Audis, Peugeots, Astons and other mix it up for 6 hours in the sun at Imola
The Peugeot/Total teamed redeemed a bit of respect by finishing 1-2 in the round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) at Imola, Italy, only three weeks after Audi’s victory at Le Mans—a humiliating defeat for Peugeot after having Audi practically KO’d on the canvas. With an impressive combination of performance, reliability, fuel economy and tire management, the Peugeot 908s dominated the 6 Hours of Imola. Starting from pole position, Sébastien Bourdais and Anthony Davidson celebrate their first race together in the no.7 with a superb win. They finished ahead of Franck Montagny and Stéphane Sarrazin, who ensured the 908 racked up another one-two to go with the one achieved in the 1,000km of Spa. Peugeot therefore extends its lead in the ILMC Manufacturers’ standings.
“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 Bruno Famin as he climbed onto the podium. “In particular, we managed to complete a triple stint with the same tyres, 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 an excellent level of reliability.”
Marcel Fässler and Timo Bernhard took third place in the #1 Audi R18 TDI at the six-hour race near Bologna. Their team-mates Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen in the diesel sports car designated as number “2” finished the fourth ILMC round on position four.
Early stages carried on where the 24 Hours of Le Mans left off
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 in qualifying, with Fässler (Audi no.1), Montagny (Peugeot 908 no.8) and McNish (Audi no.2) all 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 manoeuvre: “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 tyres, 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 driver team lost around thirty seconds and with it, the race lead, during this pit stop. “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 team-mate and the two Peugeot 908s completed several laps nose to tail.
Le Mans winner Marcel Fässler, who had captured a position in the Audi on the front row of the grid by taking second place in qualifying, defended his place at the beginning of the race. Allan McNish, who drove the #2 R18 TDI at the start, was running in fourth place at the beginning of the race. Both cars continually lost time due to many lapping events in heavy traffic in the field of 48 vehicles. After the first pit stops, 47 minutes into the race, the two Audi R18 TDI cars were on positions three and four.
Efficient management of fuel consumption and tyre wear
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…”
On the tradition-steeped track at Imola Audi had used the aerodynamics package for the first time that has been updated for the remaining ILMC races. The latest specification of the prototype with a power output of more than 540 hp has higher downforce compared with the Le Mans configuration. But contrary to expectations, the squad from Audi Team Joest was not able to bring the advantage of the high-downforce version to bear in Italy. Due to rubber pickup on the track the front brakes became dirty and overheated. Consequently, a higher amount of balance had to be shifted to the rear brakes which impaired the balance of the whole car and made both vehicles more difficult to drive. In addition, the removal of the dirt from the brake cooling system cost valuable seconds at each pit stop.
Drama towards the end of the race
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 rear left 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 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.
Both Audi driver pairings experienced a race without driving mistakes and technical defects at Imola. One hour before the race ended the two Audi R18 TDI were only separated by tenths of a second and showed a thrilling team-internal duel.
After six hours of racing and 219 completed race laps Marcel Fässler and Timo Bernhard on their first joint run in the Audi R18 TDI crossed the finish line in third place with a one-lap gap to the overall winners, Sébastien Bourdais/Anthony Davidson. Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen, who ran at Imola for the first time, together with the Scotsman Allan McNish had to admit defeat in the battle for third place by merely 2.634 seconds.
Final standings for the 6 Hours of Imola
1. Peugeot 908 #7 (Bourdais / Davidson) 220 tours
2. Peugeot 908 #8 (Montagny / Sarrazin) +1’08’’688
3. Audi R18 #1 (Fässler / Bernhard) +1 tour
4. Audi R18 #2 (Kristensen / McNish) +1 tour
5. Lola-Toyota #13 (Boullion / Belicchi) +7 tours
6. Lola-Toyota #12 (Prost/Jani) +8 tours
Fastest race lap : Sébastien Bourdais in a time of 1’33’’111
Quotes from Peugeot
Olivier Quesnel: “We had all the right ingredients today: a very fast car which used less fuel than its rival, a team that came up with the perfect race strategy and a group of exceptional drivers. And we didn’t disappoint in terms of the result with a resounding one-two. We returned to the same kind of performance level and times as those witnessed in early May at the 1,000km of Spa, a race that was run in similar weather conditions. This perfect result means that we have clear at the top of the overall standings. We can manage our lead in the final three races, except in Zhuhai where winning is a significant goal for us.”
