Peugeot Sport has provided an early glimpse of the design for the Hypercar it intends to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans with in 2022. On the eve of the delayed 2020 event, the French brand and longstanding partner Total said the car should produce 680hp from an all-new hybrid, all-wheel drive powertrain. Work on the drive hardware is now underway, with the car’s structure and aerodynamics said to already be at an advanced stage of development. With those swelled arches and Peugeot’s signature light design, the result looks sensational.
The LMH racer will be Peugeot’s first Le Mans machine since its diesel-powered 908 of 2011, which succeeded the 908 HDi FAP that delivered the brand its third and most recent Le Mans win in 2009. The manufacturer had developed a 2012 racer before dropping out, but don’t expect anything to be carried over from that stillborn prototype; the new Hypercar class cars are set to be vastly different. Aerodynamic freedom has been expanded, with the power limited (the front axle eMotor is capped at 270hp) and each car will have to weigh no less than 1,040kg – about 160kg more than the Toyota TS050, for comparison.
As such, the Hypercar class times are expected to be around 10 seconds slower than the quickest LMP1-H cars at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Quite the drop off for a sprint series, but in Le Mans, where consistency, not peak pace, is key – just ask 2020 favourite Mike Conway – it shouldn’t change the visual spectacle much. And with the likes of Glickenhaus, Toyota and possibly even Lamborghini lined up to enter the class, the racing itself should be a lot more exciting to watch, which is the priority. Oh how we’ve longed for a close-fought top category since Porsche departed the World Endurance Championship back in 2017.
Peugeot Sport says that “all technical departments” are involved in the development of its upcoming racer, so it’s fair to say the brand doesn’t just want to make up class numbers. Along with its extensive rallying history and former role as an engine builder in F1, Peugeot’s involvement in Le Mans stretches back into the nineties. The French car maker won in 1992 and 1993 with its legendary 905 Evo 1B, using a V10 engine that shared some technical similarities with its F1 motors. No doubt that made convincing Peugeot’s board to plough lots of money into a racing project easier.
This time around, it’ll be the Hypercar class’s use of electrified powertrains, not to mention the freer aero rules that allow for a familiar Peugeot design, helping to make the investment worthwhile. That, and the fact Peugeot clearly feels emotionally tied to its home market’s world-famous event. As Philippe Montanteme, Total’s strategy and marketing director puts it: “competition is firmly embedded in our DNA” and “represents a real technical on-hands workshop for our respective brands”. Peugeot’s CEO, Jean-Philippe Imparato, added: “We are coming back to endurance racing because we have the opportunity to work the sport in a different way, with the hybridisation of gas and electricity".
We are, of course, very excited for this weekend’s race, but are surely not the only ones feeling doubly excited about what’s to come when Le Mans gets a bustling top category again. 2021 is shaping up to be great, but 2022 might just deliver one of the most competitive Le Mans in history. Hopefully we'll be able to attend that one for real, as well...
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