Thursday, March 25, 2010

French Lion’s triumphant at Sebring

The Peugeot Sports Car Team has just won the 58th Annual Sebring 12hrs Endurance race, with a 1-2 finish, seeing the No. 07 head the No. 08 across the finish line, as Anthony Davidson, Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz were victorious ahead of teammates Sebastian Bourdais, Pedro Lamy and Nicolas Minassian.

And for Mwah, it seems just like yesterday that I recall the Austrian “Giant” Alex Wurz stepping into the Benetton B197 cockpit as Gerhard Berger’s substitute, as much banter was made over Wurz’s six foot four inch frame vs. the diminutive ANT’s five foot six inch stature, with a bevy of jokes being made towards SPEED commentator Calvin Fish...

But back to 1997 when Wurz filled in for his elder countryman Berger, beginning with the Canadian GP as Gerhard had become sidelined for three races due to illness, before coming back to score his final Grand Prix victory at the Hockenheimring...

So could that really have been a long 13yrs ago? Especially since way back then, Wurz wore one red and one blue driving boot after having a prank played on him very early in his career, as I don’t know if he still carries on this way now? Since after his Benetton days he made a career as a McLaren test driver before capping off his F1 career at Williams, along with having scored the second of his three podium positions as JPM’s (Juan Pablo Montoya) substitute at McLaren during the Columbian’s tennis ball slippy caper, which was even more impressive since the chassis wasn’t designed to accommodate his large frame...

Thus it seems somewhat “synergistic” that Wurx’s final podium came at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in ’07, where he began his F1 career, while the lanky Austrian who’s also a two time 24 Heurs du Mans winner still holds the record for youngest driver to win the event.

Marc Gene’s name is synonymous with the Scuderia Ferrari to me, albeit as a longtime tester, after a brief racing stint in Formula 1 with Minardi and substituting for Ralf Schumacher at Williams while pining away as their tester before beginning his association with Maranello in 2004. Yet Gene can claim something his Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso cannot, as Gene became the first Spaniard to take the overall glory at Circuit de la Sarthe last year...

‘ANT, nee Anthony Davidson is another long term F1 tester who really never got his fair shot in the Pinnacle of Motorsport, (Formula One) having spent the majority of his career as another Honda F1 test driver, a la Darren Manning. Yet the plucky Brit did manage two outings for Minardi, a one-off at BAR-Honda and then a short stint during the final days of “Super Best Friends,” a.k.a. Super Aguri.

And we all know Bourdais’s CV, as in the only driver to ever win four consecutive Vanderbilt Cup’s in American Open Wheel Racing history, while having a very brief and not so enjoyable career in F1 as Scott Speed’s replacement at Scuderia Toro Rosso...

Of course Pedro Lamy is another dare I say it? Journeyman ex-Formula Uno Piloto who mostly trundled around at the back of the grid in inferior equipment driving for the fading Lotus concern and Minardi; as I seem to recall that he had a monstrous accident at Silverstone during a test session where then Benetton mechanic Steve Matchett wrote about the horrendous crash which saw Lamy’s Lotus ultimately end up scattered in pieces with the driver’s tub landing inside a pedestrian tunnel! As Lamy broke both of his legs and spent a year recovering before returning to drive a Minardi...

Meanwhile Nicolas Minassian unfortunately seems to have a history of finishing runner-up, (2nd) or as some drivers claim, “First Loser.” Yet what is the Frenchman’s connection to Juan Pablo Montoya? Whale; recall that one Mr. Chip Ganassi took Minassian and Bruno Junqueira in a package deal as Montoya’s replacements when the Columbian bolted to Sir Frank Williams Grand Prix team in 2001, as Junqueira and Minassian had finished 1-2 in the 2000 F3000 Championship, then the final step-up to Formula 1. Yet Minassian’s tenure at TCGR was very short lived, having been given the boot shortly after a not so stellar Rookie outing at Indianapolis.

But if you think the Peugeot Boyz weren’t trying to beat each other and simply cruising about, then think about The Hamburgular (SeaBass) spinning on cold tyres upon exiting the pit lane for his final pit stop whilst trying to jump ahead of the fast approaching Wurz in the leading 908 HDi FAP as both cars had completed their final pit stops enroute to the chequered flag.

As the aforementioned sextuplets will comprise the bulk of Peugeot’s driving line-up for this summer’s 78th running of the 24 Heurs du Mans, as the final year of the Lion’s mighty 908 turbo diesel’s will sport the numbers 1-2-3 when the French squad squares off against Audi and the other competition. (As apparently there’s a massive rules change pending for 2011...)

The No. 1 will have the same Sebring 12hrs winning driver combo of Davidson, Gene and Wurz, while the No. 2 will be an all French affair, with Minassian joined by Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin. Meanwhile The Hamburgular (Bourdais) will be joined by Lamy and Simon Pagenaud in the team’s No. 3 entry, with last year’s driver Christian Klien serving as the team’s Reserve Driver...

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