Peugeot claims victory at Six Hours of Silverstone
Simon Pagenaud and Sebastien Bourdais won the Six Hours of Silverstone after a duel with the improved Audis that went the French team's way when both their rival's cars suffered accidents.
The first 45 minutes was filled with enough drama for a whole race as an intense battle between the pole-sitting #7 Peugeot 908 of Bourdais and the #2 Audi of an aggressive Allan McNish fast developed.
Behind them, the second Peugeot driven by Franck Montagny was soon in trouble when the French driver made contact with another car and spun off at Abbey. His Peugeot hit the tyre wall and he was able to coax the car back to the pits but eventually rejoined the race nearly 10 laps down.
McNish took the lead on lap seven which was the start of some close wheel-to-wheel racing with Bourdais and the lead changed hands several times before McNish was forced to pit after contact with the #66 JMW Ferrari at Becketts.
The body damage was repaired but when the Scot rejoined he clearly had another problem – later confirmed by team boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich as broken suspension – and he had another collision, this time with a Rebellion Racing car that forced him back to the pits. After repairs, he rejoined the race 44th overall and six laps down.
The race was now a straight fight between the Bourdais/Pagenaud Peugeot and Marcel Fassler and Timo Bernhard's #1 Audi.
Bernhard took the lead for the first time at the start of the second hour but Bourdais responded to get back ahead on lap 37. Bernhard's cause wasn't helped two laps later when he locked up under braking at Village and spun off. He ended the lap 17.654s adrift of Bourdais and continued to lose time as the race continued.
Both drivers held station over the hour until they pitted on lap 54. Fassler replaced Bernhard and Pagenaud took over from Bourdais for his maiden race stint at Silverstone. Fassler then turned up the pace and by lap 62 he'd clawed back 10 seconds on the Peugeot.
The Swiss driver continued to chase down the Peugeot, constantly chipping away at the lead, sometimes by as much as two seconds a lap. After 62 laps he had reduced the deficit by 10s and nine laps later he was just 12.5s behind before the pair both pitted on lap 79. Fassler continued to press and it was no surprise when he took the lead on lap 94.
The Swiss driver then exerted more pressure and opened up a lgap over the Peugeot as the race reached half-distance and after 104 laps he was 5.607s to the good before Pagenaud pitted to hand over to Bourdais. Audi followed suit and after his highly impressive stint, Fassler got out of the R18 to let Bernhard back in.
It was during Bernhard's stint that the deciding moment came. The German kept the Audi ahead of Bourdais but with some damage to the rear bodywork the Audi began to lose time and by lap 123 Bourdais had cut the gap to 4.360s.
Bernhard was forced to pit earlier than expected for repairs which allowed Bourdais to pit and also take the lead which the Peugeot man wouldn't relinquish, finally handing over to Pagenaud who brought the car home for the win.
Behind the two diesels, a real battle developed among the leading LMP1 petrol cars of Oak Racing and Rebellion Racing who saw an opportunity to claim a podium place. A four-way battle ensued that ended in favour of the #24 Oak Racing Pescarolo-Judd driven by Alexandre Premat and Olivier Pla.
Incidents and pitstops also influenced LMP2 with victory finally going to the Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan with Tom Kimber-Smith at the wheel at the end. Meanwhile, the GTE Pro class was tight all the way as seven cars finished on the same lap at the chequered flag with the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of ex-Formula One driver Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni taking the honours.
Finally, GTE Am was won by the #67 Porsche 911 of IMSA Performance Matmut while the Formula Le Mans class win went to Pegasus Racing.
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