Peugeot wins bruising Petit Le Mans

After an incredibly intense and hazardous race, Peugeot won at Petit Le Mans in the United States for the third year running to secure a second Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Manufacturers’ title, ahead of November’s final race in China.

Third on the starting grid, the Peugeot 908 no. 8 had an incident-packed start to the race, as explained by Franck Montagny: “There was no lull in the race at all. We picked up a one-minute penalty at the start, so we had to push hard to close the gap and above all not make any mistakes.” The Peugeot no.8 grabbed the lead at 3.12pm and, in spite of prolonged intense battling with its rivals, the car won by five laps, ahead of the Peugeot Oreca driven by Minassian, Gené and Lapierre. The outcome never truly certain until the very end, the race took a dramatic twist with just over 100 laps to go when the Audi no.1 retired after colliding with a backmarker. With a three-lap lead over the second-placed car, the end of the race was more clear cut for Franck Montagny, Stéphane Sarrazin and Alexander Wurz. The Peugeot no.8 won, ahead of the Peugeot Oreca no.10. “We are really happy”, enthused Stéphane Sarrazin. “It’s our first win this season for Franck and me, whereas Alex Wurz won this year at Spa-Francorchamps. However, it is Alex’s first win here. As this is the first time the three of us have teamed up, it’s a perfect result.” The Peugeot 908 no.7, driven by polesitter Sébastien Bourdais, was less fortunate. The car was forced to retire after only two hours of racing (bevel gear) depriving Simon Pagenaud and author of the pole position, Anthony Davidson, of any track time. It was the first time a Peugeot 908 has had to retire this season.

The Race: Early part of the race dominated by the safety car

Sébastien Bourdais, starting from pole position, got off to the best start and completed the first lap in front of Marcel Fassler (Audi 1), Franck Montagny and Tom Kristensen (Audi 2). The race was on and it took the leaders a matter of a few minutes before they began to catch the first backmarkers. In the Peugeot no.7, Sébastien was caught off guard in the traffic by Fassler, but the French driver retook the lead just before the first safety car period at 11.40am. Predictably, all the leaders came into the pits to refuel, but the race was barely underway again before the safety car was sent out again. The teams adopted different strategies at this stage. At Team Peugeot Total, the team took advantage of this second safety car period to carry out the second round of refuelling. But both Peugeot 908s were called back to the pits for a one-minute penalty for failing to observe a red light at the exit to the pit lane. The Audi no.2 also lost time after clashing with a backmarker. Back on track in 15th and 16th, Franck Montagny and Sébastien Bourdais then adopted an incredible pace to move back up through the field. After fine stints, Franck had moved up to 5th and Sébastien was 8th, but he parked his 908 at the side of the track at 1.35pm. The Peugeot no.7 was forced to retire.

The battle of wills

Franck Montagny continued his stint until 1.45pm. The Peugeot number 8 had by that stage closed the gap to the race leader, Team Oreca’s Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Franck Montagny then handed over to Stéphane Sarrazin, who commenced a ferocious battle with Marcel Fassler. The lead changed hands with the pit stops, but also out on the track. The battle raged on, Stéphane Sarrazin finally passing his rivals at 3.12pm and then moving clear of them. Also benefitting from a twenty-second penalty handed to his nearest rival, the Audi no.1, he handed over to Alexander Wurz at the half-way stage with a lead of over a minute to second place and a lap to third place. The gaps settled down at the front, but the race remained very close. The top three had very similar lap times. The sixth safety car period, at 4.58pm, bunched up the cars at the front again. Franck Montagny, back in the Peugeot no.8 had to do it all again. Quick and consistent, he managed to build up a thirty-second lead, but again, when the safety car came out at 6.00pm, it was back to square one. The restart was fierce, as Romain Dumas, in the Audi no.1 looked for a gap, but Franck Montagny managed to hold him off. Nicolas Lapierre, three laps back, was also right in the middle of the action.

Focussed to the checkered flag

With around a hundred laps to go, there were barely three seconds between the leader, the Peugeot no.8, and the second-placed Audi no.1. Just as the intensity of the racing moved up a notch, the Audi no.1 ran into a backmarker and hit the barriers. Two Peugeots then found themselves at the front, the no.8 holding a three-lap lead over Team Oreca’s 908 HDi FAP. The end of the race was more clear cut. Peugeot therefore went on to seal a third one-two finish at Road Atlanta, the no.8 ahead of the no.10 (Oreca).

