Not only is the Le Mans 24 Hours the highlight of Team Peugeot Total’s season, but it is also a unique event in the motor racing calendar. It is an unpredictable and unforgiving race which calls for meticulous preparation. The aim of the three new Peugeot 908s will be to win again the trophy which the team last won in 2009.
Coming to terms with this unique circuit is an incredible challenge which calls for meticulous and rigorous planning. The drivers, cars and technical support team are subjected to an unrelenting test over the whole 24 Hours, which is possibly the toughest race in the world. Peugeot has won Le Mans on three previous occasions: in 1992 and 1993 with the petrol engined Peugeot 905, and in 2009 with the diesel powered Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. These successes have enabled the brand to showcase the benefits of different technologies which also feature on its road cars. Peugeot’s wide-ranging commitment to motor sport allows it to promote its values worldwide and the entire company shares the emotions which Peugeot Sport’s activities inspire.
“Our programme is geared towards this one race,” says Olivier Quesnel, Director of Peugeot Sport. “Le Mans is magical; a legend; a myth, endurance racing’s Everest. It is a competition apart where nobody can afford to take anything for granted. That’s what makes defeat so cruel and victory such an elating experience. Just as we do every year, we have done everything in our power to arrive at Le Mans with the most competitive car possible and a fully-prepared team. We know that anything can happen in this race and we will need to produce a faultless display if we are to be first past the flag on Sunday afternoon.”
In preparation for the new 2011 regulations, Peugeot Sport’s technical staff started to work on a new car immediately after the team’s victory at Le Mans in 2009. The following July, the main decisions of the newcomer’s design were agreed and the V8 HDi FAP engine roared in anger for the first time on the test bench at the team’s base in Vélizy, near Paris, on January 25, 2010. Six months later, on July 29, 2010, the car that would be unveiled as the ‘908’ on February 3, 2011, made its track debut at one of the PSA Group’s test tracks.
Since then, the Peugeot 908 has taken part in fifteen test sessions, including seven full endurance runs, clocking up some 45,000 kilometres. Venues visited include Aragon, Le Castellet, Monza, Sebring, Magny-Cours and Le Mans. The Peugeot 908 has also contested two races: the 12 Hours of Sebring and, as a final dress rehearsal, the Spa-Francorchamps 1,000km, on May 7. The Belgian classic saw the Peugeot 908 claim its first outright win and the first one-two finish of its career.
“Our car is above all designed for Le Mans,” underlines Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport Technical Director. “It was competitive “out of the box”, and our priority throughout its development was to optimise its reliability. I believe we are close to achieving that objective, but you can never control absolutely everything in a race like the Le Mans 24 Hours. Every race produces its share of surprises, and our hope is that we will have fewer surprises than has been the case in recent years, despite the fact that the Peugeot 908 is an all-new car.” Judging by the 2011 season’s early races, the gap compared with the competition is particularly narrow and the changes made to the regulations shortly before Le Mans week are likely to produce an extremely close-run fight. “We don’t know who will be the fastest in practice. To get an accurate idea of how we compare in terms of performance, we will need to wait until the first hours of the race on Saturday afternoon,” observes Bruno Famin.
“We have always kept to our game plan by remaining focused on our preparations and objectives, without monitoring and analysing what our opponents have been up to,” insists Olivier Quesnel. “At the pre-Le Mans test day on April 24 we stuck to our programme, and the same will apply during the two practice days during race week, because once the race is underway we will need to be in a position where we can fight for the win. We are aware that even the slightest mistake at Le Mans can be extremely costly, whether it involves the drivers out on the circuit, our car or our pit-stop work. For that reason, we will need to produce an impeccable performance, in every domain. That is the mission for which we have prepared, but it’s a long, long way to the chequered flag.”
