The Le Mans series arrived at Silverstone for the final round of the 2008 championship. It promised to be a battle royal between the title favourites Peugeot and Le Mans winners Audi. Despite the fact that Team Peugeot Total arrived at the season finale with wins in all four of the preceding races at Catalunya, Monza, Spa Franchorchamps and the Nurburgring, just six points separated them from their closest rivals Audi Sport Team Joest in the manufacturer's championship. The situation was similar in the drivers championship with Peugeot's Marc Gene and Nicolas Minassian leading the Audi pairing of Alexandre Premat and Mike Rockenfeller by just two points. There was an air of anticipation as the cars took to the circuit for the first free practice session on Friday, would it remain dry and see the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP's disappear into the distance, or would it rain levelling the playing field and providing the Audi's with a chance to turn the tables. As it turned out the weather satisfied both conditions with the first session run in the dry resulting in the two Peugeots lapping over two seconds ahead of the Audi's. Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin piloted the leading car with team mates Marc Gene and Nicolas Minassian less than a second adrift. Mike Rockenfeller and Andre Premat led the Audi challenge from team mates Allan McNish and Dindo Capello. The second session was an altogether different matter, with heavy rain falling and making the circuit very treacherous with lots of standing water and poor visibility. Allan McNish revelled in the extreme conditions lapping the Audi R10 TDi an incredible 3.525 seconds faster than the second placed Peugeot of Gene and Minassian. The final free practice again saw Audi at the head of the time-sheets but this time it was the turn of the Premat/Rockenfeller pairing to lead the field. Qualifying took place on a dry circuit and the balance once again tipped in Peugeot's favour with Lamy/Sarrazin taking pole from Gene/Minassian. The Audi cars were unable to match their rivals pace but nonetheless the McNish/Capello car was less than a second behind with the sister car less than two seconds adrift. The Lola Aston Martin of Stefan Mucke/Jan Charouz was 5th fastest ahead of the Team Oreca Matmut Courage of ex F1 ace Olivier Panis/Nicolas Lapierre. Race day dawned dry and sunny and with a large crowd in attendance the race got off to a predictable start with the Peugeot of Sarrazin leading for the first 28 laps. Then a dramatic accident befell the Peugeot of Minassian after he misjudged an overtaking manoeuvre on the exit of Chapel Curve and onto Hangar Straight. Minassian hit one of the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR's being driven by Richard Lietz. The result was spectacular with the Peugeot slewing sideways and then almost flipping as the air got beneath the chassis, the car careered down the outside of the circuit clipping the Hanger Straight bridge parapet before coming to rest, needless to say in no shape to continue. The Porsche faired no better ending up wrecked almost in the centre of the track. (Photos of both cars can be seen in our gallery). Fortunately both drivers escaped unhurt from the carnage. The race resumed after a lengthy yellow flag period and more drama ensued almost immediately, with the Sarrazin  Peugeot and Capello Audi clashing immediately after the restart and dealing a decisive blow to the Peugeot that cost the team 8 laps for repairs in the pits. The Audi of Rockenfeller/Premat capitalised on the Peugeot teams misfortune seizing the lead and holding it from lap 48 to lap 63, when the Charouz Lola snatched a moment of glory leading the race for 15 laps as the Audi pitted. The Rockenfeller / Premat car reclaimed the lead on lap 80 and stayed there for the next 88 laps, secure in the knowledge that the sister car was in 2nd place. As the race reached the closing stages the leading Audi headed for the pits trailing smoke, the problem was duly dealt with, but inevitably the lead had passed to the Audi of Allan McNish / Dindo Capello. From there on in it was a comfortable run to the flag with the lead car completing 195 laps from the well deserved second placed Charouz Lola Aston Martin of Stefan Mucke / Jan Charouz on 193 laps. Third place went to the Pescarolo Sport of Jean Christophe Boullion / Romain Dumas. The Premat / Rockenfeller Audi recovered to secure fourth place on 191 laps, while the crestfallen Team Peugeot Total car of Lamy / Sarrazin ended a disastrous day for the race and season favourites finishing way down in 19th place completing 182 laps. The LMP2 race was far less dramatic with the Porsche RS Spyder of Verstappen / van Merksteijn dominating the race from pole and finishing fifth overall with a very respectable 191 laps. For Audi it was a superb weekend and after a season of trailing the Peugeot's home the German endurance racing experts snatched not only the victory but also secured both the drivers and constructors titles in the process. For a disappointed Peugeot Team there is always next year!. Please take some time to view some of the spectacular images from this event by clicking on the link to our photo gallery below.

 


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