Peugeot continued their form in the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup by topping practice times for the 1000km of Zhuhai on a day of wet running in China.
Having already won at Silverstone and Road Atlanta, Peugeot Sport are looking to seal a resounding hattrick of wins over their fierce rivals Audi, closing out the season and an era of sportscar racing, with both manufacturers expecting to field new cars in 2011.
The no.1 Peugeot 908 HDI FAP of Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud topped the running in both of Friday's free practice sessions, where all the fastest times were set in the first session – their fastest lap in the second session being nearly four seconds down on their earlier benchmark of 1:28.751. The sister car of Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin ended the day fourth fastest when times from the sessions were combined, the two French coupes sandwiching the pair of works Audis.
Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish – sharing the no.7 Audi R15 could only muster a 1:29.389 in reply to the French assault.
Among the GT2 runner the honour of the best time (narrowly) fell to the Le Mans Series champions Richard Lietz and Marc Lieb for Team Felbermayr-Proton who beat the Ferrari 430 of CRS Racing (Phil Quaife and Andrew Kirkaldy) by just over three-tenths of a second around the 4.32km circuit in Guangdong Province.
In the LMGTC class aimed at GT3 spec car and as a one off for the event it was one-time F1 driver Alex Yoong who set the fastest lap in a KK Performance entered Audi R8 LMS. This result coming as something of a surprise as he beat the efforts of Briton Danny Watts driving for United Autosports at the end of season which has seen his pace gain him an overall pole in the Le Mans Series while driving LMP2 machinery.
The Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid in the hands of Porsche works drivers Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister ran well all day – peaking with a lap of 1:42.211 in the first session. Though running in a separate 'experimental' class the car – which has already run at Road Atlanta and the Nurburgring 24 Hours was running times close to the leaders among the conventional GT2 cars.
The running at Zhuhai continues tomorrow (Saturday} with a pair of qualifying sessions before the race on Sunday.