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 again win the trophy, which the team won in 2009.
Coming to terms with the unique circuit is an incredible challenge, calling for meticulous 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 gasoline-engined Peugeot 905, and in 2009 with the diesel-powered Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. “Our program is geared towards this one race,” said 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 so elating. We have done everything in our power to arrive at Le Mans with the most competitive car and a prepared team. We know anything can happen in this race and we 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 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, making its track debut at one of the PSA Group’s test tracks.
Since then, the Peugeot 908 has taken part in 15 test sessions, including seven full endurance runs, clocking up some 45000km. 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 1000km, 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,” underlined Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport Technical Director. “It was competitive out of the box, and our priority throughout its development was to optimize 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.”
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 fight. “We don’t know who will be 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,” observed Bruno Famin.
New Peugeot 908 in Detail:
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.
Bruno Famin: “We opted again for a closed-cockpit design because there is no difference between open- and closed-cockpit cars as far as aerodynamic performance. “With regards to the engine, we have capitalized on our experience by opting for a V8 turbo-diesel engine. Its characteristics are very close to those of the previous V12, while the angle of the ‘vee’ is now 90 degrees compared with 100 degrees previously, in order to optimize balance.
Peugeot 908 N°8 (white mirrors):
Franck Montagny (FRA) – Stéphane Sarrazin (FRA) – Nicolas Minassian (FRA) These three French drivers boast 30 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 11 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.
“The 3.7-liter V8 HDi FAP diesel engine produces 550hp. 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 reduce drag. “Last but not least, we have worked closely with Michelin to produce a specific range of tires.”
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.
2011 Driver line-ups
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 908 HDi FAP will contest this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, run by Team Oreca-Matmut. The 2011 12 Hours of Sebring winners Panis/Lapierre/Duval will be an additional asset.
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 best. Throughout the past 12 months, they have been actively involved in the testing program. They have also contested two races since the beginning of 2011 and attended a series of physical fitness programs in Toulouse, which culminated in a final, open-air team-building week in Chamonix!
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,” stressed 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.
Team Peugeot Total Le Mans Week highlights:
Monday, June 6:
Chartres to Le Mans by bicycle At 8:30am, all nine drivers and Olivier Quesnel will set off on a cycle ride from Chartres to Le Mans. This determined group will cover approximately 120km en route to scrutineering and documentation formalities at Le Mans (Place des Jacobins, weather permitting).
Thursday, June 9 (10:00):
The 2009 Le Mans-winning 908 HDi FAP will take up residence in the Le Mans 24 Hours museum. During the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s press conference Peugeot will donate a replica of the 908 HDi FAP which won the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours in the hands of Wurz/Gené/Brabham.
Thursday, June 9 (9:15) and Saturday, June 11 (12:10):
EX1 demonstration lap. Within the framework of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s ‘Le Mans vers le Futur’ program, the Peugeot EX1 electric concept car will run a few laps on the 13km circuit.
Saturday, June 11 (12:45):
Peugeot RCZ parade laps Ten Peugeot RCZ will take VIPs on a special lap of the 13km Le Mans circuit.