Bruno Famin: “It feels good to have dominated the race in all areas: fuel consumption, tyre management and out-and-out performance. We worked hard in free practice to adapt the set-up of the car on this track, where we were making our first appearance. The drivers managed to make very good use of the cars during the race. This result confirms the trend seen at Spa. Our car has a lot of potential and we have nothing to fear from our rivals.”
Sébastien Bourdais (Peugeot 908 no.7): “I am very pleased to win my second race with Peugeot. I got on really well with Anthony, who was the quickest driver this weekend. Right from the word go, we found a set-up that worked for us both. The race was not without incident, but nothing that could stop us from winning and securing a one-two.”
Anthony Davidson (Peugeot 908 no.7): “This is my fourth win with Peugeot. It was an incredibly difficult race for all the drivers. I can hardly believe that the safety car didn’t come out once in six hours of racing! We expected the fight at the front would be closer, but we had a fantastic car. It worked out very well with Sébastien, we complemented each other.”
Franck Montagny (Peugeot 908 no.8): “What could be better than to win a race after Le Mans? Once again, both our cars have completed the race, and this time in the top two places. I am proud to be part of this team. We had an excellent level of performance but were a little surprised to be so far ahead of our rivals. We know they are going to work hard to bounce back next time. There will be other great scraps to come.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (Peugeot 908 no.8): “What will stay with me most of all is the one-two for Peugeot, it’s fantastic for the entire team. We have to admit we had a slightly harder time that our team-mates. Anthony was very quick all weekend, he did a great job. I think the best team won.”
Quotes from Audi
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “We’re not happy with the result at Imola. We had an inconsistent performance. At the beginning of the race we were in contention, but then lost ground about halfway into the race which we weren’t able to make up in the end. It was the first time that we were running with this vehicle configuration in such high temperatures. Now we want to use the findings from Imola to fight for victory at Silverstone.”
Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1): “It was an interesting race for us. It was important to us not to have problems in traffic and not to get stuck anywhere. We pushed during the whole race. At first Marcel and I were looking strong, particularly Marcel in the beginning. But during the race the track temperature kept rising. To make things worse, a lot of dirt and rubber pickup settled in the brake cooling system, which caused the brake temperature to rise and we had to clean the cooling system at each pit stop. We had to shift the brake balance very far to the rear – that changed the whole car. That’s a shame but we’ll strike back. Third place was all we could squeeze out of the situation today.”
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1): “This was a difficult race for us. Particularly the traffic was really difficult. Everyone gave their maximum. In the end the race became really thrilling because Timo had a slow puncture on our Audi in the final phase and had to have the left rear wheel changed. That was a tough moment for us in our battle for third place. It was great that in the end we still managed to take a podium place.”
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2): “None of us can be happy today. This was my first visit here. I like Imola, but didn’t think the race was good. We didn’t show a good performance. We had problems because the brakes got dirty. The brake temperature went up, which made the car hard to drive. The battle with Timo at the end was good fun. But you had to watch out because there was a lot of traffic. That was a real challenge, I gave everything in the final turns but it wasn’t enough. Congratulations to Timo and Marcel. And ‘well done’ to Peugeot. But if you know Allan and me, then you know that we want to strong at Silverstone.”
Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2): “After the Audi victory at Le Mans this was a disappointing result for us. The Audi R18 TDI was running well and reliably. But we weren’t fast enough in traffic. And here it was all about traffic. With 48 vehicles on the track you’ve got to be able to quickly pass the other cars on a line when lapping. In traffic the Peugeot cars always managed to achieve an advantage.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “The race didn’t go the way we’d been hoping it would. In the beginning, things were still looking pretty good. But then we caught a lot of dirt in the front brake cooling system and had to clean it at each pit stop. In addition, we had to shift the brake balance to the rear. That heavily influenced the balance of the whole car. All four drivers reported that this made the cars hard to drive. Congratulations to Peugeot; they did a good job here.”
