A few weeks after the Le Mans 24-hour race, the teams arrived in Italy for the 6 Hours of Imola. With an impressive combination of performance, reliability, fuel economy and tire management, the Peugeot 908s dominated the race, starting from pole position and finishing first and second.
Sébastien Bourdais and Anthony Davidson celebrated their first race together in the no.7 car with a superb win. They finished ahead of Franck Montagny and Stéphane Sarrazin, who ensured the 908 racked up another one-two to accompany the one achieved in the 1000km of Spa.
With this result, Peugeot has extended its lead in the ILMC Manufacturers’ standings after the first three rounds of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (Sebring, Spa and Le Mans). With pole position and a one-two in the race, Peugeot scored maximum points and extended its lead to 43 points.
“This one-two is good for the whole team. As is often the case in endurance, the win came down to performance, reliability and fuel economy”, emphasized PeugeotSport Technical Director, Bruno Famin.
“In particular, we managed to complete a triple stint with the same tires at a pace that was higher than our rivals. That was the point at which we really took control of the race. For the fourth time in as many races this season, we can be pleased that all our cars made it to the end of the race with excellent reliability.”
Starting from pole, Sébastien Bourdais (Peugeot 908 no.7) headed the 48-strong field into the first corner. The race order remained the same as qualifying, with Fässler (Audi no.1), Montagny (Peugeot 908 no.8) and McNish (Audi no.2) tightly bunched.
After six laps, the leaders began to run into the first backmarkers. The race was being run at the same relentless pace as at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the drivers constantly pushing.
Just after his first refuelling pit stop, Franck Montagny grabbed second place from Marcel Fässler with an audacious overtaking maneuver: “I really enjoyed driving the car! It wasn’t easy to overtake because the track was very dirty off the racing line. There was just enough space to get past Marcel on the outside of Tamburello, but I made it past!”
At the front, Sébastien Bourdais was also pushing hard. Demonstrating the performance of his 908 and the Michelin tires, the man from Le Mans improved his fastest race lap towards the end of his second stint, just before handing over to Anthony Davidson.
As they attempted to negotiate a pit lane that was both narrow and congested, the no.7 team lost around 30 seconds and with it, the race lead. “I couldn’t stop in front of our pit garage and we had to push the car backwards", explained Sébastien Bourdais. “It's a bit frustrating to lose time that we had fought hard to gain on the track, but both Peugeots stayed in the lead, and that's the most important thing.”
Back on the track 24 seconds behind Stéphane Sarrazin, Anthony Davidson produced some inspired driving in the traffic. The British driver quickly narrowed the gap to his teammate and the two Peugeot 908s completed several laps nose to tail.
Anthony Davidson took back the lead after his first refuelling pit stop. Just like Stéphane Sarrazin, he completed a triple stint at a higher pace than that of the Audis.
The Peugeots put themselves out of reach when they moved one lap clear, just before the race's halfway stage. “I came together with Tom Kristensen when I overtook him”, said Anthony Davidson. “Competition is always close and I had been expecting a strong reaction from him. As I was on the inside of the corner, his attempt to hold me off forced him into the gravel and it didn’t affect my race at all…”
The race almost saw a dramatic twist on two occasions: at 4.50pm, a collision between the Peugeot 908 no.7 and a backmarker left the former with a puncture on the left rear tire. Sébastien Bourdais came into the pits and lost the lead to Franck Montagny.
A few minutes later, the Peugeot no.8 had to stop for the same reason, a puncture caused by a collision. Montagny had to relinquish the lead again to Bourdais.
Team Peugeot Total then decided to maintain the positions and controlled the final few pit stops, enabling the level of fuel to be adjusted to ensure both cars made it to the end, to see out another Peugeot 908 one-two.
|1.||Peugeot 908||no.7||Bourdais/Davidson||220 laps|
|3.||Audi R18||no.1||Fässler/Bernhard||+1 lap|
|4.||Audi R18||no.2||Kristensen/McNish||+1 lap|
Intercontinental Le Mans Cup standings
|1.||Team Peugeot Total||65 points|
|2.||Audi Sport Team Joest||61 points|
|3.||Team Oreca-Matmut||34 points|
|4.||Rebellion Racing||33 points|