With Le Mans coming up fast (12-13 June), the front runners are preparing for it with warm up races. Peugeot and Audi factory teams are both having encouraging run ups without facing each other in their 2010 spec cars – the French team conquered 12 Hours of Sebring (pole, one-two finish and fastest lap) while Audi’s R15 TDI “Plus” won its debut race at Le Castellet, France. Both teams will now go head on in what’s widely considered as the “full dress rehersal” for Le Mans – 1,000 km at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
“We will compete with exactly the same line-up at Spa as we will a month later at the Le Mans,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “For the team the race is primarily a dress rehearsal for Le Mans – but it’s a final assessment of where we stand as well.
“There’s no circuit in the world on which you can truly simulate the Le Mans track. Still, I do believe that at Spa it’s possible to get an idea of where you stand compared with the competition,” Ulrich added.
All nine Audi drivers for Le Mans participated in the 30-hour test at Le Castellet. At Spa, Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish will drive the No.7 R15. Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Treluyer (No.8) and Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller (No.9) are the other two teams.
At the Peugeot camp, it’s “simulation work in race conditions” at Spa. The three factory 908 HDi FAP cars will be racing with numbers one (Anthony Davidson, Marc Gene, Alex Wurz), two (Nicolas Minassian, Franck Montagny, Stéphane Sarrazin) and three (Sébastien Bourdais, Pedro Lamy, Simon Pagenaud) with another privately run car by Oreca.
“The danger we face at Spa is that all the teams will be there, theoretically in Le Mans trim, and consequently ready. The message for everyone at Peugeot is clear: we have no intention of taking any risks on the track in Belgium. We do not want to jeopardize our build-up, and winning at all costs is not part of that programme.
“Our technical team needs to arrive in Le Mans in tip-top condition and they can do without the added fatigues of having to make repairs. Our aim at Spa is to fine-tune everybody’s respective roles, which include our pit-stop routine, refuelling, tyre changes and driver changes, which collectively promise to be decisive. We also need to work on our strategy, while our drivers will need to familiarise themselves with the 2010 field, especially with regard to the traffic and the sometimes perilous task of overtaking,” said Peugeot Sport Director Olivier Quesnal.
Peugeot’s driver lineup has a lot of combined Formula 1 experience while some Super GT regulars might recognise Audi’s Lotterer (Tom’s Petronas) and Treluyer (Nismo). It’s going to be a great battle; which team are you supporting?