Peugeot committed to Le Mans: 'We like winning and that's our end game'

Le Mans News

Peugeot's CEO warned that winning was essential for for the future of its Hypercar project earlier this year. After an uncompetitive run in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Linda Jackson says that the fight goes on, with the team confident that it will catch its rivals

Peugeot 9X8 Hypercar in front of Dunlop Bridge at 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours

Peugeot's 9X8 cars finished 11th and 12th at Le Mans, two laps down


“We need to win something. It’s time to deliver,” said Peugeot CEO Linda Jackson in the run-up to this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, adding that the firm couldn’t continue with its expensive Hypercar programme for year after year without seeing success.

Some saw it as an axe hanging over the World Endurance Championship (WEC) project — one that dropped lower after middling 11th and 12th places for its pair of 9X8 Hypercars in the race and lap times around two seconds behind the leading pack.

But predictions of Peugeot’s sports car demise look to be premature. Jackson insists that the company is already benefitting from the selling power of motor sport, and that the team is redoubling its efforts to succeed.

“It’s such an important marketing tool for me, as well as being a laboratory for technology we can put onto our production vehicles, particularly around hybridisation,” she tells Motor Sport. “We chose WEC because it represents a stepping stone. We all know we are in the transformation towards electric and it was important for us to link with a series on the journey to electrification. We want to take the customer with us.”

She insists Peugeot sales rise in respective markets WEC visits as the race rolls into town, too. “Peugeot is present in 150 countries and I need to create a breadth of awareness. Having races in all of these regions allows me to spread the name and make people aware of what Peugeot is all about. Not just the cars, but our reliability and engineering.

“If you invest in this type of programme – substantial investments – you have to also take the time to learn, both from your mistakes and the good things that happen. And being able to compete at Le Mans is particularly special. We’re a French brand, so Le Mans is – what should I call it – it’s mythical, isn’t it? It’s very, very special to French people, but I’ve also learned that over a third of the visitors to Le Mans are international – and that half of those are British. Being here, on our domestic turf, you can imagine the passion that we have. And the pressure we feel, as well!”

Linda Jackson in Peugeot garage at Le Mans

We need to learn from our mistakes — and the good things that happen, says Peugeot CEO Linda Jackson


Such romanticism feels crucial in bolstering Peugeot’s position in a broad EV market, where legacy is increasingly important as a raft of smartly priced new Chinese brands enters Europe.

“If you’re going to survive in this very, very competitive world, you need to be able to differentiate yourself. We have a beautiful wealth of history. But you can’t rely just on your history. You have to bring something different a customer wants. That’s why we’re very much pushing the pleasure, or art, of driving. Our ‘i-Cockpit’ interior appears in both our road cars and the 9X8.”

‘Different’ was one word applied to Peugeot’s Hypercar when it was first unveiled in 2021 without a rear wing, designed to use ground effect to generate most of its downforce. It ran well at Le Mans in 2023 but struggled in other WEC rounds, leading to a redesign this season that incorporated a rear wing.

It’s fair to say that the upgrade hasn’t brought instant success, and the team’s efforts to fight at the front weren’t helped by the new car arriving at Le Mans 23kg heavier and 11bhp less powerful than the previous year’s version, courtesy of Balance of Performance regulations designed to promote close racing.

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It left Peugeot trailing its fellow French firm and Hypercar newcomers Alpine, whose A424 Hypercars were around 0.5sec a lap quicker — until they retired.

Alpine also has lofty ambitions in WEC, and is laying the path to a hydrogen-powered competitor with its Alpenglow concept car, which performed a parade lap of Circuit de la Sarthe before the race. There’s a hydrogen class set to join WEC in 2028, but Peugeot is reserved in its interest at the moment.

“Full hydrogen doesn’t make sense because the weight is not ideal for such a car,” says Stellantis motor sport chief Jean-Marc Finot. “We currently run a little over 1000kg and we could go lighter. If we’re being optimistic, a fuel cell is 1300kg; if we’re less optimistic, 1500kg. The solution will have to be a mixture of internal combustion and hydrogen. For now we are focused on petrol/electric hybridisation.”

With current Hypercar regulations extended further into 2029, is Peugeot in WEC for the long haul, no matter the result?

“At the end of the day, we like winning,” says Jackson. “The drivers, manufacturers and cars we see today are probably the sport’s best line-up ever. It’s extremely competitive. And there should be competition, because it challenges you to be better and better with the team, the engineering, with everything. All the manufacturers are very talented and there are only small differences between them all. But we’re not here just to be a competitor. We would love to win. And that’s our end game.”

Finot agrees. “We made a decision with the board to race until 2026 [before regulations were extended to 2029]. With new regulations, we will reconsider. It’s the most competitive 24 Hours of Le Mans ever. I don’t remember in any form of motor racing having 15 cars at the top level that can all win. We are very happy to help write these pages in history. At the end of the day, the car will catch up. I’m not worried.”