Second ILMC Manufacturers’ title

To win the title, Peugeot needed to score 13 points this weekend. On the unusual Road Atlanta track, where traffic (53 cars started the race) can play an important role, Franck Montagny, Stéphane Sarrazin and Alexander Wurz made it to the end of a classic Petit Le Mans race featuring no fewer than ten safety car periods! The three drivers won by five laps from Team Oreca’s Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, driven by Marc Gené, Nicolas Minassian and Nicolas Lapierre. This one-two, Peugeot’s third at Road Atlanta, rounds off what has thus far been a very successful season: 5 race wins (Sebring, Spa-Francorchamps, Imola, Silverstone and Road Atlanta) including 3 one-two finishes (Spa-Francorchamps, Imola and Road Atlanta) and 4 pole positions (Sebring, Imola, Silverstone and Road Atlanta). And not forgetting the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Peugeot will head for the season finale in China with the firm intention of adding another important line to its 2011 track record.


Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport’s Technical Director: ”The objective was to win the title, and that’s what we have done. We have done it with a one-two after a great on-track battle. The race was very intense until the Audi no.1 was forced to retire after a racing incident. After that, there was another type of stress to manage. We had to avoid making any mistakes. We counted down the laps right to the chequered flag. It’s a shame we have had our first DNF of the season. We found the part that had failed, it was the final drive. It’s a fairly new part. There is certainly a defect somewhere, we’ll have to look at it in detail. Tonight Peugeot is the champion, Team Oreca has contributed to the title, but it is above all a great achievement for Peugeot. We can now go to Zhuhai with a feeling of liberation, and win again.”

Stéphane Sarrazin, Peugeot 908 no.8: “It was a mad race! In spite of the Stop & Go penalty, we clawed our way back very rapidly, driving very quickly despite the traffic. It was complicated right to the end, because as evening fell, some drivers seemed a bit lost. The team did a fine job, I am really proud to be driving for Peugeot! We have come close to winning races on several occasions this season. We’ve been unlucky, but today our efforts were rewarded.”

Franck Montagny, Peugeot 908 no.8: “It was an exciting race, as it always is at Road Atlanta. It’s a race that I love and one where I tend to do well, as this is my third win here. The win and the title, it’s a good day for Peugeot and for us.”

Alexander Wurz, Peugeot 908 n°8 : “What a day! It was intense in the car, but it was even more difficult just to watch when Stéphane and Franck were driving. It’s an important win for me today; I really wanted to add Petit Le Mans to my track record.”

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “I’m very disappointed. We were battling for victory for seven hours and were leading several times. Our best car and the best Peugeot were always just separated by a few seconds. Unfortunately, Romain Dumas was barged off by the leading Peugeot while he was trying to overtake it. This resulted in contact with a GT vehicle that had to be lapped and an accident leading to retirement. This was an extreme shame because we had the performance to win this race. I think it wasn’t necessary to fend off Romain’s attack in such a brutal way – that’s not the way to act in endurance racing, especially at such high speeds. The second car became entangled in several minor collisions early on and was out of contention for victory after a longer repair despite driving the times of the front runners. We congratulate Peugeot on their victory and the ILMC title. Nevertheless, there is an aftertaste today which is not so pleasant.”

Dindo Capello (Audi R18 TDI #2): “Audi has generally delivered a strong performance yet again. We showed that we’ve got a fast car. But unpredictable incidents prevented us from reaping the fruits of our labor. As far as our car is concerned, we had a few collisions today that could have been avoided by the drivers of slower cars. That cost us our race early on. After a long repair I did a triple stint which in my opinion was a good comeback after the race at Le Mans. In that respect I’m satisfied by the disappointment for the whole team naturally outweighs things. Our ‘sister car’ had the chance to win the race. It’s a shame for Timo (Bernhard), Romain (Dumas) and Marcel (Fässler) who would have deserved better than this.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 TDI #2): “I’m extremely disappointed. I feel particularly sorry for everyone in the Audi team who worked incredibly hard. We had several incidents with our car right in the beginning, which caused us to lose some ground. The clutch change hit us particularly hard. The mechanics did a great job in that case too that went unrewarded. I think it must have been fantastic watching these races – at least over longer stretches. But some of the incidents were a bit much from my perspective. We need to think about what can be improved in this respect in the future.”

