Stephane Sarrazin and Franck Montagny completed a sweep of the three round of the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) for Peugeot Sport, helping the team send the 908 HDi FAP out with a win.
“The 908 has concluded its career the way it began it: with a win!” said technical director Bruno Famin. “True, today’s success was a very close-run thing, but I think that only serves to underline how difficult our mission was today, and that makes it all the more satisfying! The race scenario was quite strange, because we started strongly before suffering one or two technical and sporting setbacks.”
The two Peugeots had shared the front row for the 1000km of Zhuhai and converted their qualifying pace into early domination ahead of the two works Audi R15s that have provided their main opposition in recent years.
Unlike other battle – most notably Silverstone where the ILMC began in September – the Audi squads kept the pressure on throughout the race, the car shared by multiple Le Mans 24 Hours winners Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen forcing the outcome of the race down to the final pitstops for the front runners. Kristensen had brought the Audi in, only for Sarrazin to stay out until lap 219 of the eventual 232 until he dived into the pits for a splash and dash stop from which he emerged leading.
Sarrazin would hold onto the lead, taking the checkered flag with a 4.83 second advantage over Kristensen to record the 908's 19th career win. However, the race was not all success for Peugeot.
The early plan to double stint their Michelin tyres was replaced by single-stints when a second run proved too much for the rear tyres. Further trouble hit the no.1 Peugeot of Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud.
On-track contact brought first a lengthy pitstop for repairs before being called in for a stop-go penalty after Bourdais was deemed to have caused the incident.
Bourdais would cross the line to finish fourth, three laps down on the ultimate pace which saw the 1000km completed in a little over five-and-a-half hours.
“It was an extremely close race, and the last 20 or so laps were incredibly difficult,” explained Sarrazin. “I just tried to stay concentrated all the way to the flag and not make any mistakes while at the same time driving absolutely flat out. The team did an amazing job and I am proud to have celebrated the 908’s last competitive outing by qualifying on pole position and winning the race here in China.”
The result meant Peugeot claimed both the manufacturers' and teams' titles in the ILMC. “We are naturally delighted to have won the inaugural ILMC title, but this today’s win is particularly satisfying,” said Olivier Quesnel, director of Peugeot Sport. “The race was quite simply magnificent, and the fact that it enabled the 908 to complete its career on a high note is magical. The car will now take its place as one of motor racing’s legendary cars, and I am especially proud to have taken this win in China which is a market where Peugeot has high ambitions.”