Team Peugeot Total announced before the start that its objective at Sebring was to validate the evolutions introduced for 2009 and to see how it compared with its rivals as part of its build-up to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours. The 12 Hours of Sebring enabled the French squad to learn a number of lessons after a busy race which saw just one of the two 908 HDi FAPs reach the finish, in second place. The Bourdais/Montagny/Sarrazin car crossed the line 22.279s after the N°2 Audi, which is equivalent to the time lost as a result of a slow puncture.
There is clearly no time to lose between now and June’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with plenty of ground to cover if this weekend’s visit to Sebring is anything to judge by. Peugeot made the trip out to the USA with an entry of two 908 HDi FAPs and returns to France with mixed fortunes to show for its efforts. Good tactical work enabled the squad to pull clear on several occasions thanks to some slick pit work and a strategy which saw it cover an additional lap compared with its opponents during certain duels. It turned out to be a thrilling contest, with plenty of drama and some exciting racing, with Peugeot and its main rival never split by more than a handful of seconds.
At the same time, however, Peugeot Sport’s run was hampered by a number of problems. The N°08 car was prevented from taking part in the warm-up session by a hydraulic problem which was only resolved shortly before the start, compelling Franck Montagny to start from the pit-lane. After handing over to Stéphane Sarrazin, and then to Sébastien Bourdais, the all-French car managed to fight its way back up the order. Helped by a safety car period, it was up to fourth place after half an hour of racing, while the other Peugeot in the hands of Pedro Lamy (shared with Minassian and Klien) topped the leaderboard, but under constant pressure from the team’s rivals. Despite this pressure, the two Peugeots succeeded in running first and second, before the N°07 car – with Christian Klien at the helm – was forced to pit with an air conditioning problem that cost it nine laps. All hopes of victory then rested on the crew of the N°08 car which traded top spot with the two Audis before having to pit three hours from the finish after picking up a rear-left slow puncture. The crew’s gritty determination saw it claim the fastest race lap (Sébastien Bourdais, in 1m 43.274s), before ultimately taking the flag in second place after 12 hours of racing. However, further disappointment was in store for the N°07 car which was sidelined with gearbox failure 25 minutes from home.
Olivier QUESNEL (Peugeot Sport Director): “Finishing second has a bitter taste. It’s very frustrating to have missed out so narrowly on victory, and that was probably due to our slow puncture. The 908 HDi FAP proved competitive against its rivals and the team did a first class job with an interesting strategy. That said, as part of our build-up to Le Mans, it was a positive weekend on the whole, although we were affected by problems which mustn’t occur again.”
Bruno FAMIN (Technical Director): “Our mission here was to test the 2009 version of the 908 HDi FAP, and notably its air conditioning system. Despite the problem suffered by the N°07 car, we still managed to complete practically 12 hours with both cars. We have made spectacular, encouraging progress, and other new features like the aerodynamics and engine settings functioned well. Even so, that’s enough of coming second!”
Franck MONTAGNY: “I’m disappointed with the weekend’s result, but I am still pleased with the work we managed to put in here at Sebring. This is a tough circuit, and 12 hours here is equivalent to 24 hours at Le Mans! The new Audi was beatable round this circuit which wasn’t ideal for the 908, which is a very lively car. The team has worked well over the winter and I feel optimistic for the rest of the programme.”
Sébastien BOURDAIS: “Our tyres don’t like it whenever we pick up a little dust or rubber. We had trouble being consistent over a full stint and that explains my spin. That’s a specific feature of this venue and we will be better off at Le Mans. We put in a strong run and, in the end, it was a puncture that cost us victory.”
Pedro LAMY: “It’s a shame because our car had two big problems, first of all with the air conditioning, then with the gearbox. We need to keep on working, especially since the new Audi seems to be both quick and reliable.”
Christian KLIEN: “I have to say that our car handled well and was very fast. Like Nicolas and Pedro, I am disappointed; it hasn’t been a good day.”
Source : Peugeot Media