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Peugeot Returns to Petit LeMans

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On: Fri, Aug 14, 2009 at 3:19PM | By: John Welch


Peugeot Returns to Petit LeMans

On Wednesday, July 28th, Peugeot made it clear that they would be returning to Braselton, GA for the 2009 Petit Le Mans. Ahem, excuse me, “The Petit Le Mans POWERED by MAZDA 6 . . . coming back for their second running of the September Classic, held at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta. A fantastic track, as anyone who has been there or owned "Forza 2" knows well.

“What is the Petit Le Mans?” “Who is Peugeot?” “Why should I care, watching this race will interfere with lawn-mowing and gutter-cleaning!!” I understand, sports-car racing really is a headache to those who haven’t sat with me and watched an entire race, rolling their eyes while I rattle off statistics and aerodynamics-related babble at a rate that would make Usain Bolt’s head spin. Actually, it is probably still a headache to everyone who has done that. . . First some quotes regarding Peugeot’s (French Auto Manufacturer; hold the ‘coward’ jokes for later) return to the corner-stone of the ALMS schedule.

“It would be hard for us to imagine a stronger end to 2009 than with Peugeot sending not one but two clean diesel-powered prototypes for an event that truly has become a spectacle on the landscape of global motor sport,” said Series President and CEO Scott Atherton. “With the Le Mans trophy already in hand, the potential of adding yet another significant honor to close out the year would wrap up a season for the ages. . . especially if the rumor mill is indeed accurate and other world-class teams and manufacturers who are no strangers to Road Atlanta, Petit Le Mans, and Peugeot confirm their entries in the near future.”

Atherton added, “Peugeot’s Petit Le Mans debut last year was nothing short of sterling, and fans at Road Atlanta are no doubt already firming up travel plans for what will be another epic event for sports car racing fans trophy already in hand, the potential of adding yet another significant honor to close out the year would wrap up a season for the across North America.”

The distinguished Mr. Atherton said one very important thing there: “especially if the rumor mill is indeed accurate and other world-class teams and manufacturers who are no strangers to Road Atlanta, Petit Le Mans and Peugeot confirm their entries in the near future.”

Audi has dominated the ALMS (American Le Mans Series) for the better part of eight years. They have run only one race this season, the ubiquitous 12 Hours of Sebring (oh, whoops), the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. This has left only two serious entries in the premier LMP-1 class, the Acura tandem of Patron-Highcroft racing and De Ferran Motorsports. There are other LMP-1 teams competing; the problem is with the word ‘compete’. They’re all underfunded, private teams who simply can’t ‘compete’ with manufacturer-backed prototypes. It’s a cruel world. My hope is that Audi will return for the Petit, making for the most interesting field since the late Nineties, when front engined Panoz prototypes were duking it out with the likes of the BMW V-12 LMR, the Ferrari 333 SP, Porsche 911 GT1 EVO amongst MANY others . . .

Other rumors include a possible appearance by Aston-Martin, with their re-engineered Lola coupes. Aside from the sheer beauty of the Aston’s bodywork, the cars naturally aspirated V-12 emits the sweetest shriek this side of a four pound lobster meeting his boiled-down doom. Only much louder, and much much sweeter . . .

So we have here the makings of the best car porn witnessed on these shores since Allan McNish stuffed his Audi into the wall on a practice lap at last year’s Petit, returned to the pits, his team frantically descending on the mangled R-10 Diesel. By the time the car was ready to race again, McNish was two laps down and last place in the running order. Over the course of the 10-hour race the battered R-10 fought its way back to the front, McNish driving as if he had just made a pact with Satan, ala James Brown and Dean Martin. Soul effectively purchased by the devil, McNish, along with teammates Emanuele Pirro, and Dindo Capello bulldozed the field, passing the leading Peugeot in the final ten minutes. The final ten minutes of TEN HOURS, think about that for a second.

Last year’s Petit Le Mans marked the Peugeot factory team’s initial appearance at Road Atlanta. Stephane Sarrazin, Nic Minassian and Christian Klien came up 4.512 seconds shy in knocking off perennial race-winner Audi in an epic battle. It was the same again at Sebring this year when Peugeot lost out by 22.279 seconds. Needless to say they have some unfinished business in the rolling hills of Braselton. I for one am EXCITED!

-JD

Source: http://www.americanlemans.com/index_news.php?n=13415


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