The new Peugeot 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar - which was revealed last year to much fanfare on account of having no rear wing - will make its racing debut at the 6 Hours of Monza this weekend.
If you recall, it had been hoped that it would be ready in time to feature in last month’s edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, Peugeot decided to skip the first three races of the World Endurance Championship in order to iron out the car’s weaknesses before homologation locked them in for good.
As a result Peugeot says the 9X8 has now racked up more than 15,000km of physical running in testing, including a 36-hour endurance session at the MotorLand Aragon circuit in Spain. We’re exhausted just thinking about it.
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“We saw many technical issues which have been fixed,” explains Jean-Marc Finot, head of Stellantis motorsport. “It doesn’t mean that we won’t find other ones while racing, but we are very excited to start this program.”
The question everyone will be asking now is can Peugeot immediately challenge front-runners and five-times-in-a-row Le Mans winners Toyota?
“Of course we will do our best,” says Finot. “But these first races this year will be to get experience, as we have a brand new team and we’ll face great competitors. Our first curiosity will be to see where the car is [compared to the competition]. We will discover like you!”
Monza of course is a high-speed circuit, with most of the lap time spent at full throttle and only one true, high-speed corner. Surely that’ll suit a car with no rear wing?
“The fact that the car has no rear wing has no functional effect,” insists Finot. “The regulations have to put us in a frame of the drag and downforce, and as long as we are in this frame, we can make the design we want.
“The downforce coefficient was reached without a rear wing, so we saw that in CFD [Computational Fluid Dynamics]. We checked in the wind tunnel, it was still ok. We checked on the track, and it was always ok. So we kept it.”
Can’t argue with that. Peugeot as a brand has won Le Mans on three occasions: twice while racing the V10-powered 905 in the early 1990s and again with the V12 diesel 908 in 2009.
The 9X8 adopts yet another formula, with its 2.6-liter twin-turbo V6 (capped at 671bhp) supplemented with a pair of electric motors (which can chip in 268hp) and a 900V battery. How times change, eh?
The #93 car will be driven by Mikkel Jensen, Paul Di Resta and Jean-Eric Vergne, while the #94 entry will be piloted by James Rossiter, Gustavo Menezes and Loic Duval.
How do you reckon the 9X8 will fare in Monza?
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