ILMC: Peugeot Zhuhai preview

PEUGEOT'S SIGHTS IN CHINA SET ON VICTORY AND THE TITLE Peugeot is preparing for a further battle with its formidable rival as it bids to claim the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup when the series visits Zhuhai, China, for the final round. In ...

ILMC: Peugeot Zhuhai preview

PEUGEOT'S SIGHTS IN CHINA SET ON VICTORY AND THE TITLE

Peugeot is preparing for a further battle with its formidable rival as it bids to claim the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup when the series visits Zhuhai, China, for the final round. In addition to scoring the points it needs to secure the crown, the team is also targeting victory in this strategically important race following its recent one-two finishes in Europe and the USA. Last but not least, Zhuhai will be the final competitive outing for the 908 HDi FAP.

A 36-point lead going into the 1000km of Zhuhai

Ever since the beginning of this newly-created championship, which this year features three rounds, Peugeot's drivers have been engaged in some extremely virile battles with their rivals, while the technical squad has been called upon to demonstrate its strategic ability. Victory in September's clash at Silverstone went to Team Peugeot Total's 'local' pairing Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Minassian, while the Oreca-run 908 HDi FAP crossed the line in second place to secure a maximum points haul. More recently, early October's visit to Road Atlanta for Petit Le Mans saw the two factory Peugeots all but wrap up another one-two success led by Lamy/Montagny/Sarrazin ahead of Davidson/Gene/Wurz with more than an hour of the American race remaining. As a result, Peugeot provisionally enjoys a 36-point lead over Audi at the top of the ILMC Manufacturers' standings. An 11th place for either of the two 908 HDi FAPs at Zhuhai would suffice to clinch the inaugural title for Peugeot.

The 908 HDi FAP's swansong

The Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, which was unveiled in January 2007, will be making its final competitive outing in China. The record of this exceptional machine includes victories at some of endurance racing's most celebrated venues, from Monza and Silverstone, to Interlagos, the Nurburgring, Road Atlanta, Sebring and Spa. Plus Le Mans, of course, where it claimed a resounding one-two finish in 2009. "We designed this car in record time," recalls Peugeot Sport's Technical Director Bruno Famin. "We hope to give it the end it deserves by winning at Zhuhai, which would take its score to 19 victories from 28 races.

"We know little about Zhuhai, apart from the fact that it calls for repeated acceleration and braking. It is very slow, too, in contrast to Le Mans for which the 908 HDi FAP was originally designed. The brakes and transmissions will be put to a tough test and both cars will run the same 'sprint' aerodynamic package we used at Silverstone and Road Atlanta. The most difficult thing during our preparations for this race was sourcing the information we needed to run the necessary simulation tests."

China: a key market

The population of China exceeds 1.3 billion, yet less than five per cent of households own a car! At the same time, the country emerged as the world's biggest car market in 2009. It is also the PSA Group's second largest market after France. The group is currently ranked 12th, and Peugeot vehicle sales since 2004 amount to 498,000. China was chosen to host the worldwide launch of the 408 earlier in the year, while the 508 will be launched here in 2011. There are currently 323 Dong Feng Peugeot sales outlets in China. "Our presence at Zhuhai will support the brand in what is a key market," says Olivier Quesnel, the Director of Peugeot Sport. "It will enable those involved with Peugeot in China to use our commitment to motorsport to stimulate the network. Our racing activities are also an eloquent showcase for company's extensive know-how and a first class communication tool in terms of both our technology and notoriety. Whenever we race, our aim is obviously to win. For Peugeot Sport's first official visit to China, we will be hoping to wrap up the 2010 ILMC Manufacturers' title, but the taste of that will be even sweeter if we can combine it with a victory. That would allow us to round off what has been a particularly emotional 2010 season in style, and everyone in the team is ready for the battle."

Two factory Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs

No.1 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP: Sebastien BOURDAIS (FRA) / Simon PAGENAUD (FRA)
No.2 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP: Franck MONTAGNY (FRA) / Stephane SARRAZIN (FRA)

Sebastien BOURDAIS: "I was one of the first drivers to race at Zhuhai, back in 1995. I remember the track being very twisty, but it was a great fight! I don't think our car will be in its element, and we could even come under pressure from the LMP2 runners. The important thing, however, will be to beat our main rival, and that promises to produce another close contest."

Simon PAGENAUD: "It's been a great end to the season for me so far after recently making sure of the 2010 American Le Mans Series Drivers' title. I've never been to Asia before. It's difficult to make any predictions, but I expect we will have a close fight on our hands. For our last race of the year, I'm delighted to be sharing a car with Sebastien Bourdais following our win together at Spa in May." Franck MONTAGNY: "I would love to follow up my result with Stephane at Road Atlanta/Petit Le Mans with another win at Zhuhai, especially since this will be our last race together in the 908 and, indeed in such a powerful car. I have already competed in China: at Zhuhai, in 1996, although I can't remember the track in much detail. I contested the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Shanghai, too. More recently, I travelled out to China three weeks ago to help promote the race on the Peugeot stand at the Hangzhou Motor Show."

Stephane SARRAZIN: "My only experience of Zhuhai is via a video game, but I don't see that as a handicap. I am one of the drivers who has been onboard since the beginning of the 908 HDi FAP programme. Thanks to the team's incredible work, it's been a different experience each year and I've had some memorable moments with this car. It's a dream machine, certainly the best endurance car in the world and it will certainly have left an indelible mark on my career as a racing driver. It would be great to win one last time with the 908."

-source: peugeot

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