Peugeot Sport have launched their new Le Mans challenger, designed to the brand new regulations for the 2011 season to replace the 908 HDi FAP.
The new car, which was called the '90X' in development was announced today as simply the '908' and will continue the brand's use of diesel fuel in endurance racing. “We have chosen 908 as the name of the new car in order to build on the wave of success with which it is associated,” says Peugeot's Director of Marketing and Communications, Xavier Peugeot. “At the same time, this car fits perfectly with the brand's modern calling.”
The new car, as well as its name, outwardly appears to share much with its predecessor, however, there are several differences beneath the bodywork – which is itself newly adorned with the shark fin engine cover mandated under the 2011 regulations.
“The regulations have evolved a great deal but we didn't start from a clean sheet,” notes Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport's Technical Director. “The experience we have gained over the past four years helped to steer the decision-making process and our technical choices, although the only component which has been carried over at the end of the day is the windscreen wiper! One of the principal difficulties we faced was having to design an all-new car while continuing to race another at the same time.”
Perhaps the biggest change is the engine with 550hp 3.7 litre turbocharged V8 replacing the V12 unit that powered the previous 908. “We ultimately decided to opt for a turbocharged diesel V8, the characteristics of which are very similar to those of the V12,” explains Famin. “The angle of the 'vee' is 90 degrees (compared with 100 degrees in the case of the V12) for balance reasons.”
Also new for the new car is having the same sized wheels front and rear – as seen on Acura's short lived ARX-02 LMP1 car. “Today's LMP cars have a shortcoming with regard to front-end road holding performance,” Famin justifies. “The logical way to cure this was to increase the size of the contact patch between the tyres and the track, which entailed running bigger front wheels, within the limits specified by the regulations. This aspect of the car's development was carried out in close collaboration with our partner Michelin.”
Not only is the new car tasked with regaining the Le Mans 24 Hours title for the French team, but also defending the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) title the team won last season.
“We clearly want to defend our ILMC title,” says Olivier Quesnel, Peugeot Sport Director. “We won all three rounds of the series in 2010, but there is one round we are especially targeting this year, and that is Le Mans.”
The 2011 ILMC season has been expanded to seven races – Le Mans the centre piece of a year that takes team to America for two races and the finale in China.
The team will field two cars in each round of the championship, except for Le Mans and the round at Spa-Francorchamps which the team will use as a dress rehearsal for the legendary French race.
One thing that does remain constant from last year amid the changes is the nine men who will drive the 908, Peugeot Sport also announcing their driving line-ups for Le Mans.