Peugeot announces plans to return to Le Mans
With hybrid technology and direct real-world correlation, one would understand why the forthcoming FIA WEC Hypercar regulations are attractive to manufacturers. However, one car brand that wasn’t even considered to be interested in the rule change is Peugeot.
After the fact, it seems ridiculous that the French make wasn’t thought of when the change was announced. It has a lot of experience in endurance racing with the diesel powered 908 HDi FAP including an overall win in 2009.
Ten years after Peugeot Sport’s historic win over the might of Audi, it seems a return to the Circuit de la Sarthe is in order. In fact, just today, PSA motorsport director, Jean-Marc Finot made a statement unveiling the exciting plans.
"I am very excited at the prospect of channelling the skills and passion of my team into this project. It is a new challenge and I know our experts will rise to it with another demonstration of their will to win with teams financed by the [PSA] Group’s brands, fuelled by their long experience of top-flight FIA championships and hunger for success."
Unfortunately, the WEC season using Hypercar rules in 2020/2021 is still set to feature only two factory teams. Both Toyota and Aston Martin have committed to next season, although they may be joined by the private outfits of ByKolles and Glickenhaus. Peugeot on the other hand, has said that it will only be looking to join the championship from 2022 onwards.
“Cost savings permitted by the WEC’s new Hypercar regulations and the confirmation that the series will feature hybrid power units led the Groupe PSA Executive Committee to approve the Peugeot brand’s proposal to participate in the world’s premier endurance racing championship from 2022.”
So why has Peugeot suddenly made this shock decision? Well, it seems that the focus on hybrid technology was a very important factor in the brand’s decision. However, a potentially more important point is the FIA’s effort to cap costs. This is something that drove Peugeot out of the top class in 2011 as it became too expensive to keep up with the likes of Audi.
Due to the WEC season now spreading over two years, it’s hard to understand what Finot means by 2022. It could either mean the team is aiming to compete in the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours, or it could mean a 2022/2023 season entry. I’m guessing that the team is aiming for the 2022 Le Mans race, but by not giving any more detail, it won’t look like a delay if the car’s first race is postponed to the beginning of the following season.
As some may know, teams entering the Hypercar class have the option to either create a car based on a road-going model or create a specialised prototype with road car features. The question now is, which option the French brand will go for.