Peugeot endured a fraught return to top-flight sportscar racing in the WEC last year, suffering a myriad of technical issues when it joined the Hypercar class field for the final three rounds of the season at Monza, Fuji and Bahrain.
While some gremlins were expected on its debut in Italy and again on its second race appearance in Japan, Peugeot was left particularly frustrated when it encountered yet more problems in the Bahrain finale despite the work it had put in to iron out those issues.
Since then, the French marque has ramped up its preparations for its first full campaign in the WEC in 2023, conducting three endurance tests over the winter, including 30-hour simulation runs that ran through the night.
Having been actively involved in the testing phase, 2013 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Duval expressed confidence when asked if the Peugeot 9X8 will be able to race reasonably reliably this year, lauding the team for its efforts during the off-season.
“We’ve made some really good progress on [the reliability side],” said Duval. “We’ve done a lot of mileage during the winter. So yeah, I’m pretty confident that it’s going to work out pretty well.
“Sebring is going to be a tough test because we don’t have such a [demanding] race track in Europe so we were not able to test really in those conditions with a track that is so bumpy, so this is going to be a little bit of an unknown for us. But then we are back to more standard race tracks which should suit us.
“The progress and the work which has been done by the guys was pretty tremendous during the winter.
“I believe we are reaching a point which is pretty acceptable in terms of reliability. Now we will see where we are in the first few races.”
#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Loic Duval
Photo by: Masahide Kamio
Peugeot will be a part of an expanded 13-car Hypercar class field in 2023, with newcomers Ferrari, Porsche, Cadillac and Glickenhaus joining fellow incumbents Toyota and Glickenhaus.
Duval labelled Toyota as the outright favourite heading into the new season on the back of its successful run with the GR010 Hybrid in 2021-22, but also warned against discounting any of the new manufacturers on the grid.
Asked if he felt ready approaching the season, he said: “I don’t think you always feel that you are properly ready, it’s always too early.
“For most of the teams like Ferrari, like Porsche, like ourselves, we are newcomers. If you are Toyota it might be a bit different but we have done as good as we could.
“We have been working really hard, we are still working really hard and everybody is flat out. We are ready to start it.
“We know that is going to be a really tough challenge. We know that the main competitor right now is Toyota, for sure. It is the one that has to be beaten.
“But we also know the competition with all the others will be really tough. But that also makes the story pretty nice, pretty interesting, to go into that new era with so many teams, drivers and constructors.
“It will make the win ever more sweet. It is going to be hard, but I think everybody is looking for these kinds of challenges in life, especially when you are racers and sportspeople.
“The more difficult it is, the sweeter is the win at the end. I’m pretty happy to start this new season, this new era with all those guys and looking forward to it.”