The Peugeot of Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Pedro Lamy survived a first-lap spin, an unprecedented red flag and ensuing confusion, a late-race rain storm and a trip across the gravel in the final hour, to win the most chaotic race in the history of the Le Mans Series at Spa.
The No. 3 908 HDi FAP was the frontrunner whose strategy fell into the circumstances with the most fortune, but also put together as faultless a race as was possible in the most challenging of conditions.
"I hope there are not too many races as crazy as this or I won't live for very long!" said Bourdais.
The No. 7 Audi, driven by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello, may have been in control of the race for much of the first two hours, thanks to a well-timed pit stop just as an early safety car emerged from the pits, which gave the car a 50sec advantage over the fleet of Peugeots. But after the power cut-induced red flag, it was the No. 3 car that wrested control of the race.
Capello regained the lead quite quickly after the red flag but was quickly hauled in by Bourdais as the race reached the halfway mark. The next 30 minutes provided some enthralling racing as the Frenchman diced with the Audi man, briefly passing him at La Source only for the low-downforce R15 TDI to pass him back up the straight. But when it came time for them both to pit, Capello's need for new tires cost him the lead and he would never regain it.
Bourdais built a substantial advantage through the rest of his stint and things looked solid for his team as he handed over to Pagenaud. Then a heavy accident for Christopher Nygaard in the GT1 Aston Martin at Blanchimont with 70 minutes of the race to go brought another full-course caution, which allowed the leaders to all pit except for Tom Kristensen, who had taken over from Capello by this point.
When the rain came with 35 minutes left, it looked like things might close up as Kristensen opted to pit for some intermediates and immediately took chunks out of Pagenaud's 70sec lead. But while the American Le Mans Series championship leader ran over the grass at La Source, he was never really in danger of losing his lead, and as the rain eased again he consolidated to win the race. In fact, it was Kristensen who found himself under attack as the recovering No. 2 Peugeot of Stephane Sarrazin stormed up behind the Audi and passed it on the pit straight in the final few laps of the race.
That this car finished second was quite remarkable given it was rebuilt following Montagny's accident immediately prior to the power cut. The fact that the car he crashed into, the KSM Lola, was not allowed to be repaired during parc ferme conditions remains a point of contention.
Regardless of the circumstance, it was a brilliant drive by Montagny, who did a marathon stint that lasted more than three and a half hours, and Sarrazin, reminiscent of their Road Atlanta victory last year.
Audi, therefore, was forced to settle for third ahead of the last of the factory Peugeots, which also had a late scare when Marc Gene crashed at Brussels in the rain. The Spaniard recovered in time to save his position from Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 9 Audi.
Rockenfeller's teammate Romain Dumas believed this car should have been right in contention, but was one of many to have been caught out by the red flag. He was furious that he been held in the pits for two minutes when he stopped under the safety car when the race resumed.
Miguel Amaral finished sixth overall and first in the LMP2 class after a race-long battle for victory with the RML Lola. The race was secured for the Quifel Ginetta squad when Andy Wallace was forced to wait in the pits during his stop under the final safety car.
The Oak Racing Pescarolos of Guillaume Moreau and Mathieu LaHaye finished third and fourth.
Marc Lieb cruised to victory for Felbermayr Porsche in the GT2 category after his closest contenders all fell foul of penalties. Jamie Melo's Ferrari and the Schnitzer BMW of Jorg Muller both got drive-throughs for excessive use of run-off, and both also were hampered by the red flag confusion.
In the end,Melo brought the AF Corse Ferrari home second, although only after an intense dice with his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella in the closing stages. So heated was it that they allowed Andy Priaulx to catch them right up in the final laps of the race.
The Marc VDS Ford of Dominik Kraihamer, Markus Palttala and Bas Leinders took a one-lap victory in GT1 over the Larbre Competition Saleen. Steve Zacchia, Wolfgang Kaufmann and Luca Moro won the Formula Le Mans honors.
Pos Drivers Cl Car Time/Gap
1. Lamy/Bourdais/Pagenaud P1 Peugeot 6h00m39.012s
2. Montagny/Sarrazin/Minassian P1 Peugeot + 1m08.308s
3. Capello/Kristensen/Mcnish P1 Audi + 1m26.215s
4. Gene/Wurz/Davidson P1 Peugeot + 1 laps
5. Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller P1 Audi + 2 laps
6. Amaral/Pla P2 Ginetta-Zytek + 9 laps
7. Erdos/Newton/Wallace P2 Lola HPD + 9 laps
8. Moreau/Hein P2 Pescarolo-Judd + 10 laps
9. Lahaye/Nicolet P2 Pescarolo-Judd + 11 laps
10. Geri/Piccini/Piccini P2 Lola-Judd + 11 laps
11. Belicchi/Boullion P1 Lola-Rebellion + 12 laps
12. Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer P1 Audi + 13 laps
13. Ragues/Mailleux/Ickx P1 Lola-Aston + 14 laps
14. Zacchia/Kaufmann/Moro FLM FLM ORECA + 15 laps
15. Lieb/Lietz GT2 Porsche + 15 laps
16. Schell/da Rocha P2 Courage-ORECA + 16 laps
17. Leinders/Palttala/de Doncker GT1 Ford + 16 laps
18. Kraihamer/de Crem/Delhez FLM FLM ORECA + 16 laps
19. Bruni/Melo GT2 Ferrari + 16 laps
20. Alesi/Fisichella/Vilander GT2 Ferrari + 16 laps
21. Priaulx/Muller/Farfus GT2 BMW + 16 laps
22. Pilet/Narac GT2 Porsche + 16 laps
23. Mutsch/Hirschi/Beche GT1 Ford + 16 laps
24. Kirkaldy/Mullen GT2 Ferrari + 17 laps
25. Dumbreck/Coronel GT2 Spyker + 18 laps
26. Ragginger/Ried/Long GT2 Porsche + 18 laps
27. Holzer/Westbrook GT2 Porsche + 18 laps
28. Allemann/Frey/Zimmer GT1 Ford + 18 laps
29. Farnbacher/Simonsen GT2 Ferrari + 18 laps
30. Perez Companc/Russo GT2 Ferrari + 19 laps
31. Gardel/Goueslard/Rees GT1 Saleen + 19 laps
32. Jousse/Gregoire/Hart GT1 Corvette + 19 laps
33. Schroyen/Van Dam/Lacko GT1 Saleen + 19 laps
34. Muller/Werner/Alzen GT2 BMW + 19 laps
35. Van Splunteren/Hommerson/Machiels GT2 Porsche + 20 laps
36. Kutemann/Basso/Hartshorne FLM FLM ORECA + 22 laps
37. Daniels/Slingerland/Lanik GT2 Porsche + 23 laps
38. Ehret/Quaife/Kaffer GT2 Ferrari + 34 laps
39. Frey/Meichtry/Bruneau P2 Radical-Judd + 36 laps
Bell/Turner GT2 Aston Martin 86 laps
Enge/Nygaard/Mucke GT1 Aston Martin 82 laps
Noda/de Pourtales/Kennard P2 Lola-Judd 77 laps
Leventis/Watts/Kane P2 HPD 69 laps
Toulemonde/Zollinger/Zampatti FLM FLM ORECA 67 laps
Prost/Jani P1 Lola-Rebellion 65 laps
Pillon/Verdonck/Capillaire FLM FLM ORECA 30 laps
Barlesi/Cicognani/Chalandon FLM FLM ORECA 23 laps
Ojjeh/Greaves/Ebbesvik P2 Ginetta-Zytek 15 laps
Panis/Lapierre/Duval P1 Peugeot 4 laps