This is the great return of the lion brand on the mythical circuit of Sarthe for the 24 hours of Le Mans, whose start of the centenary edition will be given this Saturday at 16 hours. After twelve years of absence, Peugeot Sport aligns this weekend its two 9X8 Hypercars with multicolored reflections and without rear wing. In a championship outrageously dominated by the two Toyota Gazoo Racing, the French team, in competition with Porsche, Ferrari, and other Cadillac, will especially seek to make its car more reliable, while waiting for better.
In three events, the two cars No. 93 and 94 alternated good and bad results: 31st and 32nd places at Sebring, 7th and 5th at Portimao, and 14th and 17th at Spa. "We were not at the level of performance and reliability at Sebring, not having had the opportunity to test the machines on the track," admits Olivier Jansonnie, technical director of Peugeot Sport. In the next two races, especially Portimao, we managed to demonstrate the qualities of the car and the team. »
What a beauty 🥰 #Peugeot9X8 #WEC #LeMans24 pic.twitter.com/ISyvpxy9Ai
— Peugeot Sport (@peugeotsport) June 8, 2023
Since the beginning of the project almost three years ago, the 9X8 continues to evolve, and that's normal. Launched at Monza last July, it then deposited its rubber on the tracks of the 6 Hours of Fuji and the 8 Hours of Bahrain. This is his 7th race this weekend: "The learning curve is sometimes a little tricky," says Olivier Jansonnie. The level is difficult and we thought we would learn faster. »
In 10th and 11th positions on the starting grid
Like any new student, Peugeot has still not found its place in 1st place. But the Sochalian firm works a lot and learns its lesson well: "Our target being reliability, a problem already noted last year, we drove a lot. Since Sebring, progress has been made on the transmission and hybrid system. We made different technical choices from our competitors, especially on tyres. Circuits with a lot of low-speed restarts are more difficult for us. »
With its 13 km perimeter and endless straights, Le Mans could put a smile on the French team's face: "There are types of difficulties here that do not exist anywhere else, in addition to the anxiety of discovery. Since the beginning of the tests, we find our strengths and weaknesses and try to collect as much information as possible to fill all the boxes of the grid. On such a track, the differences per lap vary enormously depending on the teams. The race is going to be tough and conducted at a very high pace. At the moment, we seem to be in the right package. »
FERRARI TAKES HYPERPOLE AT LE MANS! 🔥
Antonio Fuoco puts the #50 Ferrari on pole position for the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans 👏 #WEC #LeMans24 #LeMansCentenary | @FerrariHypercar @24hoursoflemans pic.twitter.com/frnNPRMIaG
— FIA World Endurance Championship (@FIAWEC) June 8, 2023
On the starting grid, the No. 9 Peugeot 8x93, driven by Di Resta, Jensen, Vergne, Vandoorne, will start in 10th position, just ahead of the No. 9 Peugeot 8x94 (Duval, Menezes, Müller).
In a century, Peugeot's 24-hour balance sheet is average. Admittedly, with 3 victories, we are very far from Porsche (19), Audi (13), Ferrari (9), and Jaguar (7), but the brand has only 12 participations. Present in 1926, 1937 and 38, it returned in 1991 before winning the following year with the 905, driven by the Dalmas/Blundell/Warwick trio, before an extraordinary hat-trick the following year, then an anecdotal presence in 1996. Peugeot made its return to the Sarthe in 2007 to present its magnificent 908 HDI, which will accumulate for five years the places of honor including a double in 2009. We will not ask for so much this year.