D'Ansembourg takes charge in second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race
In a top-three separated by less than a second, Christophe d’Ansembourg (Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2) returned to the top spot of the Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends podium by narrowly keeping his rivals Kriton Lendoudis (Peugeot 908 HDi FAP) and Steve Tandy (Lola-Mazda B12/60) at bay in a thrilling finish to the second race of the weekend at Paul Ricard.
One of the best races ever!” said a Belgian thrilled with victory. “I was flat out all the time – I wasn’t managing the gap at all! This is the crown of my weekend, I’m so happy.
Lendoudis had led away from the start but d’Ansembourg took over on lap 3 and never looked back – even though the Peugeot and the Lola-Mazda grew bigger and bigger in his mirrors as his initial six-second lead evaporated towards the end of the race.
Christophe drove much better today”, Lendoudis admitted. “I tried but it wasn’t enough. I was closing in the end but perhaps I should have tried better in the beginning.
Darius Ahrabian (Lola-Lotus LMP2 Coupé) took his second P2 win of the weekend, with Keith Frieser coming second in the first of the ORECA 03s. Meanwhile, Nikolaus Ditting (Aston Martin DBR9) repeated yesterday’s GT-class win.
Lendoudis’ early lead vanished when d’Ansembourg began to close on the Peugeot, setting fastest lap on lap 3. One lap later, the Belgian was into the lead, with Tandy keeping a watchful eye in third position, five seconds down on the fighting pair in front.
Some 30 seconds back after six laps, Darius Ahrabian continued the form he showed in the first race by leading the P2 battle but Keith Frieser was closer this time, the ORECA 03 chasing the Lola-Lotus LMP2 Coupé by five seconds. Frieser himself held a similar gap to James Hagan in another ORECA 03. Some of the other P2 cars were in early trouble, though, Karl Pedraza lapping his ORECA 03 considerably slower than he could, even dropping back behind Nikolaus Ditting’s Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 car, while Mike Newton was out after two laps, his MG-Lola EX257 leaking oil between the engine and the gearbox.
As the pit window opened, Lendoudis grabbed the first opportunity to come in, leaving Tandy to chase the leading Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2. The Greek’s rivals waited for two more laps, the result of which was that the order remained essentially unchanged – on lap 12, d’Ansembourg led Lendoudis and Tandy by six seconds, his two pursuers running nose-to-tail. In P2, Ahrabian still led Frieser, now by ten seconds, but Chris Atkinson in the car started by Hagan had dropped away from the fight, pitting on lap 10 and not returning. This allowed Philippe Papin – having taken over from Karl Pedraza – up into sixth place, the Frenchman having re-passed Nikolaus Ditting’s GT-class-leading DBR9.
With ten minutes to go, d’Ansembourg looked to have things in hand but no sooner than that thought came up Lendoudis put in the fastest lap of the race, taking Tandy along in his wake. In two laps’ time, the Peugeot cut the Lola-Aston’s lead from six to two seconds, setting up a tense final five minutes. As d’Ansembourg got the message and speeded up, Lendoudis went even quicker, and with another fastest lap closed the gap to less than 1.5 seconds, with two laps still to go.
Going into the final lap, the lead trio were in the same second. Lendoudis and Tandy both threatened to make moves but the order remained the same across the line.
Not where I wanted to be”, said Tandy. “But we were always going to struggle here with our little 2-litre turbo engine. It still was close!