BRASELTON -- Puegeot’s breakthrough win in the Petit Le Mans of 2009 carried an asterisk since the race was called early because of rain.
On Saturday at Road Atlanta, Peugeot scored a Petit victory that no one could second-guess. The No. 08 Peugeot team of drivers Stephane Sarrazin, Frank Montagny and Pedro Lamy finished the 1,000-mile race nearly a lap ahead of the team’s No. 07 Peugeot and two laps ahead of the rival No. 7 Audi team of four-time Petit winners Alan McNish, five-time winner Dindo Capello and their co-driver Tom Kristensen, a one-time Petit victor. It was the first showdown on U.S. soil for the two top teams in the LMP 1 prototype class, and Peugeot controlled it for most of the day in a race that played out before a Road Atlanta crowd that series officials estimated at 124,200 for the three days.
The diesel-fueled No. 08 Peugeot effectively took control of the race more than three hours from the finish when the Audi of Capello had to make an unscheduled pit stop because his balaclava, or ski mask-like fire-proof protection, slipped down over his eyes.
The No. 07 and No. 08 Peugeot teams worked their pit strategies to trap the Audi a lap down, and the plan worked as Audi never got back on the lead lap.
But Montagny said that even with a lap advantage, he and his teammates never varied from their strategy. “You never know if you’re going to be safe,” he said. “If you start to relax, you’re going to have problems in traffic.
“You just have to push all the time.”
Making matters even tougher for the No. 7 Audi team to mount a challenge was the fact that their sister car, the No. 9 Audi, was no help strategy-wise late in the race. Andre Lotterer crashed that car just after the two-hour mark and sustained substantial damage to the front end. That Audi was posted in second place at the two-hour mark, but dropped to 13th, 11 laps behind, over the next hour and wound up sixth overall, 18 laps in arrears.
In the closest race of the night, in GT2, Corvette got its first win of the season when Oliver Gavin passed the race-leading Ferrari of Toni Vilander, who ran out of fuel on the last lap. The Flying Lizard Porsche team of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long took the class championship with a fifth-place (14th overall) finish.
In the LMP2 class, the No. 1 Honda of David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti, finished first in class and fourth overall to secure the season championship for Brabham and Pagenaud.
In LMPC, the No. 95 team of Marco Werner, Scott Tucker and Burt Friselle scored an easy victory, while the GTC trophy went to TRG Porsche driven by Andy Lally, Henri Richard and Duncan Ende.