Peugeot gained a hard-fought — if not somewhat controversial — victory over Audi on Sunday evening as the sun fell below the mountains outside Zhuhai, China. The 908 HDi FAP of Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin beat the Audi R15 TDI of Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen to the line by 4.8 seconds after 232 laps of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Zhuhai 1,000km. During the closing laps it appeared the sister Team Peugeot 908 blocked a charging Kristensen on several occasions, to prevent an Audi run on the leader.
In the GT2 class, Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz guided their 911 GT3 RSR to second place, good enough to secure the team championship for Team Felbermayr Proton, but not quite good enough to secure the manufacturer championship, which went instead to Ferrari. The best of the GT field, however, was the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid of Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long (running in the unclassified GTH category) which bested the winning GT2 BMW M3 by three full laps. Naysayers may point out that the Hybrid is permitted to run with a 130-liter fuel cell to the GT2 class’ 90-liter cells, but even with an extra pit stop factored into the equation, the experimental Porsche would have still been two laps clear of the GT2 field.
Long pointed out that Zhuhai International Circuit was the perfect track for the Hybrid. Lengthy straights and long periods of heavy braking aided in energy recovery. Plus, slow corners helped the Hybrid overcome handling difficulties imposed by two heavy 60-kW electric motors and their ancillary components. Whereas the Hybrid struggled (relatively) on the smooth flowing Road Atlanta circuit one month ago, with that track’s high speed corners and flowing transitions, ZIC’s point-and-shoot nature played to the Porsche’s strengths.
Prior to the race, Excellence spent a few minutes talking to Long, who credited the Porsche engineering team with the extra-rapid progress of the Hybrid. During the four days on-track at Zhuhai, significant progress was made in getting the traction control at the rear of the car (taming the flat six-powered rear wheels) to work with the traction control at the front (controlling the electrically-powered front wheels). “You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to make the two systems talk to each other. After each session Jörg and I do a lengthy debrief with those guys (pointing to the engineers, faces buried in computers in their garage work station), and they go to work. The car’s felt different, and better, every time we’ve driven it this weekend — credit to them.”
Sunday’s GT2/H finishing order:
1 – #92 Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid Bergmeister/Long—205 laps
2 – #78 BMW M3 (GT2 winner) Mueller/Werner—202 laps
3 – #77 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Lieb/Lietz —202 laps
4 – #95 Ferrari F430 GT Bruni/Vilander/Melo—199 laps
5 – #88 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Ragginger/Ried/Roda—192 laps
6 – #90 Ferrari F430 GT Ehret/Quaife/Kirkaldy—191 laps
7 – #99 Lamborghini LP560 Giroix/Goethe—187 laps
8 – #75 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Westbrook/O’Young—Retired (clutch)
9 – #81 Jaguar XK RS Goossens/Gentilozzi—Retired (engine)