In a surprise move, Peugeot has announced its intention to return to the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2007 with a radical turbo-diesel sports-prototype.
The French marque has long been at the cutting edge of diesel road car technology and already runs the RC Cup in France, for Diester-fuelled sports-prototypes. The news arrived in the same week as the event organisers announced a new ecology award, the Automobile Club de France Trophy, based on fuel consumption and limits of pollution.
The return to endurance racing follows the manufacturer’s decision to pull out of the World Rally Championship at the end of ’05. According to Peugeot Sport boss Jean-Pierre Nicolas, a switch to rally-raids had been considered along with a World Touring Car Championship programme. But the chance to return to Le Mans, the scene of victories in 1992 and ’93 with the 905 Group C car, proved too tempting.
In recent years Peugeot has given some support to Henri Pescarolo’s eponymous squad for its attack on the twice-round-the-clock classic, but it is widely believed that this new project will be an in-house effort. Alongside Peugeot, Nissan, Mazda and Toyota are tipped to return to top-level sportscar racing following Audi’s confirmation that it is building a successor to the all-conquering R8.