Peugeot has revealed its new arresting 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar design, set to enter the World Endurance Championship and Le Mans in 2022, after an 11-year absence from top-level endurance racing.
Unveiled in a virtual press conference by drivers, it features no rear wing thanks to more flexible rules for the Hypercar class, which replaced LMP1 at the top level of endurance racing this year.
The 9X8 will compete against cars from Toyota and Glickenhaus, which are already racing in this year’s WEC, and Ferrari which plans to enter possibly in 2023. It will also race against machines from BMW, Audi and Porsche which will be running in the LMDh class from 2023 after the two series reached agreement on equivalence.
Peugeot said that it had taken advantage of reduced design constraints in the Hypercar regulations, which stipulate a downforce-drag ratio of 4:1, leaving designers to work out how to achieve that.
Olivier Jansonnie, the team’s technical director, said the new regulations offer “an opportunity to achieve the required level of performance without the need of a rear wing. We realised we have a fixed target of downforce to achieve and have complete freedom to achieve it.”
Drivers Kevin Magnussen, Jean-Éric Vergne and Paul Di Resta were presented with the car at the virtual launch, with Loïc Duval, Gustavo Menezes and Mikkel Jensen completing the line-up. There is some reticence about exactly when the car will make its debut. The team said only that it will be “racing in 2022”.
Peugeot, which won Le Mans overall in 2009, will power the Hypercar with a twin-turbo, 2.6-litre V6 engine. The rear wheels will be powered by the 671bhp petrol unit and the front-axle will have drive provided by a 268bhp electric motor.
The juggling act between charging and energy deployment will be one of the biggest challenges for competitors. Peugeot believes power management will be one the main differentiating factors in the new battle for Le Mans supremacy, hence their decision to go down the Hypercar route. The LMDh rules are a more cost-effective package, but its spec hybrid system limits its options in regards to power deployment.
“WEC is at the very heart of hybrid technology,” said Peugeot CEO Linda Jackson in explaining why the brand was going back to Le Mans. “If you think about some of the tech we use on the racing car, it’s relevant for the production car.”