Allan McNish (Audi R18 TDI #2): “There were many cars on track here and we knew that the traffic would cause problems. Tom (Kristensen) had slight body contact very early on which caused us to lose some ground. We had recovered pretty well when I overtook some GT cars and an LMP cut me a bit. I braked and was hit in the rear by one of the GT cars. I spun and the car was pretty heavily damaged. On the way to the pits the clutch broke too. We were ultimately forced to retire because after all these hits which the poor car had to take in this race we had problems with the steering. It was a bit disappointing for Tom (Kristensen), Dindo (Capello) and me. We had the feeling that we had a well-balanced car that we could have been in contention for victory with.”

Timo Bernhard (Audi R18 TDI #1): “I think that the whole team around car number ‘1’ did an exceptionally good job today. This particularly applies to the pit crew but also to us drivers – Romain (Dumas), Marcel (Fässer) and me. We didn’t make any mistakes, constantly stayed on the same lap with the race leader despite a stop-and-go penalty and were always within a striking distance to victory. The end unfortunately came very abruptly. We didn’t deserve that because we fought hard and always stayed fair in the process. We had a good rhythm and found the right, calculated risk. Unfortunately, Franck Montagny overdid it and barged off Romain (Dumas) who hit a slower car in the process. That was unfair. I’m very disappointed about Montagny.”

Romain Dumas (Audi R18 TDI #1): “Right from the start we had a well-balanced car. We knew that we had to avoid accidents despite the heavy traffic. That worked out well. All three of us did good stints although we drove cautiously. I caught the leading Peugeot and tried overtaking it for the first time. Even then we already had slight contact. The second time he had previously had contact with a GT Porsche and lost some speed. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Franck Montagny knew that I was going to pass him and deliberately drove on my line. Maybe I was too nice because I steered to the left in order to avoid a collision and hit the slower Porsche in the process. A very stupid maneuver on Montagny’s part.”

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 TDI #1): “I had a good start but had to let Sébastien Bourdais in the Peugeot pass. But afterward the car was so good that I was able to catch up with and even overtake him. All in all, we had a very competitive car that not only worked well for me but also for Timo (Bernhard) and Romain (Dumas). Even after minor problems we were always able to make up ground again. I think the whole team and also we, the drivers, did everything right in that respect. The maneuvers by Franck Montagny were clearly not fair. It’s not right to squeeze others out and you could see the result. That’s a shame because the spectators would have deserved a good finale. And we would have deserved staying in contention for victory all the way up to the end.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “That was no doubt one of the most disappointing races I’ve ever experienced. The number ‘2’ car was kind of getting in its own way a bit today and became entangled in collisions. That led to long repairs and the battle for front positions was over early on. Afterward we used it as the car to test the tires for car number ‘1’. They were always running at the front and battling for the lead, and also leading the race some of the time. Right at the time when Romain (Dumas) was about to recapture the lead, Franck Montagny in the Peugeot defended himself with a – in my opinion – questionable maneuver. That ended in the wall for Romain. After that we pulled number ‘2’ out of the race for safety reasons after the telemetry showed us that there were problems with the steering. It’s a shame because we clearly had the pace for winning today.”

Final standings for Raod-Atlanta Petit Le Mans 2011 :
1. Peugeot 908 #8 ; S.Sarrazin – F.Montagny – A.Wurz ; 394 laps in 20:38’31
2. Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Oreca) #10 ; N.Lapierre – N.Minassian – M.Gené ; + 5 laps
3. Aston Martin #007 ; A.Fernandez – S.Mücke – H.Primat ; + 6 laps
4. Oak Pescarolo #24 ; JF.Yvan – O.Pla – A.Prémat ; + 10 laps
5. Rebellion Lola #12 ; N.Prost – N.Jani – A.Belicchi ; +13 laps
Fastest race lap : Franck MONTAGNY, 1’09’’038