Peugeot extends its lead in the ILMC
Top of the Manufacturers’ standings after the first three rounds of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (Sebring, Spa and Le Mans), Peugeot lined up at the start of the 6 Hours of Imola looking to consolidate its lead. With pole position and a one-two in the race, Peugeot scored maximum points and extended its lead to 43 points. On a narrow track, which is fairly short considering the 49 cars taking part, it looked however like a tough task lay ahead for the team and the drivers. In the end, the much feared safety periods failed to materialise, as the race remained free of major incidents. The race was run in normal conditions, and came down to the pure performance of the cars and the drivers. The quickest driver team of the weekend – having claimed pole position and the fastest race lap – Bourdais and Davidson secured a dominant win ahead of Montagny and Sarrazin, who were in contention for the win until the team decided to maintain the positions, with less than an hour of the race to go.
1. Peugeot, 132 points
2. Audi, 89 points
1. Team Peugeot Total, 65 points
2. Audi Sport Team Joest, 61 points
3. Team Oreca-Matmut, 34 points
4. Rebellion Racing, 33 points
Next ILMC race : Silverstone (9-11 september)
Peugeot on Pole at Imola
Stéphane Sarrazin in the third place Peugeot
As in Le Mans, the battle for pole position was very keenly disputed by the ILMC’s leading contenders. Anthony Davidson (no.7) recorded the fastest time of the weekend, securing the Peugeot 908’s second pole position in its young career. Stéphane Sarrazin qualified third in the no.8 car.
With less than two tenths between the top three cars, free practice suggested that the fight for pole position would be very close. The Italian fans were thrilled by the show put on by the sportscars in their intense 20-minute qualifying session, where the key to fast times lay in being able to combine peak tyre performance with good traffic management. Out on track as soon as qualifying started, Anthony Davidson (no.7) devoted his first few laps to getting the tyres up to temperature. Sensing the growing power of his Peugeot 908, the British driver waited for the right moment to push. With 12 minutes of the session gone, he set a stunning time of 1’31’’736, over 7/10ths clear of the first Audi!
“The car was fantastic to drive. We worked hard in the three free practice sessions and achieved a good performance level”, said Davidson at the end of the session. “It wasn’t a perfect lap, because I had to slow down in a sector where the yellow flags were out.” Having gone out to set a fast time a little after his team-mate, Stéphane Sarrazin split the two German cars a few minutes later. The Peugeot 908 no.8 driver stayed out on track to try and improve his time, but was held up in traffic in the closing minutes of the session. By putting its cars in P1 and P3, Team Peugeot Total is very well placed for a tough race.
Audi leads Peugeot…in this photo, at least
Audi is starting from positions two and four. Only three weeks after the triumph with the R18 TDI at the legendary 24-hour race at La Sarthe Le Mans winner Marcel Fässler (CH), who will be running together with Timo Bernhard (D) for the first time, set the second-fastest time of 1m 32.354s and secured a position on the front row of the grid.
As early as in the final third free practice session at the tradition-steeped circuit near Bologna Fässler had achieved the best time. In the sister car designated as #2, which is fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest as well, Allan McNish (GB) set the fourth-fastest time of 0.620 seconds behind Fässler. The Scotsman will thus start from the second row of the grid together with his team-mate Tom Kristensen (DK).
The innovative LMP1 sports car featuring Audi ultra-lightweight technology has been aerodynamically updated for the first meeting of the top sports car class after the Le Mans 24 Hours. The newest specification of the more than 540-hp prototype has higher downforce. The technical update seemed to have paid off for Audi. Right at the beginning of the 20-minute qualifying session the two R18 TDI cars went on a chase for times. In direct battle with rival Peugeot Marcel Fässler and Allan McNish first took the two front places twice but in the end had to let their competitors go ahead.
