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Friday favourite: The LMP1 beast that became an extension of Davidson

Success at Le Mans with the Peugeot 908 may have eluded Anthony Davidson, but his immediate comfort with the turbodiesel LMP1 machine makes it his favourite of the many racing cars he sampled in a decorated world championship-winning career

Marc Gene / Alexander Wurz / Anthony Davidson, (Team Peugeot, Peugeot 908 HDI FAP)

Photo by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images

“The car I always felt was ‘my’ car, that I could always be quick in, was the first Peugeot 908, the V12. I don’t know why, it just clicked, like an extension of my body. I could be quick on new tyres, old tyres, wet and dry.”

Anthony Davidson started 24 Formula 1 races, drove the dominant Carlin-run Dallara F301 in British Formula 3 and was World Endurance champion alongside Sebastien Buemi in Toyota’s TS040 HYBRID in 2014. But the car he picks as his favourite is the sports-prototype that really launched his endurance racing career, the Peugeot 908 HDi.

Davidson won first time out with the turbodiesel at the 2010 Sebring 12 Hours. But like former Jaguar and Red Bull F1 racer Christian Klien, who also picks out the 908 as his favourite car, Davidson was smitten long before that: “The first laps I did with it were at Paul Ricard and I fell in love with it instantly. It was such a different car to what I’d driven.

“It was a joy to drive and it looked super-cool. It didn’t sound the best, but even that was part of the quirk. I never would have imagined driving a diesel racing car and that was the first time I realised how quickly things could change – since then we’ve had hybrids and electric racing cars: what’s next?”

Despite four wins with Peugeot (two with the V12 and two with its V8 successor), Davidson’s best memory with the 908 comes from a race he didn’t win: the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Following an early delay thanks to an alternator failure, he, Alexander Wurz and Marc Gene put on a recovery charge that included a quadruple stint on one set of Michelins from Davidson that Autosport described as “phenomenal”. Sadly, the Peugeot engines proved fragile and the 5.5-litre V12 failed with less than three hours to go.

Davidson won on his Peugeot debut at Sebring in 2010 alongside Wurz and Gene

Davidson won on his Peugeot debut at Sebring in 2010 alongside Wurz and Gene

Photo by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images

“We didn’t have as much data analysis and as many debriefs as we do now, but we were called to the factory afterwards,” recalls Davidson, who picks out Jenson Button as his favourite team-mate.

“I’d had a mega quadruple stint during the night. We looked through all the stats and lap times, and they mentioned the ‘impressive stint Anthony did’ – it really stood out and I thought, ‘People have noticed!’”

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He also thinks a victory was on against the Audi R15-plus TDIs that eventually finished 1-2-3, despite the early loss of three laps: “We clawed back to the point where the race predictor said it was going to go down to the wire.”

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Outside of his racing career, there is one other machine that stands out to Davidson, who called time in 2021.

“The most impressive car, and I’ve only done a handful of laps in it at Austin, was the W12 Mercedes,” adds Davidson (who still conducts simulator duties for Mercedes) of the F1 car in which Lewis Hamilton almost took an eighth world title in 2021. “You can’t put it into words what a weapon that car is. I couldn’t get to the limit, but I had a good go in the time I had.”

Davidson believes Peugeot still had a chance of victory at Le Mans in 2010 despite losing three laps, such was its pace

Davidson believes Peugeot still had a chance of victory at Le Mans in 2010 despite losing three laps, such was its pace

Photo by: Sutton Images

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