Spa: Another Dramatic 1000km, Another Peugeot Win + Results

After the pain of Monza, Oreca reach the podium in Spa

In front of a record crowd of 35,000 spectators and in temperatures of more than 26 degrees Centigrade, the Le Mans Series put on another fantastic show at the third race of the 2008 season in Spa-Francorchamps with drama throughout the 1000km race.

Star drivers from Peugeot and ORECA stepped onto the podium as Jacques Villeneuve joined Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gene on the top step for Peugeot, while Olivier Panis joined Nicolas Lapierre in third place for the ORECA team.

Audi took second place overall with Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat, who through consistent finishing in the opening three races are tied on points at the head of the table with Minassian and Gene.

Jos Verstappen returned to the top step of the podium for the first time since Barcelona in April in the Porsche RS Spyder co-driven by Peter van Merksteijn. They headed an all-Porsche podium as the Horag Porsche of Didier Theys, Fredy Lienhard and Jan Lammers took second and Team Essex recovered from a series of problems to take third.

The Luc Alphand Aventures team won the GT1 category, but it was the Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Roman Rusinov which led until the luggage cover lifted at the front of the car and left the Russian unsighted.

Reigning GT2 champions Virgo Motorsport won the GT2 class by just two-tenths of a second ahead of the Porsche of Marc Lieb and Alex Davison after a thrilling end to a race.

The Peugeot fans are swelling with the dominance of the 908


Peugeot scored its third win in as many races as Jacques Villeneuve, Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gene won at Spa, but the victory celebrations were tempered by an accident for the sister car which was heavily damaged though driver Alexander Wurz was unhurt. The incident also involved the number 1 Audi of Rinaldo Capello which had been defending its second place following an early race puncture.

With their second win of the year, Gene and Minassian are tied with Alexandre Premat and Mike Rockenfeller at the head of the drivers' table, the two cars filling the top steps of the podium. Yet it was the sister cars of both teams that set the early pace, Pedro Lamy leading for Peugeot ahead of Allan McNish's Audi.

Alexander Wurz, the 1996 Le Mans winner, took over the car from Lamy for the middle stint and was closing on Rinaldo Capello's Audi when the Austrian made contact with Ralf Kelleners' Spyker. Kelleners spun and hit the barriers, Wurz spun and hit Capello's Audi which delayed Capello in the pits with damage to the right rear of the car and badly damaged the Peugeot which was out of the race immediately.

"It was not what we needed just before Le Mans," said Peugeot Technical Director Bruno Famin, whose team will have to prepare a fresh chassis for the French race in five weeks' time. The Peugeot n7 battled with the Audi n2 in the last two hours of the race, and the Peugeot pulled out more than a minute which all but assured victory. Nicolas Minassian took over the car for the final race to the flag and was frustrated to see the safety car emerge with seven laps remaining. The gap was closed again, but the result was not in doubt.

Nicolas Lapierre had a magnificent drive to claim the third step of the podium in the Team ORECA Matmut Courage. The Frenchman started from the pit lane after suffering a suspension failure in qualifying, but worked his way through the pack with precision, moving into third place mid-way through the third hour. It was a brilliant drive, backed up by Olivier Panis and the pair were delighted to take the final podium position, three laps down on the winners.

McNish and Capello made their way back through the pack to finish fourth, four laps adrift. Capello took the position four laps from the chequered flag from the Pescarolo of Jean- Christophe Boullion and Emmanuel Collard.

The Charouz Racing System Lola Aston Martin again showed strongly, but had a long stop to fix a problem with the alternator. They finished 10th, one place behind the Rollcentre Pescarolo of Vanina Ickx, sharing with Mikael Forsten and Joao Barbosa. Ickx crashed when she found herself unable to change gears, and hit the wall on the outside of the circuit at the La Source hairpin.

Van Merksteijn returns to the top


Peter van Merksteijn and Jos Verstappen took their second win of the year in the van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder after a race-long battle with the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola Judd. That fight was only decided in the final hour, when the Lola stopped with an alternator belt problem with Frenchman Xavier Pompidou behind the wheel in the car that he shared with Steve Zacchia and Andrea Belicchi.

