quifel-ASM, he was quickly asked to repeat the endeavour, coming into a for a scheduled pitstop only a few laps later.
When Quifel made their own stop, in hindsight with only 30 minutes in the race, which ran to 170 laps, rather than six hours, it handed Watts and Strakka the lead for keeps to add another victory to an astonishing season – the first for the HPD ARX-01 in Europe. However, two finishes (at Spa and Alrgarve) let the team down, RML's fourth in class enough to clinch the class team's title as they finished behind one time leaders Quifel and OAK.
LMGT2 was a story of heartbreak.
For much of the race it looked as though two teams at the end of difficult transition seasons would finally have something to celebrate. Prospeed Competition, who moved from the FIA GT series for this year, ran inside the top three, while JMW Motorsport, who have battled an Aston Martin Vantage plagued with gremlins a year after swapping from Ferrari, led from pole, only losing the lead briefly through regular pitstops every hour.
But JMW too would be a victim of a stop-go penalty in the final hour, dropping them back behind the AF Corse Ferrari of Jaime Melo and Gimmi Bruni with little chance or opportunity of making up the ground. Prospeed's Richard Westbrook further relegated Rob Bell to third when the Aston needed a splash of extra fuel to complete the race that translated to a lost 35 seconds.
Off the lead lap in class CRS Racing claimed fourth through Tim Mullen and Andrew Kirkaldy, while Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb sealed the second successive class title with a fifth place finish, assisted by problems for the rivals in the no.95 AF Corse car.
With the Aston not entered in the ILMC the points split between Ferrari and Porsche put the Prancing Horse just four points ahead. BMW, the only other ILMC manufacturer in the LMGT2 scored only 15 points, the Schnitzer Motorsport team struggling to maintain pace through problems. All three marques will be joined by Jaguar to fight for ILMC points at Petit Le Mans.
Larbre Competition completed the race, though their LMGT1 Saleen was soundly beaten by the supposedly inferior LMGT2 cars after they spent more than 30 minutes in the pits.
Nine points for DAMS, mainly though a Formula Le Mans class win for Jody Firth and Warren Hughes helped the French team retain their title. They did, however, have to see off a challenge in the teams's standings from Hope Polevision Racing, the Swiss team that qualified first and second in class, following Firth and Hughes home to cut the final margin to just two points.