The Peugeot “spaceship” that wowed an F1 veteran

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Simply 5 race outings within the Peugeot 908 have been sufficient for Christian Klien to pick the turbodiesel LMP1 machine as his favorite racing automotive. A solitary win, achieved within the 2009 Spa 1000km when Audi stayed away, was the excessive level of the Austrian’s involvement with the Peugeot manufacturing facility squad that got here alongside his function as BMW-Sauber’s Components 1 check and reserve driver, which precluded him from racing the 908 extra often.

“That was an especially quick automotive again then,” says the 41-year-old. “Numerous energy, a variety of downforce and driving this automotive in Le Mans was simply superior. I needed to be in any respect the F1 races so there have been fairly some clashes, however then there was a variety of testing in between, so I did tons and plenty of driving.

“The truth that it had a diesel engine in, it was fairly particular to drive since you had a variety of torque from the underside finish, a variety of energy. The vary of RPM was clearly very quick, but it surely was a terrific engine to race.”

His very first aggressive outing with the automotive got here on the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2008. Becoming a member of Franck Montagny and Ricardo Zonta, their #9 908 completed third after Klien was tipped into the gravel on the Ford Chicane, shedding three minutes on prime of delays attributable to defective headlights that required changing and incurred a penalty.

Klien appears to be like on his first podium since a race-winning Components 3 Euro Sequence programme in 2003, after 46 begins in F1 had yielded a greatest results of fifth within the 2005 Chinese language Grand Prix for Pink Bull, as an immensely gratifying expertise. However he additionally acknowledges it was a double-edged sword.

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“For those who’re on the rostrum at your first try, it in all probability feels prefer it comes a bit too simple let’s say,” says Klien, who stays an everyday in GT racing and retains a presence within the F1 paddock as an skilled commentator for Austrian TV station Servus. “When you’ve got dangerous years, you know the way tough it’s to to begin with end that race, to be in a aggressive automotive. To make it to the top of the race on the rostrum shouldn’t be given.

Klien obtained to go to the rostrum on his Le Mans debut with the 908 in 2008

Picture by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

“I loved that race loads, as a result of it was the primary race exterior of F1 for a very long time. I did for 5 years solely F1 and there isn’t a lot overtaking, and you then come to Le Mans, you’ve gotten an LMP1 automotive, clearly the quickest on the circuit, so that you do numerous overtaking.

“We even might have carried out higher than third, as a result of I had a spin within the night-time coming along with a backmarker, and we misplaced fairly a little bit of time. However standing on that podium on the finish of 24 hours was simply an unimaginable feeling, particularly while you look down and see all of the followers, it’s simply loopy.”

Klien was on the receiving finish of a sucker punch from Audi on his second outing in a 908 at Petit Le Mans in October. Allan McNish had crashed his R10 on the way in which to the grid, however the impressed Scot led a comeback from two laps down by way of myriad warning durations and within the essential closing levels had more energizing rubber than Klien – which allowed McNish to pounce in visitors.

“It was fairly silent within the automotive, so it was not very spectacular let’s say, however you might do all of the debrief mainly within the automotive together with your race engineer!” Christian Klien

Klien’s try at repassing was firmly rebuffed when McNish ushered him to the grass, and he needed to accept second within the #7 automotive with Stephane Sarrazin and Nicolas Minassian. However the consequence didn’t detract from his enjoyment of multi-manufacturer racing at a comparable degree to what he’d identified in F1.

“That was a loopy race,” remembers Klien. “You’re at all times preventing for the rostrum in fact and in my profession in F1, I wasn’t in a position to struggle for podiums, in order that was very nice.

“The groups have been large, it was very aggressive racing again then, open budgets, manufacturing facility groups. There wasn’t an excessive amount of distinction to F1. I bear in mind we did a check in Barcelona and people automobiles have been solely eight seconds slower than F1 however loads heavier clearly. The testing that went in there, and the tyre testing as properly with Michelin, was simply identical degree than F1.

“However, on a race weekend the paddock was open for the general public, there was not that a lot media consideration – in all probability Le Mans sure, however the different races not as a lot as F1, so that you felt extra free as a driver, extra like again to the roots what you have been used to, and that was very gratifying.”

Klien’s second Stateside race outing within the 908 proved disappointing, as a defective air con system on the 2009 Sebring 12 Hours price 9 laps and dropped his #7 automotive out of victory competition. It wasn’t working on the finish on account of gearbox issues, however he was nonetheless categorized fifth with Minassian and Pedro Lamy.

Late ambush from McNish cost Klien victory at Petit Le Mans, but didn't dampen his enjoyment of racing the 908

Late ambush from McNish price Klien victory at Petit Le Mans, however did not dampen his enjoyment of racing the 908

Picture by: Sutton Photos

Victory in Peugeot’s Le Mans warm-up at Spa with Minassian and Simon Pagenaud, main each single lap because the sister 908 hit hassle with wishbone harm and a penalty for contact, hinted at a robust return to La Sarthe. However these hopes have been dashed inside the first hour.

Lamy was launched from his pitbox into the trail of Jean-Christophe Boullion’s Pescarolo-run 908, with the ensuing left-rear puncture necessitating a sluggish crawl across the full lap that inflicted heavy harm on the bodywork. A 26-minute restore misplaced them seven laps and meant a closing results of sixth – as David Brabham, Alex Wurz and Marc Gene introduced house the bacon within the third 908 – was a decent salvage job.

Klien continued with Peugeot however in a reserve driver capability throughout 2010, having held off signing a race deal as he sought alternatives in F1 that finally yielded three grand prix outings with the Colin Kolles-run Hispania workforce. After a fraught 2011 season creating the “very sluggish and clearly not dependable” Aston Martin AMR One, Klien reckons he was in line for a Peugeot return in 2012 when it pulled the plug on an entry into the World Endurance Championship.

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His expertise with the AMR One, which managed simply 4 laps at Le Mans earlier than its straight six-cylinder engine that was “simply as fast because the GTE automobiles” on the Mulsanne served as a stark illustration of how superior the automobiles that contested LMP1’s ‘diesel wars’ have been. Klien acknowledges that, whereas the noise degree the 908 produced wasn’t in the identical league because the V10 and V8-powered Jaguar and Pink Bull F1 machines he campaigned, it was no much less spectacular for it.

“On the identical time it was fairly silent within the automotive, so it was not very spectacular let’s say, however you might do all of the debrief mainly within the automotive together with your race engineer!” he chuckles. “The radio communication was simply excellent the place radios in F1 with the screaming engines, typically it was a bit tough.

“I bear in mind on the checks when the opposite automobiles went out to the lengthy again straight in Paul Ricard, you couldn’t hear the engine however you might hear all of the wind noise and it virtually felt like a spaceship is coming!”

There was no success at Le Mans for Klien in 2009, but his car did lead every lap in the Spa 1000km

There was no success at Le Mans for Klien in 2009, however his automotive did lead each lap within the Spa 1000km

Picture by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images



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