After an emotional disappointment 12 months ago Peugeot Sport are returning Le Mans with a new car with meticulous planning and an extensive test program behind it all aimed at regaining the Le Mans 24 Hours title that lies at the centre of their season.
“Our car was above all designed for Le Mans,” emphasised Bruno Famin, technical director of the team. “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.”
The new Peugeot 908 complies to the 2011 regulations introduced by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and so sports a large shark fin on the engine cover and smaller engine. It is, however, still powered by the same diesel fuel the manufacturer has used since its return to endurance racing.
Since being unveiled at the end of July last year the 908 has completed 15 test session, covering 45,000km, including runs at the Le Mans test day over the Easter weekend. It has also contested two races, the 12 Hours of Sebring at 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, scoring a 1-2 finish overall at the Belgian venue.
“At the pre-Le Mans test day on April 24 we stuck to our programme,” explained Olivier Quesnel, director of Peugeot Sport, “and the same will apply during the two days of practice 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' job 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.”
It is not just the car which has been tested before this week’s festivities. The team’s drivers have gone through a series of physical training sessions in Toulouse, culminating an opex air team-building session in Chamonix, the team emphasising that the team working together away from the race track is as important was working together during the race week.
The three 908s will be driven by the same nine drivers in the same threesomes as in 2010. Consequently Alex Wurz, Marc Gene and Anthony Davidson will drive the no.7 car. The all-French squad of Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and Nicolas Minassian will pilot the no.8 car and Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Pedro Lamy will drive the no.9 car.
“Le Mans is magical; a legend; a myth, endurance's racing's Everest,” enthuses Quesnel. “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.”