Intercontinental Le Mans Cup standings:
Peugeot, 182 points
Audi, 108 points
Teams :
Team Peugeot Total, 97 points
Audi Sport Team Joest, 74 points
Team Oreca Matmut, 47 points
Rebellion Racing, 41 points
Oak Racing, 25 points
Aston Martin Racing, 15 points

Peugeot throws first punch in Atlanta

Sun shone over what proved to be a bloody qualifying session between sports car titans Audi and Peugeot. The world’s fastest diesel race sports cars were constantly taking turns at the front of the record field of entrants. First, the Peugeot drivers posted the so far fastest laps of the whole week. Stéphane Sarrazin threw down the gauntlet with his first flying lap, but his teammate Anthony Davidson responded immediately. Back to full fitness after recovering from his bike accident, last year’s pole winner Davidson recorded a lap that ended up securing him pole again with a time of 1’07.428. Stéphane finished third with a time of 1’07.881. Timo Bernhard in the Audi R18 TDI designated as car number “1” managed to get between the two factory Peugeot cars and secured position two on the grid for Audi. Dindo Capello in Audi number “2” was on a fast lap as well when he caught a slower prototype, losing crucial time in the process. The Italian finished the qualifying session on position four.

Today was the third time the British driver Davidson has been tasked with qualifying a Peugeot, and he has now picked up pole on all three occasions (Petit Le Mans 2010 and 2011, and Imola 2011). So Peugeot 908 no.7 (Bourdais, Davidson and Pagenaud) will line up at the front of the field tomorrow, ahead of the Audi no.1, the Peugeot 908 no.8 (Montagny, Sarrazin and Wurz), the Audi no.2 and then the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP run by Team Oreca (Lapierre, Minassian and Gené). With an extra point awarded for pole position, Peugeot now only needs eleven points to wrap up a second consecutive Manufacturers’ title. However, the narrow gaps between the leading cars point to a very close and hard-fought race.

“Our cars were quick once again, and that’s the essential point to remember today,” said Peugeot Sport’s Technical Director Bruno Famin. “The overall assessment of the qualifying session is good. First of all, we are pleased to have covered a lot of kilometres in free practice. We worked well, without experiencing any major damage to the cars. And then it’s always positive to grab pole position. It’s a psychological advantage, especially when there is so little difference between the cars. This pole position gives us an extra point for championship, which is our main objective. However, the traffic in the race will be hellish, with 53 cars taking part. Our first mission is therefore to reach the end of this 1,000-mile or 10-hour race. But as we are competitors, we’ll be looking to grab any opportunities that come our way.”

“I am very pleased to take this pole position,” said Davidson. “It’s the best way to start the race. It’s going to be very close. History has so far repeated itself compared with last year, except that in 2010 my car finished second, so I hope we are going to gain a place this year! After injuring my shoulder in a bike accident, it’s a good comeback. The last seven weeks have been difficult. I had to pull out of my home race, so it’s really pleasing to set the best lap today. This is the first time that the three of us have raced together, Sébastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud and myself. We’ve got off to a good start. We work well together and the team has once again done a super job all week. The race will be very closely contested. We saw in the free practice sessions just how much attention we’ll have to pay to the traffic. The slightest error can be very costly here, so we’ll need to be really focussed from the start to the end.”

“The session didn’t go exactly as we had hoped, in spite of the fact our car was running very well,” said Sarrazin. “I was impeded by another prototype on my best lap. That cost me time, meaning that I ended up third. I am disappointed because with the performance level of our car, we deserved better. I’ve missed out on pole quite a few times now. Nonetheless, the race looks good, because with Franck Montagny and Alex Wurz we have defined a set-up that suits us all and which seems to be effective. Obviously, there is going to be a lot of traffic during the race, and that will be key. Every car will be difficult to overtake; we’ll need to avoid making any errors if we’re to get a good result.”

Sébastien Bourdais and Franck Montagny will line up for the start of what promises to be a fascinating, incident-packed race. If the incredibly disputed free practice sessions are anything to go by, then we can expect a breathtakingly close race on this unusual and spectacular track. Doing a good job of getting through the extremely heavy traffic on the track will be more crucial than pure speed. 57 vehicles will be on the track at Road Atlanta. Consequently, the fast LMP1 sports cars have to constantly overtake and drive alongside the racing line.