The New Peugeot 908 in Detail:
Bruno Famin: “We opted again for a closed-cockpit design because there is no difference between open – and closed-cockpit cars as far as their aerodynamic performance is concerned. With regards to the engine, we have capitalised on our experience by opting for a V8 turbocharged diesel engine. Its characteristics are very close to those of the previous V12, while the angle of the ‘vee’ of the engine is now 90 degrees compared with 100 degrees previously, in order to optimise balance. The 3.7-litre V8 HDi FAP diesel engine produces 550 horsepower. To counter the significant power deficit compared to the previous engine, which results from the 2011 regulation changes, it was necessary to rework the aerodynamics of the car to significantly reduce drag. Last but not least, we have worked closely with our partner Michelin to produce a specific range of tyres.” The latest car is the third-generation Peugeot endurance prototype to race at Le Mans after the Peugeot 905 (1991 to 1993) and the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (2007 to 2010).
2011 Driver line-ups
The nine drivers who form Team Peugeot Total’s line-up are the same as those who raced for the team in 2010, and they count among endurance racing’s very best. Throughout the past twelve months, they have been actively involved in the testing programme. They have also contested two races since the beginning of 2011 and attended a series of physical fitness programmes in Toulouse, which culminated in a final, open-air team-building week in Chamonix! “They know each other very well,” says Pascal Dimitri, Team Manager. “However, it is also vital that they spend some time together away from the racetrack. Forging a solid bond between them is very important. Despite their strong individual characters, they form together a very strong team.”
Peugeot 908 N°7 (blue mirrors): Alexander Wurz (AUT) – Marc Gené (ESP) – Anthony Davidson (GBR)
Alexander Wurz is the Peugeot driver who has enjoyed the most success at Le Mans. His four starts to date have harvested two wins: in 1996 with TWR, and in 2009 with Peugeot. The Austrian is still the youngest ever driver to have won Le Mans. Spaniard Marc Gené won in 2009 at third attempt after claiming second place in 2008. Anthony Davidson joined Team Peugeot Total in 2010. This will be the Briton’s fourth participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Peugeot 908 N°8 (white mirrors): Franck Montagny (FRA) – Stéphane Sarrazin (FRA) – Nicolas Minassian (FRA)
These three French drivers boast thirty Le Mans starts between them, including ten for Franck Montagny who has finished on the podium three times. His team-mates Nicolas Minassian and Stéphane Sarrazin have contested the French race eleven and nine times respectively and have been stalwarts of the Peugeot Sport line-up ever since its return to endurance racing in 2007. Stéphane has also set the pole position time in qualifying three years in a row, in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Peugeot 908 N°9 (red mirrors): Sébastien Bourdais (FRA) – Pedro Lamy (POR) – Simon Pagenaud (FRA)
The 2010 pole-winner Sébastien Bourdais was born and raised in Le Mans. This will be his 10th participation in the race. Portugal’s Pedro Lamy will be racing in La Sarthe for the 12th time. His best result to date was second overall in 2007 with the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. The youngest member of the squad is Simon Pagenaud who has rapidly carved out a reputation for himself in endurance racing both in Europe and in the USA. This will be his fourth participation.
In addition to these nine drivers, the team’s reserve driver is Jean-Karl Vernay. Team Peugeot Total’s latest recruit completed the ten mandatory laps at the pre-Le Mans Test Day on 24th April in order to be ready to step in if required.
Finally, a fourth Peugeot will contest this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, namely the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP which is run by Team Oreca-Matmut. The 2011 12 Hours of Sebring winners Panis/Lapierre/Duval will be an additional asset
Le Mans 24 Hours: Round Three of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup
For the first time, the Le Mans 24 Hours will count towards the ILMC (Intercontinental Le Mans Cup). After March’s 12 Hours of Sebring (USA) and early May’s Spa 1,000km (BEL), Peugeot enjoys a 17-point lead at the top of the provisional Manufacturers’ standings, while Team Peugeot Total tops the Teams’ order by eight points. “Our primary aim is to win Le Mans which is the most prestigious race in the world,” stresses Olivier Quesnel. “However, we will do all we can to defend our ILMC crown, too.” After Le Mans, which will earn double points, the calendar features four more races: Imola (ITA) at the beginning of July, Silverstone (GBR) in September, Petit Le Mans (USA) in October and Zhuhai (CHI) in November.
1 Peugeot 55 points
2 Audi 38 points
1 Team Peugeot Total 27 points
2 Audi Sport Team Joest 19 points
3 Team Oreca-Matmut, 18 points
4 Rebellion Racing 12 points