With less than a day remaining before the start of the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans, we’re seeing the makings of an all-out diesel-fueled war for the win.
After yesterday’s qualifying sessions, three of Peugeot’s 908 HDi racers snatched the pole, second, and third starting positions away from competitors.;
Driver Stephane Sarrazin piloted the number 8 car around the circuit in only 3 minutes 18.513 seconds.; Not only is that eight seconds less than last year’s pole qualifier, but it’s also the fastest lap set at Circuit de la Sarthe since 1989.
“A fast lap here calls for an extremely precise driving style, but I feel so confident with this car,” says Sarrazin.; “We have done some work since pre-qualifying, and I’m very pleased with the race set-up we have found.”
Sarrazin’s teammates – Franck Montagny with the number 9 car and Nicolas Minassian in number 7- followed up by taking the second and third starting positions, respectively.; That the number 7 car is taking third is impressive; not two days ago, driver Marc Gene crashed the car during pre-qualifying.
Peugeot’s progress serves as a blow to Audi’s R10 TDI diesels, a dominant force in LMP1 racing.; R10s finished 1st and 2nd during their 2006 outing at LeMans; another managed to win in 2007 in spite of numerous (and severe) problems plaguing Audi’s team.
This year, driver Allan McNish posted Audi’s best qualifying time in the number 2 R10, making his way around the course in 3 minutes, 23.847 seconds, slotting it in fourth position.; The number 3 R10 was right behind him, earning fifth in 3 minutes 24.287 seconds.
Although Peugeot’s times and positions are impressive – certainly for the 908 HDi’s second LeMans outing – they don’t necessarily translate to a guaranteed win.; Audi’s Lucas Luhr seems to know that.
“Maybe the starting position in a 24 Hour race is important for the ego of the driver,” Luhr said, “but it is certainly not for the result of the race.
That said, Peugeot isn’t resting on their qualifying laurels.; “The thing now, “said Sarrazin, “is to analyze all the information we have collected to determine what sort of pace we can put in during the race.”
Expect both teams to bring their oil-burning A-game to Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday.;