With nine wins, Audi is the record winner of the “Petit Le Mans” race. Audi Sport Team Joest claims to have fully concentrated on working out an optimum race set-up during the practice sessions. “In the past few days the gaps between us and our main rival, Peugeot, became smaller and smaller,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. “In qualifying the difference was merely a tenth of a second. We’ve put one of our cars on the front row. There was just a tiny bit missing, but we all know that that’s not crucial for the outcome of the race here. But it’s good to see that we’re on an equal footing in terms of performance capability. That’s a good base for the race.”

“We knew that the situation would be difficult for us in qualifying,” said Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director of Audi Sport Team Joest. “Things have been tight all weekend. However, due to the heavy traffic it was hard to really judge the performance capabilities without. We’re pleased with the result because the time posted by Timo (Bernhard) is very good. It’s even faster than we’d expected. Dindo (Capello) did a lap that would have been good enough for third place. Unfortunately, he had some traffic in turn five. It’s more important though that we’ve been doing a good job with the cars up to this point and that they’re doing well in traffic. The squad has been working hard over the past few nights and that has paid off. We’re in a good position. It’ll probably be a thrilling race.”

In the #1 Audi R18 TDI Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Marcel Fässler are taking turns at the wheel. “”I’m really pleased,” said Bernhard. “Two weeks ago, at Silverstone, I also drove the qualifying session but we were a bit unfortunate with the weather conditions. That’s why I wanted to drive in qualifying again – either here at Road Atlanta or at the ILMC finale at Zhuhai. I managed a good lap; it was at the limit from the beginning to the end. I’m happy that Marcel (Fässer) will be starting from the front row in our car tomorrow – and very much look forward to the 1000 miles.”

“It was a very close qualifying session,” agreed Dumas. “Even in the previous sessions the top cars were constantly taking turns at the top and were always within fractions of a second. Qualifying has shown that things are continuing this way. The race will be equally crazy. It’ll be about getting through without making mistakes. Qualifying isn’t crucial but it has shown that we’ve got a car with a good set-up.”

“For the moment we’re very happy because we’ve continuously made progress from one session to the next,” said Fässler, who drives the first stint. “We’ve found a good set-up that all three of us can handle well. So it seems like we’ve taken the right approach, as Timo (Bernhard) did a fantastic job of driving in qualifying and posted a really good time. It shows that our car is competitive.”

Audi #2 is driven by Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. “All in all, qualifying went well,” said Capello. “I was happy with the car. Unfortunately, I had some traffic on the first few laps. I then deliberately dropped back a bit in order to have a gap in front of me. Afterward I must have wanted too much and overdrove the car a bit. That cost a few tenths of seconds. Still, we’re pleased. It’s important to be fast in the race, and particularly in traffic. That’s what we’ve been working on over the past two days.”

“Petit Le Mans 2011 promises to become an incredibly captivating race,” said Kristensen, who will start in car #2. “We’re in for a lot of heavy traffic. It’ll be a truly thrilling battle on this challenging track. If you apply the number of cars here to the length of the Le Mans track, then that equates to a field of 270 cars. That shows what we can expect in the race. Tomorrow will be a strenuous day. In addition, the track conditions will slightly change because the outside temperatures will drop from almost 30 to about 20 degrees centigrade, according to the forecast.”

“With almost 60 cars on the track, Petit Le Mans is real stress,” agreed McNish, who’s not known for his patience in traffic. “In the practice sessions we fully concentrated on developing the optimum set-up for the race. Tom (Kristensen) was very happy with the car in the night practice session. He’ll drive the start tomorrow, which is in an important factor. Dindo (Capello) was also fast all the time. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve felt very comfortable with the car’s set-up right from the beginning. Balance is good. That’s important for the race.”

Road Atlanta are organizers are expecting a record turnout. After an extremely hot week in Georgia the weather forecast has predicted slightly cooler temperatures. The race will start 11:30 local time (17:30 CEST) and covers a distance of 1000 miles or a maximum of ten hours.

