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Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 11:34 UK

Le Mans ready for classic battle

By Andrew Benson


Audi's Frank Biela leads a Peugeot during last month's Le Mans test day
Audi v Peugeot promises to make the best Le Mans for years

The historic Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race looks set for one of its closest battles in years this weekend.

Audi, who have dominated this century, face their biggest threat yet in a determined challenge from Peugeot.

Both are racing diesel-engined cars, and Peugeot are hopeful of ending Audi's four year run of wins.

Scottish Audi driver Allan McNish said: "I believe it's going to be a fierce, head-to-head battle from green light to chequered flag."

McNish, who drove for Toyota in Formula One in 2002, is hopeful of winning for the first time since 1998, when he was driving for Porsche.

He is part of an impressive Audi driver line-up, which includes his co-drivers Italian Rinaldo Capello and Dane Tom Kristensen, who has won the race a record seven times.

Everything Peugeot have done in motorsport, they were successful, that's why we have a lot of respect for Peugeot

Rinaldo Capello
Audi driver
Last year's winners Frank Biela and Marco Werner of Germany and Italy's Emanuele Pirro are in the other leading Audi contender, although the team are also running a third car for Germans Luca Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller and Frenchman Alexandre Premat.

Audi are aiming for a third consecutive win for their R10 turbodiesel, which made history in 2006 when it became the first diesel-powered car to win a major motor race.

Audi won the race with a petrol version of their car every year from 2000 until 2005, with the exception of 2003, when they did not enter in deference to sister marque Bentley, which duly won instead.

But this year they may have met their match in the Peugeot 908 HDi.

Audi have not won a race this season. The Peugeot has proved faster everywhere they have raced, beating it three times in the European-based Le Mans series, and was significantly faster at last month's test day at the Le Mans track.

Like Audi, Peugeot also have a formidable driver line-up.

Allan McNish in the Audi R10 TDi at Le Mans
McNish is gunning for his first win for a decade
Ex-Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve partners fellow ex-Grand Prix driver Marc Gene and former Champ Car driver Frenchman Nicolas Minassian in one car.

The other car teams vastly experienced ex-Grand Prix driver Alexander Wurz with another former F1 driver Pedro Lamy and Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin.

Peugeot are hoping to revisit their glory days of the early 1990s, when it won in 1992 and 1993 with the stunning 905 sports-prototype, effectively an F1 car with a roof.

"We have prepared extremely thoroughly for this monumental competition," says Peugeot Sport director Michel Barge.

Capello said: "It is always nice to have another factory team, especially a factory team with such a strong history in motorsport.

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"Everything Peugeot have done in motorsport, they were successful - rallying, Le Mans, touring cars - that's why we have a lot of respect for Peugeot.

"We know this, even though they are telling everybody that they will be unreliable, that they are not ready to compete with Audi.

"I am sure that they are ready to compete with us."


see also
Audi win to retain Le Mans crown
17 Jun 07 |  Motorsport
Audi claim historic Le Mans win
18 Jun 06 |  Motorsport
Kristensen claims Le Mans record
19 Jun 05 |  Motorsport


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