It was another close finish, with Jan Lammers crossing the line just 10 seconds behind in the Horag Porsche shared with Didier Theys and Fredy Lienhard. The team gambled on not taking on new tyres at the final pit stop in a bid to retain the lead but it was not enough. The van Merksteijn Porsche took its second win of the year despite losing six minutes in the pits changing the nose after a headlight broke.

Third place went to Team Essex, winners in Monza two weeks ago but it was an altogether different race for the Danish team in Belgium. Casper Elgaard was involved in an accident before the green flag, which caused the retirement of the Embassy car of Joey Foster. The two cars collided as they warmed their tyres and brakes, but meant that the race started behind the safety car. Elgaard, who lost time in the pits as the team repaired the nose of his blue Porsche, admitted the mistake, apologised to the Embassy Racing team, and accepted his three minute penalty without question.

The Saulnier Racing Pescarolo Judd of Pierre Ragues and Matthieu Lahaye was fourth, ahead of the Trading Performance Zytek of Karim Ojjeh, Claude-Yves Gosselin and Julian Schroyen.

Second win for Alphand Aventures

A fantastic drive from the Frenchman Guillaume Moreau helped the Luc Alphand Aventures team take its second win of the season in the "LM" GT1 category.

It was a dramatic race in which the IPB Spartak Racing Lamborghini showed magnificent form and came close to scoring its first win of the year. Moreau, sharing with Alphand and Patrice Goueslard, battled throughout the opening two hours with the Team Modena Aston Martin of Antonio Garcia and Tomas Enge before the British car had an alternator belt failure which ensured a long stop in the pits.

The two drivers recovered to finish third, recording the fastest lap of the race with a 2m16.625s lap and finished three laps down on the winning Corvette.

The Lamborghini took second place having led for much of the second half of the race before the luggage cover at the front fo the car flew up and left Roman Rusinov unsighted for much of the lap.

"I had bad luck with a prototype which had trouble braking," said the Russian, who also had a punctured tyre. He completed a slow lap and dropped to second place as the Corvette powered past, but recorded another podium, a lap behind after the car's most competitive showing to date and the Russian team will take heart from the race.

The Strakka Racing Aston Martin took fourth place after a race that was punctuated by spins. Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis finished nine laps behind the winning Corvette on their debut in the series, and hope to improve on the result at the Nurburgring in August.

Victory by 0.184s!


The margin of victory could hardly have been closer as Rob Bell held off a charging Marc Lieb to win the GT2 category for the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari team, and it was a fitting end to a tight race between the two cars.

The Ferrari held the advantage for much of the race, but Lieb and his co-driver Alex Davison kept pace and did not allow the British team to make any mistakes.

With less than ten laps remaining Bell, with codriver Gianmaria Bruni, finally looked assured at the head of the field but there was a final twist in the tail as the British driver was hit by the Saulnier Racing Pescarolo Judd. That damaged the rear suspension of the Ferrari and left Bell with a very difficult jon to hold off Lieb's Porsche.

"It was fantastic for everyone," said Bell at the end of the victory celebrations. "We fought with the number 77 car for most of the race, and it was fun and fair." Lieb, a double champion in the series, added:

"Second place was not so bad. It was a good performance and we lost about 30 seconds in the pit lane, but it was a good fight."

The Felbermayr Proton team celebrated a double podium as Horst Felbermayr Junior and Senior, sharing their Porsche with Christian Ried, finished third after a trouble-free race. Pierre Ehret and Pierre Kaffer suffered a broken driveshaft having run in second place in class. The second Farnbacher car, the Porsche of Allan Simonsen, Richard Westbrook and Lars Eric Nielsen was retired in the fifth hour with a seized front hub. Richard Lietz and Raymond Narac were running well until a throttle cable broke on their IMSA Performance Porsche.