Positions after qualifying of Road-Atlanta Petit Le Mans 2011 :
1. Peugeot 908 #7 – Anthony Davidson – 1’07’’428
2. Audi R18 #1 – Timo Bernhard – 1’07’’558
3. Peugeot 908 #8 – Stéphane Sarrazin – 1’07’’881
4. Audi R18 #2 – Dindo Capello – 1’08’’013
5. Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP #10 – Nicolas Lapierre – 1’09’’777

Saturday, 1 October 2011
9.15am – 9.40am Warm up
11.30am: Start of the 14th edition of the Petit Le Mans race. 1,000 miles or 10 hours
A must-see race!

Peugeot and Audi bring Brawl to Atlanta

Race cars don’t get more exotic or beautiful than this Peugeot

“Given the incredible pace at which the races have been run at each International Le Mans Championship round this season, there is every reason to expect another intense race,” said Peugeot Sport Director Olivier Quesnel, and he’s right. From the Audi win at the all-out destructionfest at Le Mans to Peugeot wins at Silverstone and Imola, the battle between these engineering giants comes to the US. The battle for victory intensifies with every race. The pace quickens. The cars are very close to one another in terms of performance, but the determination of the team during pit stops and the dogged determination of the drivers in their on-track battles provide ample evidence of the high standards on offer during this 2011 season, with very tough rivals. Team Peugeot Total has collected a series of race wins and points since the start of the season and hopes to go all the way by picking up the 13 points it needs to win the final Intercontinental Le Mans Cup before the series becomes the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2012.

Road Atlanta is an unusual, complex, spectacular and fast race. Nine times Audi has won the event which alongside the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours is the most important endurance race in North America. From 2000 to 2005 the Audi R8 was unbeatable at the race that is run over 1000 miles or for a maximum of ten hours. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 the Audi R10 TDI triumphed three times in a row. After unfortunate defeats in the past two years with the R15 TDI, Audi is set on returning to victory lane with the new R18 TDI at Road Atlanta. “You reach an incredible speed on this track,” said Audi driver Timo Bernhard . “Except for turn seven all the corners are very fast. The many directional changes within a lap also stand out. Particularly the ‘Esses’ are very challenging. It’s difficult to find a good set-up for them. After you’ve been at the wheel for a long time you can really tell what you’ve accomplished because of the high ’g’ forces. In addition, there are many differences in elevation. You often can’t see the track behind the crests. It’s very dusty when it’s dry and it floods the circuit when it’s wet. The best places for overtaking are in turns 10 and 11. But watch out, if you overtake a car in the left-hand turn it is normally perfectly placed to counter in the next right!”

“We are having a great season,” said Peugeot’s Quesnel. “It is worth underlining the exemplary reliability of our cars so far, because the only mechanical repairs that have been carried out during the races were due to racing incidents. The Peugeot 908s have made it to the end of every race they have taken part in, and that is one of the keys to our success. We now lead the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ standings, with two rounds to go. We hope to keep our momentum going and demonstrate in the USA and especially in China the full potential of the Peugeot cars and the team. We have a clear goal: win the championship and win races.”

…unless it’s this Audi

Audi Sport Team Joest is fielding two vehicles at this first overseas event of the R18 TDI. Each will car will have three drivers due to the length of the race. Timo Bernhard and Marcel Fässler, who have been forming a driver team in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) since the round at Imola and have been on the podium twice, will be supported by Romain Dumas. Joining Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish will be Dindo Capello – the most successful driver of the American classic with a track record of five overall victories (2000, 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2008).

Last year the Italian became the victim of a strange incident. While he was leading the race an insert in his helmet that is prescribed by the regulations came loose and caused the fireproof balaclava to slip over his eyes. The unscheduled pit stop cost Audi a possible victory.

Minute details could also be crucial this year. At Le Mans Audi triumphed in June after 24 hours with an advantage of merely 13.854 seconds. At the 6-hour race at Silverstone the fastest lap times of the top four vehicles were within 202 thousandths of a second. And with 56 teams having submitted entries, the track at Road Atlanta will be pretty packed, with numerous overtaking maneuvers posing a permanent risk of body contact.

After third place at Imola and second place at Silverstone there is just one goal for Audi at the U.S. classic on October 1st: victory. Therefore, Audi Sport Team Joest will already be testing on the weekend before the race at Road Atlanta in order to set up the R18 TDI as perfectly as possible for the special characteristics of the track and not leave anything to chance.