1 Davidson/Bourdais (Peugeot) 1m 31.736s
2 Fässler/Berhard (Audi R18 TDI) 1m 32.354s
3 Montagny/Sarrazin (Peugeot) 1m 32.732s
4 McNish/Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI) 1m 32.974s
5 Ragues/Moreau (Oak Pescarolo-Judd) 1m 34.746s
6 Jani/Prost (Lola-Toyota) 1m 35.047s
7 Belicchi/Boullion (Lola-Toyota) 1m 35.700s
8 Collard/Tinseau/Jousse (Pescarolo-Judd) 1m 35.996s
9 Cortes/Geri/Piccini (Zytek) 1m 36.084s
10 Beche/Thiriet/Firth (Oreca-Nissan) 1m 37.208s
Quotes from Peugeot
Olivier Quesnel: “Anthony produced an extraordinary lap, taking pole position by an impressive margin. His performance is all the more staggering for the fact he had to slow down in a sector where the yellow flags were out! This means nothing for the outcome of the race, but it’s always best to start at the front. After having entrusted qualifying to Anthony and Stéphane [Sarrazin], we will let Sébastien Bourdais and Franck Montagny start the race. Given the competition from our rival, I think our strategy has to be to attack from start to finish.”
Anthony Davidson (Peugeot 908 no.7): “I am very proud to take another pole position for Peugeot, after my pole at Petit Le Mans last year. It was a very close fight again between Peugeot and Audi. In order to try and get a clear run at the track at the start of the session, I had positioned myself at the front of the pit lane exit. But the session started five minutes late so my tyres had cooled down by a few degrees. As I had enough fuel, I devoted the first few laps of my run to getting the tyres back up to the right temperature. The team managed this perfectly. After Le Mans, it’s great to prove just how quick the 908 is. We now have to think about the race. The situation will be very different and we expect six hours of difficult racing, with a lot of cars out on track and in the pitlane. That will be a major concern. The hardest part is still to come.”
Stéphane Sarrazin (Peugeot 908 no.8): “I quickly found myself behind a group of cars and wasn’t able to get the most out of the tyres and the 908. However, third place isn’t a bad result. We are going to do some more work on the setup, change a few details to improve the balance. Since the start of the weekend, we have seen that the Peugeots are quick and we will do our utmost to make sure we are just as strong in the race.”
Quotes from Audi
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1): “I’m pleased with my lap. The R18 TDI was very good to drive. However, it was really difficult to find the right braking points as we didn’t have a lot of time in free practice. In qualifying there was a lot of traffic, I had only one really free lap. On the whole I’m happy with my second place. I’m optimistic for the race because our R18 TDI is very good across the whole distance. But the traffic in the race will probably be the biggest problem.”
Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1): “It was a good lap by Marcel. The front row is important for us. That gives us a good starting base for the race. I feel ready! The teamwork with Marcel is outstanding because we’re both racers and are working in the same direction. We’re driving with a new high-downforce setting here and on this slow to semi-fast track the R18 TDI is making a good impression with it.”
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2): “This is my first run at Imola. The first free practice was already a bit broken up as many red flags frequently interrupted the session. The second session practically fell through due to rain and the third one was also done in drying conditions. Qualifying with a lot of traffic gave us a foretaste of the race tomorrow. I suppose we can expect a hectic race in that regard. The aim is to get through quickly and without any problems and to hopefully have a lot of success that way.”
Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2): “As we couldn’t gather a lot of experience with our car in free practice we squeezed the best out of qualifying. The balance of the car was right. After a free first lap I was struggling to get through traffic. To be honest, the race will be hard work. My team-mate Tom Kristensen is driving his first race at Imola. I’ve been here before but we’ve only completed a handful of laps with the R18 TDI each time. But we’re here to fight. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “We’re running at Imola for the first time and had little practice time since the second free practice session on Friday took place in heavy rain and car number 2 had a small problem on Saturday. Marcel Fässler was very strong in qualifying. The whole time he was four tenths of a second faster than the competition. But in the end Anthony Davidson surprisingly set this fabulous time. We’ve prepared two new cars for this race, and both are running well. But the six-hour race will be long and very hard because the track has blind hilltops and dropping corners where getting through without any problems in a field of about 50 cars is crucial. If you manage that, then anything’s possible.”
At www.audi-microsites.com/lemans the race can also be watched live on the internet at the “Audi Live Racing” microsite. Audi provides a live stream with onboard footage from the two Audi R18 TDI cars plus telemetry data of the vehicles such as speed, gear engaged and on track position.