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Peugeot is a French company that values race as much as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year's endurance classic is undoubtedly more difficult than ever. It requires not only complete reliability, but also speed, as the little hand runs twice around the clock. It all takes place in front of a bigger crowd than any other sporting event. Peugeot will be back at Le Mans after a decade of hiatus. Peugeot hopes to win with the new hybrid, which was officially revealed to the public on Tuesday morning. It's the 9X8.
Peugeot saw its first success at Le Mans in 1992/93, as part of Group C's final days. After that, it turned its attention to Formula 1, supplying engines to McLaren and Jordan with decreasing success. Peugeot returned to endurance racing in 2007 to compete against Audi's dominance. In 2009, the 908 prototype beat the Germans at Le Mans. The company had planned to offer a hybrid version the 908 in 2012 before the whole program was cancelled due to economic downturn.
There was a brief golden age of hybrid endurance racers between 2013 and 2017, when Porsche and Toyota joined Audi in Le Mans' LMP1h class. LMP1h proved too expensive even though it produced some of the most innovative racing cars ever built. Le Mans Hypercar (LMH), the new regulations, are an attempt at fixing that. They allow some technical freedom (hopefully road-relevant), road car styling, and other measures to keep costs down.
We've seen LMH cars from Toyota, Alpine and Glickenhaus this year. The new ruleset even entices Ferrari to make its first endurance prototype since the 333SP in the late 1990s. LMDh, a separate US ruleset, will begin in 2023. It is currently being entered by Acura, Audi and BMW, as well as possible entries from Cadillac and Hyundai. The two sets of rules have been combined so that LMH and LMDh cars are able to compete.
LMH cars do not have to be hybrids. Peugeot has however chosen a hybrid powertrain in the 9X8. The rear wheels are driven by the 670 hp, 2.6 L turbocharged V6 internal combustion engines. A 268 hp, 200 kW electric motor/generator unit is mounted at the front axle. It is powered by a 930 V battery. The V6's total output is limited to 670 horsepower, and the electric motor cannot produce the maximum power simultaneously.
LMH regulations were initially intended to attract racing hypercars such as the Aston Martin Valkyrie. The 9X8 is the first car to have no rear wings.
Olivier Jansonnie is the technical director for Peugeot's 9X8 program. He said, "Designing the 9X8 was a passion experience because we had freedom to invent and innovate and explore off the-the-wall ways of optimizing the cars performance and more importantly its aerodynamics." The regulations only allow one adjustable aerodynamic device, and not the rear wing. Simulations and calculations showed that high performance was possible even without one.
Jean-Marc Finot, Stellantis motorsport director, said that the absence of a rear wings on the Peugeot 9X8 was a significant innovation. We have achieved an aerodynamic efficiency level that allows us to eliminate this feature. But don't ask! "We will keep that secret for as long as possible!"
My theory is that LMH's goal of a 3:30 lap time at Le Mans will mean aerodynamics won’t be as important as it was when the prototypes were racing 15 seconds faster, but this could be wrong.
Listing image by Peugeot Sport