Nothing was left to chance either by the engineers from Audi Sport who developed the new diesel race sports car. The Audi R18 TDI is packed with innovative technology – from the compact 3.7-liter V6 TDI engine with a mono-VTG charger, the full LED headlights through to ultra-lightweight design that is becoming increasingly important in production cars too.

Tens of thousands of spectators lining the track at Road Atlanta will be watching the two R18 TDI cars with their whispering V6 TDI engines. Since its inaugural round in 1998, “Petit Le Mans” has evolved into one of North America’s biggest racing events that is meanwhile attracting more than 100,000 fans.

Qualifying will take place on Friday afternoon, the race will start on Saturday (October 1) at 11:30. In the USA the race will be broadcast live on ESPN 3. ABC will air a two-hour summary on Sunday (October 2) starting at 4:00 Eastern Time.

Quotes by the Audi officials

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “I’m personally very much looking forward to Road Atlanta. I like this race track and think it’s one of the nicest circuits for the sports prototypes. It’s a track on which Audi has celebrated major successes before. And after Imola, where things didn’t go so well for us, we were fully competitive again, most recently at Silverstone. But there our good work went unrewarded. I’m hoping that we’ll be showing a good performance with the R18 TDI in America and achieve victory. At the same time, I’ll be in permanent phone and e-mail contact with Valencia where Martin Tomczyk might be able to clinch the DTM title early for Audi – it’ll be an important, exciting and busy weekend for Audi Sport.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “For Road Atlanta, there can only be one aim: all-out attack! We’ve got to finally win there again. At Silverstone, we were simply struck by misfortune. Even without that factor it would have been incredibly tight and we don’t know what the outcome would have been. Road Atlanta is a special event. We’ve run there before, in the IMSA. ‘Petit Le Mans’ was launched in 1998, and we contested it even back then. It’s a classic and the longest race after Le Mans and Sebring. The ten-hour race is held on an incredibly beautiful and challenging track. It also enjoys an extremely high level of prestige today. It’s called ‘Petit Le Mans’ and that also includes a piece of Le Mans. That’s why we’ve simply got to win there.”

Facts and quotes by the Audi drivers

Timo Bernhard (30/D), Audi R18 TDI #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
– Was class winner at Road Atlanta in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007
– Most recently finished as the runner-up with Marcel Fässler at Silverstone
“At Silverstone we saw how tight the situation can be in the end. That gave the whole team another boost. Our performance is right, we’re in contention for victory, and in the UK we had the lead several times. After my class victories at Road Atlanta an overall win would mean a lot to me. Maybe I can continue my sequence of results: At Sebring I was fifth, at Spa fourth, at Imola third and at Silverstone second. So what’s still missing …?”

Romain Dumas (33/F), Audi R18 TDI #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
– Class winner in 2003 and 2007 at Road Atlanta
– Is contesting his first race in the R18 TDI since Le Mans
“I’m happy to be sitting in the cockpit again. Since Le Mans I’ve had one opportunity to test the R18 TDI, at Le Castellet. I really like the R18 because its handling has been notably pleasant since the winter tests. Since June I’ve been waiting for my next racing commitment with Audi. In the USA ‘Petit Le Mans’ is a big and important race. I finished as the runner-up there once, only a few tenths behind an Audi, by the way. Hopefully we’ll be able to win this time. I’m highly motivated.”

Marcel Fässler (35/CH), Audi R18 TDI #1 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
– Started from position three in the fastest Audi at Road Atlanta last year
– Was the runner-up together with Timo Bernhard at the ILMC race at Silverstone
“We’re expecting a very large field at Road Atlanta. Traffic will be even heavier than usual. It’s difficult to overtake at the ‘Petit.’ There’s only one long straight. But that’s the same situation for everyone. We should be among the front runners. I’m already looking forward to this nice race track.”

