Anthony Davidson has scored his first major race victory for nine years after taking the win for Team Peugeot Total in the 12 Hours of Sebring sportscar race – the American Le Mans Series season-opener.
Davidson, driving in his first outing as a works driver for the top-flight sportscar team, raced alongside fellow former F1 plots Marc Gene and Alex Wurz in the team’s #07 car.
Classified just behind them in the second Peugeot entry were Sebastian Bourdais, Nicolas Minassian and Pedro Lamy. Third was the Lola-Aston Martin car with a Porsche team fourth in the first P2 slot.
In fifth overall for the Patron Highcroft team, in the second P2 class finisher, were British-born Australian David Brabham and Marino Franchitti, brother of the Scots IndyCar champion Dario. The team had hoped to challenge for the class win but were felled by a wiring problem and a long spell in the pits.
Audi, who are Peugeot’s major competitors in sportscar racing, did not take part due to a failure to secure agreement over modifications to its car. Peugeot was thus the only diesel entrant and as such expected to be untroubled for the win.
Davidson said of the race: “This is a fantastic result for me and for Team Peugeot Total. I thoroughly enjoyed driving the 908!
“It was nice that the race turned out to be so close, and it’s great to have marked my debut with the team with a win. I would like to thank everyone for their tremendous work.”
Team boss Olivier Quesnel added: “Despite the absence of our main rival, I believe we put on a great show and team orders were only issued after the final pit-stops, with half an hour remaining. It was quite tense, but also very instructive.
“Reliability promises to play a key role at Le Mans, and the two 908 HDi FAPs ran like clockwork here, and our refuelling work, race strategy and the work of the entire team were all very strong, too.
“We can be proud to have added a French victory to this race’s roll of honour, and the 908 has now succeeded in winning all the main endurance races. It’s a promising result, but we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball.”
Davidson’s last season in which he was able to challenge for race wins was his 2001 British F3 campaign when he came second in the championship behind Carlin team-mate Takuma Sato.
In 2002 he made the move to Formula One with backmarker Minardi for what was not an entirely happy partnership. In 2003 he moved to Honda as a test driver, also competing in sportscar races, with a best finish of 11th, and he remained there until a race drive at Super Aguri became available in 2007.
Teaming up with his old adversary Sato, he immediately became a highly-respected member of the F1 grid with both he and Sato punching above the team’s weight. But challenging for wins was out of the queston.
When the team ran out of cash in 2008 both drivers were relegated to the sidelines. Davidson has since kept his hand in with sportscar racing, working with Essex-based Gigawave Motorsport on its since-abandoned collaboration with Nissan’s sports division NISMO.
He drove for Aston Martin in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, coming 11th overall.
Elsewhere in the field, Drayson Racing had high hopes of the Sebring event after driver Emanuele Pirro promoted its P1 entry from a fourth-place grid slot to overall second.
But the Gloucester-based team had to settle for 12th overall annd fourth in class after alternator problems ruined its race. However it did finish as the highest non-diesel powered entry in the Michelin Green X Challenge.
Team manager Dale White said: “We obviously hoped for a better result. However, looking at it from the positive side, we again showed that, without a doubt, we can run with anyone. That opening stint was great racing to watch and I think it should let everyone know we are here to race and to win.”
David Brabham said of his race : “We’ve scored some healthy points here by finishing second in class and, with just nine ALMS rounds this season, it was really important to get points on the board early on.
“It’s disappointing not to have taken the LMP2 win as up until the electrical issue we drove a faultless race and enjoyed a five lap lead. Everything was working great, the pit stops were smooth and my teammates excellent.
“We were looking strong for the win until we lost 24 minutes in the pits and that was impossible to regain in the time we had left.”
Race win calculations are based on the Driver Database record of Davidson’s career. If you know about an inaccuracy in these data, please let us know, and we will amend our story accordingly.