Villeneuve's Peugeot wins at Spa

Jacques Villeneuve took his first major international motorsport victory since the 1997 Luxembourg Grand Prix, when the Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP he shared with Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gene crossed the line first in the Spa 1000km Le Mans Series race

Villeneuve's Peugeot wins at Spa

"It has been so long you have to try and remember where the steps to the podium are!" joked Villeneuve afterwards. "It feels good to be winning again."

In the end, Peugeot scored a comfortable third straight victory in the LMS, but it was a race not without drama as the sister car of Alex Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy crashed out spectacularly in an accident that also involved the leading Audi R10 TDI of Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello.

The crash, which essentially eliminated both cars from the battle for the lead, utterly changed the complexion of the race and allowed Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat in the No.2 Audi to finish second for the third consecutive race.

Oreca bounced back from Stephane Ortelli's massive accident two weeks ago at Monza, to score a well-deserved third place finish.

The event began in some confusion after LMP2 driver Casper Elgaard crashed his Essex Porsche RS Spyder into the back of Joey Foster's Embassy, forcing the safety car to stay out a lap longer and the race to start under yellow flag conditions.

While pole man Lamy shot off down the start straight having received instructions to treat the start like a normal restart, McNish was still waiting to form up on the front row, having been told that it was a full restart.

Once away, Lamy gradually stretched his advantage, but not by a significant margin, and it seemed that Audi, though not quite as quick as the French cars, might be able to make a race of it.

But as the leaders began to run into traffic, so McNish came under more and more pressure from Minassian in the third-placed Peugeot, and Lamy broke away slightly.

Then followed a tremendous dice for second until Minassian's tyres fell away. Once the tyres were changed, however, the Frenchman re-caught McNish and tried to pass the Scot around the outside at the top of Les Combe on lap 33.

There was contact, enough to sheer the valve from the Audi's left-rear tyre and send both cars across the grass. This prompted McNish to pit out of sequence to change the punctured tyre and refuel.

Lamy's Peugeot swapped the lead with the sister car at the driver changes when he handed the seat over to Wurz and the starter motor failed to fire the engine.

This put Villeneuve in the lead of a LMS race for the first time.

Meanwhile behind, Wurz, storming back from the slow stop, caught up to Capello in the Audi, before crashing at Pouhon and damaging the R10 significantly enough for it to drop back to tenth.

Through the carnage came Olivier Panis and Nicolas Lapierre, who ran a steady if uneventful race to finish third.

"It's the first time that we have had no problems through the race," said Panis, "and I think it is a good result, considering what happened to the team at the last race at Monza."

Capello and McNish fought back to fourth despite a three minute penalty for driving through a red light in the pits.

Emmanuel Collard and Jean-Christophe Boullion finished fifth for Pescarolo.

Van Merksteijn Racing took their second victory of the season in the LMP2 class as Porsche RS Spyders swept the podium.

For much of the early part of the race Jos Verstappen battled hard with Speedy Racing Lola, until the Judd-powered coupe ran into trouble in the final third.

But once the purple Porsche had dispensed with that challenge it found itself in a battle with Didier Theys and Jan Lammers Horag car as various safety car periods closed the field.

In the end, Verstappen's speed settled the issue. John Nielsen's Essex car was third.

Luc Alphand's Corvette took the honours in GT1, but it could have been very different. With the Team Modena Aston Martin throwing an alternator belt, and some clever fuel strategy, the Spartak Racing Lamborghini found itself in the lead.

That could have turned into a win if Roman Rusinov hadn't tripped over a backmarker and needed to make a lengthy pitstop for repairs, dropping him to second.

The best race of all was reserved for GT2, where Robert Bell and Gianmaria Bruni finished just 0.182 seconds ahead of Marc Lieb and Alex Davison after nearly six hours of racing.

With a late race safety car period closing the gap to nothing over the last four laps, Bell made his Virgo Ferrari F430GT as wide as humanly possible as Lieb's Felbermayr Porsche tried everything to find a way past. The German simply couldn't get through, but it was a close run thing as they crossed the line.

Classified: Pos Driver Team Time Cl 1. Gene/Minassian/Villeneuve Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP 5h17:48.566 LMP1 2. Premat/Rockenfeller Audi R10 TDI +30.387 LMP1 3. Panis/Lapierre Courage-Oreca Judd +3 laps LMP1 4. Capello/McNish Audi R10 TDI +4 laps LMP1 5. Collard/Boullion Pescarolo Judd +0:14.137 LMP1 6. Van Merksteijn/Verstappen Porsche RS Spyder +5 laps LMP2 7. Lienhard/Theys/Lammers Porsche RS Spyder +0:10.387 LMP2 8. Elgaard/Nielsen Porsche RS Spyder +8 laps LMP2 9. Hall/Kerr Creation - Aim +9 laps LMP1 10. Ragues/Lahaye Pescarolo Judd +17.285 LMP2 11. Burgueno/de Castro Epsilon Euskadi Judd +10 laps LMP1 12. Ojjeh/Gosselin/Schroyen Zytek 07S +1:10.953 LMP2 13. Alphand/Moreau/Goueslard Corvette C6.R +13 laps GT1 14. Nicolet/Faggionato/Hein Pescarolo Judd +17.957 LMP1 15. Rusinov/Kox Lamborghini +14 laps GT1 16. Garcia/Enge Aston Martin DBR9 +16 laps GT1 17. Bell/Bruni Ferrari F430 GT +17 laps GT2 18. Lieb/Davison Porsche 997 GT3 RSR +0.184 GT2 19. Ried/Felbermayr/Felbermayr Porsche 997 GT3 RSR +20 laps GT2 20. Chiesa/Leuenberger/A. David Spyker C8 Laviolette +04.484 GT2 21. Aucott/Ferte Ferrari F430 GT +26.804 GT2 22. Narac/Lietz Porsche 997 GT3 RSR +21 laps GT2 23. Kutemann/Basso/Daoudi Ferrari F430 GT +16.309 GT2 24. Hardman/Leventis Aston Martin DBR9 +22 laps GT1 25. Daniels/Palttala/Sugden Porsche 997 GT3 RSR +2:01.926 GT2 26. Dumbreck/Kelleners/Vasiliev Spyker C8 Laviolette +25 laps GT2 27. Barbosa/Ickx/Forsten Pescarolo Judd +31 laps LMP1 28. Erdos/Newton Lola MG +32 laps LMP2 29. Mucke/Charouz Lola Aston Martin +36 laps LMP1 30. Rostan/Petersen/Lueders Radical AER +37 laps LMP2 Not classified: Driver Team Gap Cl Primat/Tinseau Pescarolo Judd + 6 laps LMP1 Belicchi/Pompidou/Zacchia Lola Judd + 15 laps LMP2 Nielsen/Westbrook/Simonsen Porsche 997 GT3 RSR + 48 laps GT2 Ehret/Kaffer Ferrari F430 GT + 50 laps GT2 Hughes/Kane WF01 Zytek + 66 laps LMP2 Lavaggi/Kaufmann Lavaggi AER + 77 laps LMP1 Barazi/Vergers/Rees Zytek 07S + 81 laps LMP2 Lamy/Sarrazin/Wurz Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP + 87 laps LMP1 Balandras/Lecourt Porsche 997 GT3 RSR + 94 laps GT2 Amaral/Pla Lola AER + 108 laps LMP2 Blanchemain/Dumez/Lemeret Corvette C6.R + 117 laps GT1 
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