Peugeot defends new car after ‘never being in the game’ at Le Mans

Peugeot defended the new version of its 9X8 LMH car after it was “never really in the game” in the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Paul di Resta and Loic Duval finished 11th in the best of the two 9X8s, two laps down on the winning Ferrari, with the sister car crewed by Nico Muller, Mikkel Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne ending up 12th.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Vandoorne was very clear in his assessment of the race, telling Autosport that “we were simply lacking speed during the whole race.

He added: “We got dragged back from the start and then the conditions were very difficult. We were never really in the game.”

Peugeot’s 2024 Le Mans outing was in stark contrast to its previous appearance at Le Mans with the original version of the 9X8.

On that occasion, the Stellantis brand led the race at no less than four stages and showed genuine pace to fight at the front, with only a combination of incidents and reliability issues dropping it down the order.

However, despite showing a lack of speed in 2024, Peugeot is convinced that it made the right decision to develop a new version of the 9X8 with a rear wing and 31cm wide tyres, with technical director Olivier Jansonnie citing the bulletproof reliability as evidence that it has made a step forward with the car.

“I think it was definitely the right choice to make this car,” he said. “It’s for sure a bit new and we suffered in terms of set-up and pace, performance, just learning this new car which is fundamentally very different from the old one.

#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Stoffel Vandoorne, Paul Di Resta, Loic Duval

#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Stoffel Vandoorne, Paul Di Resta, Loic Duval

Photo by: Marc Fleury

“So that was kind of set from the test day and free practice. We knew from there we would not be at the right level of performance. And then at the end we did everything to deliver the best possible race.

“Really the most positive thing for us is the reliability, we never had any issue at all in the car, normally for the race but also for the test day. Now we can spend a lot more time working on performance and come stronger next year.”

Peugeot had previously justified the development of the 9X8 2024, as it is officially called, by a desire to be equally competitive in a wide variety of tracks and not relying on Balance of Performance to fight with the established runners.

The wingless 9X8 was rapid on certain types of circuits, including Le Mans, but was miles off the pace on other venues that didn’t suit the inherent traits of the car.

One of the key strengths of last year’s 9X8 was its pace in mixed conditions at Le Mans, which allowed it to gain time over its rivals during the crucial crossover phase between a dry and a wet track.

Peugeot admitted that it needs to analyse why it lacked in this area in 2024 with the new iteration of the hybrid-powered hypercar.

“That is the part of things that we have to work on,” said Jansonnie. “For sure when we arrived here finally with last year’s car we had a much better understanding of the car than we have from this one.

“And obviously all the crossover points, how and when to change tyres, these kind of things. It’s something we have to learn a bit.”

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Jean-Eric Vergne, Mikkel Jensen, Nico Muller

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Jean-Eric Vergne, Mikkel Jensen, Nico Muller

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

Peugeot lost out to first-year manufacturer Lamborghini in the closing stages of Le Mans, as the #63 SC63 LMDh of Mirko Bortolotti, Daniil Kvyat and Edoardo Mortara snatched 10th position from the #94 9X8 in the final hour.

Peugeot motorsport boss Jean-Marc Finot revealed that Peugeot was unlucky with a timing of a slow zone, as it allowed Lamborghini to get a cheap pitstop and rejoin the track ahead of the #94 9X8.

“At the end of the race we had good pace compared with the Lamborghini. It was easy to catch up with the Lamborghini,” said Finot.

“Unfortunately we got a slow zone when Lamborghini was pitting so we lost 40 seconds [in comparison].

“There were slow zones from start line to the Dunlop bridge. He was at a low speed. He had pitted the lap before.

“When Lamborghini pitted, Stoffel had arrived in the slow zone. Stoffel was 12s up on the Lamborghini before. He was quite a bit ahead. When he started again, he was 32s down because he was in slow zone.”

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