The Results
Pos Num Class Drivers Team Car Laps/Gap
1. 7 LMP1 M.Gene, N.Minassian, J.Villeneuve Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP 143 laps

2. 2 LMP1 A.Premat, M.Rockenfeller Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R10 TDI 30.387
3. 6 LMP1 O.Panis, N.Lapierre Team Oreca Matmut Courage-Oreca Judd 140 laps
4. 1 LMP1 R.Capello, A.McNish Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R10 TDI 139 laps
5. 16 LMP1 E.Collard, J.Boullion Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo Judd 14.137

6. 34 LMP2 P.Van Merksteijn, J.Verstappen Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder 138 laps
7. 27 LMP2 F.Lienhard, D.Theys, J.Lammers Horag Racing Porsche RS Spyder 10.387
8. 17 LMP1 H.Primat, C.Tinseau Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo Judd 137 laps
9. 31 LMP2 C.Elgaard, J.Nielsen Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder 135 laps
10. 15 LMP1 S.Hall, R.Kerr Creation AIM Creation - Aim 134 laps

11. 35 LMP2 P.Ragues, M.Lahaye Saulnier Racing Pescarolo Judd 17.285
12. 20 LMP1 A.Burgueno, M.De Castro Epsilon Euskadi Epsilon Euskadi Judd 133 laps
13. 41 LMP2 K.Ojjeh, C.Gosselin, J.Schroyen Trading Performance Zytek 07S 1:10.953
14. 72 LMGT1 L.Alphand, G.Moreau, P.Goueslard Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6.R 130 laps
15. 4 LMP1 J.Nicolet, M.Faggionato, R.Hein Saulnier Racing Pescarolo Judd 17.957

16. 55 LMGT1 R.Rusinov, P.Kox IPB Spartak Racing Lamborghini 129 laps
17. 33 LMP2 A.Belicchi, X.Pompidou, S.Zacchia Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola Judd 128 laps
18. 59 LMGT1 A.Garcia, T.Enge Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9 127 laps
19. 96 LMGT2 R.Bell, G.Bruni Virgo Motorsport Ferrari F430 GT 126 laps
20. 77 LMGT2 M.Lieb, A.Davison Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 0.184

21. 88 LMGT2 C.Ried, Felbermayr H, Felbermayr Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 123 laps
22. 94 LMGT2 A.Chiesa, B.Leuenberger, Alexander-dav Speedy Racing Team Spyker C8 Laviolette 4.484
23. 99 LMGT2 B.Aucott, A.Ferte JMB Racing Ferrari F430 GT 26.804
24. 76 LMGT2 R.Narac, R.Lietz Imsa Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 122 laps
25. 98 LMGT2 P.Kutemann, M.Basso, S.Daoudi JMB Racing Ferrari F430 GT 16.309

26. 61 LMGT1 P.Hardman, N.Leventis Strakka Racing Aston Martin DBR9 121 laps
27. 95 LMGT2 P.Daniels, M.Palttala, T.Sugden James Watt Automotive Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 2:01.926
28. 85 LMGT2 P.Dumbreck, R.Kelleners, A.Vasiliev Snoras Spyker Squadron Spyker C8 Laviolette 118 laps
29. 18 LMP1 J.Barbosa, V.Ickx, M.Forsten Rollcentre Racing Pescarolo Judd 112 laps
30. 25 LMP2 T.Erdos, M.Newton RML Lola MG 111

31. 10 LMP1 S.Mucke, J.Charouz Charouz Racing System Lola
Aston Martin 107 laps
32. 26 LMP2 M.Rostan, J.Petersen, J.Lueders Bruichladdich Radical Radical AER 106 laps
33. 91 LMGT2 Nielsen E.Lars, R.Westbrook, A.Simonse Farnbacher Racing Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 95 laps
34. 90 LMGT2 P.Ehret, P.Kaffer Farnbacher Racing Ferrari F430 GT

35. 45 LMP2 W.Hughes, J.Kane Embassy Racing WF01 Zytek 77 laps
36. 3 LMP1 G.Lavaggi Scuderia Lavaggi Lavaggi AER 66 laps
37. 32 LMP2 J.Barazi, M.Vergers, F.Rees Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S 62 laps
38. 8 LMP1 P.Lamy, S.Sarrazin, A.Wurz Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP 56 laps
39. 75 LMGT2 R.Balandras, M.Lecourt Imsa Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR 49 laps
40. 40 LMP2 M.Amaral, O.Pla Quifel ASM Team Lola AER 35 laps

41. 73 LMGT1 J.Blanchemain, S.Dumez, S.Lemeret Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6.R 26 laps