Dindo Capello (47/I), Audi R18 TDI #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
– Clinched his victory for Audi at Road Atlanta in 2000
– With five overall victories under his belt, is the record holder at “Petit Le Mans”
“For Road Atlanta I’m returning to the cockpit of the R18 TDI. I tested the car just a few weeks ago. That was very nice because I last drove the car on a warm-up lap for Le Mans. ‘Petit Le Mans’ is one of the races I enjoy most. I’m holding a victory record there. And it would be nice if I could add another success to my track record. We’re at least on a par with our competitor Peugeot but have to cover the distance without any problems to achieve a good result.”

Tom Kristensen (44/DK), Audi R18 TDI #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
– Won for Audi at Road Atlanta in 2002 together with Dindo Capello
– Recently started at Silverstone from the first row with Allan McNish
“We’re all looking forward to Road Atlanta. ‘Petit Le Mans’ is the grand slam of the sports car scene, along with Sebring and the Le Mans 24 Hours. The track is an extreme challenge. It’s like a roller-coaster with crests, downhill stretches, raised and dropping corners where you can’t see the apex in some cases. And the track is relatively narrow. There are also a lot of directional changes. The fans really support the race and make for a spectacular show. Almost 60 cars are jostling for a place in the field. That’ll be strenuous for us in the cockpit because we’re fighting for every centimeter, if not to say millimeter, on the track. The competition between Audi and Peugeot is extremely close. Small things make the difference. I’m hoping for us to be able to fully use our potential and to bring the big trophy home.”

Allan McNish (41/GB), Audi R18 TDI #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
– Has celebrated overall victory with Audi there four times
– Last won there in the Audi R10 TDI with Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro in 2008
“It’s always nice to return to the ‘Petit Le Mans race.’ I already contested the inaugural round in 1998. I’ve enjoyed every single race so far. The atmosphere is like a carnival. The track is wonderfully fast and has seen some very thrilling races. At three or four rounds only seconds or even tenths of seconds made the difference in the end. I’m expecting an extremely tough competition. The American fans will turn the event into a huge festival again. It’ll be a cracker – guaranteed!”

All winners of the “Petit Le Mans” race at Road Atlanta (since 2000)

2000 Michele Alboreto/Dindo Capello/Allan McNish (Audi R8)
2001 Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro (Audi R8)
2002 Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen (Audi R8)
2003 Johnny Herbert/JJ Lehto (Audi R8)
2004 JJ Lehto/Marco Werner (Audi R8)
2005 Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro (Audi R8)
2006 Dindo Capello/Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI)
2007 Dindo Capello/Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI)
2008 Dindo Capello/Allan McNish/Emanuele Pirro (Audi R10 TDI)
2009 Stéphane Sarrazin/Franck Montagny (Peugeot)
2010 Pedro Lamy/Franck Montagny/Stéphane Sarrazin (Peugeot)

Track info

Track length: 4.088 km
Length/duration of race: 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) / 10 hours
Pole position 2010: Anthony Davidson (Peugeot), 1m 07.187s = 219.023 km/h (Oct 01, 2010)
Fastest lap 2010: Franck Montagny (Peugeot), 1m 07.948s = 216.569 km/h (Oct 02, 2010)

ILMC LMP1 manufacturers standings after 5 of 7 rounds:
1 Peugeot 153 points; 2 Audi, 108.

ILMC LMP1 team standings after 5 of 7 rounds:
1 Peugeot Sport Total, 81 points; 2 Audi Sport Team Joest, 74; 3 Team Oreca Matmut, 34; 4 Rebellion Racing, 33; 5 Oak Racing, 16; 6 Aston Martin Racing, 4.

Schedule (local times)

Sunday, September 25
08:00-10:00 Free practice
12:00-17:00 Free practice

Monday, September 26
08:00-12:00 Free practice
13:00-17:00 Free practice

Wednesday, September 28
14:45-16:45 Free practice

Thursday, September 29
10:00-11:00 Free practice
14:55-15:55 Free practice
19:00-21:00 Night practice

Friday, September 30
10:15-11:15 Free practice
14:40-14:55 Qualifying (GTC/LM GTE Am)
14:55-15:10 Qualifying (GT/LM GTE Pro)
15:15-15:30 Qualifying (LM PC prototypes)
15:30-15:45 Qualifying (LM P1 and LM P2 prototypes)

Saturday, October 1
09:15-09:40 Warm-up
11:30-21:30 Race

courtesy of Audi and Peugeot