A victory for Peugeot

June 15, 2009

The Le Mans 24 hour race this weekend was won by a Peugeot 908 turbo diesel. This was Peugeot’s third attempt to break the domination of Audi who had pioneered the use of diesel technology in endurance racing. Peugeot had made a fairly disastrous attempt to enter F1 as an engine supplier in the mid-nineties – first with McLaren, then Jordan and finally the ill-fated Prost operation. They withdrew at the end of 2000 but have found more success in developing diesel technology for specialist sportscar racing, and now, finally, they have beaten Audi at Le Mans.

From a Formula 1 perspective the most significant aspect of the Le Mans race was the presence of Luca di Montezemolo, the president of Ferrari and Chairman of the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA). Ferrari are the only team who have been in Formula 1 since the FIA started the world championship in 1950. Despite their commitment to F1 over this time they have also made frequent forays into sports car racing and were particularly successful at Le Mans in the 1950s and 60s. In fact the first victory of a Ferrari racing car was not in F1, but at Le Mans in 1949.

The presence of Luca di Montezemolo at Le Mans was not coincidental. It was designed to send a clear message that F1 is not everything in motor racing and that Ferrari and the other FOTA teams do have alternative ways of spending their motorsport dollars. The pressure will now build up this week, to Friday when we may see a resolution to the FIA/FOTA impasse, or of course we may just get another extension to the deadline.

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